All Things Considered Interview - 8 May 2005

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This just in: Strong Bad is still awesome.

On May 8, 2005, The Brothers Chaps were interviewed by John Ydstie for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered".

Running Time: 7:32


[edit] Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK: There are lots of nasty characters lurking in the shadowy corners of the World Wide Web, but none quite as bad as Strong Bad.

STRONG BAD: {excerpt from Strong Bad character video} "Greetings, party people in the place to be! I am called Strong Bad! Hand over all your monies in a paper and/or plastic bag!"

MELISSA: You can see Strong Bad's exploits every week online at NPR's John Ydstie spoke to the site's creators, brothers Matt and Mike Chapman, and has this report.

STRONG BAD: {second excerpt from Strong Bad character video} "Like I said, I'm Strong Bad. I've been described as cool, awesome, hot, video games, the hottest, and real real hot."

JOHN YDSTIE: He may be cool, but it becomes obvious right away that Strong Bad is not as tough as he thinks, especially when you get a good look at him. He does have a scary Mexican wrestler's mask and glowing green eyes. He wears boxing gloves all the time, but his round shirtless torso and his skinny arms and legs are anything but threatening. Strong Bad and a collection of dorky but somehow endearing characters live in the simple one-dimensional Flash animation landscapes of Freedom [sic] Country U.S.A.

There's Homestar Runner, the slightly dim high school jock.

HOMESTAR RUNNER: {excerpt from Homestar Runner character video} "Oh, hello. Greetings, one and everyone. Welcome to me... Homestar... Runner..."

JOHN: And there's Marzipan, Homestar's earnest vegetarian girlfriend.

HOMESTAR RUNNER: {excerpt from Where's The Cheat?} "Hey stupid, I brought you this stuff! Oh, I mean, I brought you this veggie burger."

MARZIPAN: "Oh, thanks, Homestar! Oh! He's just adorable!"

JOHN: This quirky cartoon universe, visited by a million people each month, is created by the brothers Mike and Matt Chapman in the family basement.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Originally, um, we sort of wanted to create the feel of, uh, Saturday mornings in the, uh, 70s and 80s when we grew up, waking up early with a bowl of cereal, sitting in front of the TV watching cartoons, which I don't feel like really exists anymore.

JOHN: The web site is and, uh, it's got a lot of characters, uh, but, uh, the one who seems to have taken over is Strong Bad.

MATT CHAPMAN: Strong Bad started out as, uh, just the antagonist and he was kind of, uh, two-dimensional in more sense than he's just a drawing, and you know everybody likes the bad guy more, usually, anyway and so, uh, then eventually we decided to give him his own little feature. It's called Strong Bad Email where he would -- we would -- ask people to send Strong Bad an email and he would pick a real email from a fan, uh, and then answer it.

STRONG BAD: {excerpt from rock opera} "Dear Strong Bad, I think it's high time you composed a rock opera. You simply owe it to society. What should it be about? That's up to you. Best Wishes, Anonymous Contributor. Oh, poor guy. {typing sound} Hey! Mr. and Mrs. Contributor, way to name your kid!" {fade into background}

MATT: The whole email is done from if-- how well Strong Bad can make fun of the person's name and/or grammar in the email initially, before he even gets to the subject of it, and so that was kind of the first time when we really started ramping up the site and just being like okay there's gonna be something new, uh, every week and it was Strong Bad.

{The Cheat noises are heard.}

STRONG BAD: {excerpt from local news} "Strong Badia Action Cool News 5! Top Stories with anchorperson Strong Bad!"

JOHN: And the brothers do it all themselves. The writing, the animating, the voices. Matt does Strong Bad and he did most of the talking during our interview. Their creation is among the most popular flash animation sites on the web. Despite Strong Bad's dominance, the web site is named for the amiable but clueless Homestar Runner, who Strong Bad has elbowed aside.

MATT: He kind of overshadowed poor Homestar Runner {JOHN: Mm-hmm.} who's the namesake, obviously, and, uh, he's not very pleased about that, Homestar Runner. Took him awhile to realize it, I think, but now that he does he's not, uh, he's pissed.

JOHN: Homestar's gonna have a difficult time reclaiming his web site 'cause he doesn't have any arms.

{Matt and Mike laugh.}

MATT: That's true. He doesn't seem to have any problem with manipulating objects or having a soda or eating a burger, though, so...

JOHN: The cartoons have the look of the popular but off-color TV series South Park. The brothers say when they started the web site, lots of web animation was raunchy or gross-out humor. They decided to take a different tack and they've managed to produce a largely G-rated site that's so earnest and goofy, it's cool. Their brand of humor has attracted a very broad audience from twenty- and thirty-somethings tired of irony, to kids in elementary school.

MIKE: We're very lucky in that way-- when we started off I think the first group that really caught on was, uh, sort of other Flash animators and graphic designers. Um, we were in some, um, you know computery designy magazines early on, and that seemed to be our initial audience and originally it didn't seem like there were very many kids, um, {MATT: Yeah.} even high school kids. {MATT: Not at all.} When they would email us they would seem very embarrassed that they liked it 'cause it was this cartoon and they thought they were too old, you know, to like this cartoon--

MATT: Yeah, even high school kids would seem like {Mike cuts in} I know you're making this for--

MIKE: Yeah, they'd be like "I'm sixteen years old and I think this is funny" {Matt laughs.}

MATT: And then college kids just started getting it after that; I don't know if the people-- the white collar crowd started telling their younger brothers that were still in college and younger sisters, uh, but then it seemed like college kids became our big focus and now, I mean, uh, it seems like more and more we hear from younger and younger kids.

JOHN: Younger kids like 13-year-old Brian Carroll from Silver Spring, Maryland.

BRIAN: These characters are so zany and it's so funny and it, it's just random a lot of the funniness is, I mean the hilarity, the humor...

JOHN: Brian's little brother Danny, who's nine, and his classmate Dana Cook are also fans. In one of Dana's favorite episodes, Strong Bad demonstrates how to draw a dragon.

DANA: Trogdor's like a dragon that, um, Strong Bad makes and he, um, makes a song about him and, um, it's just really funny.

STRONG BAD: {excerpt from dragon} {singing} "TROGDOR!! TROGDOR!! Burninating..." {song fades into background}

JOHN: The growing audience for this wacky humor spawned a demand from fans for t-shirts and other kitsch. The Brothers Chaps, as their fans call them, obliged and now the sale of Strong Bad t-shirts and Homestar DVDs supports the web site and makes a good living for the brothers. They've refused to take advertising and rebuffed efforts to get them on TV.

MATT: One of the advantages of doing it the way we do is that, you know, it's 7 a.m., we're about to put this thing up and we come-- we think of some other joke, it's only gonna take us about 10 or 20 minutes to add something else in and animate it real quick, whereas, like, you know, if we were on TV or in some other thing that had this, regimented, uh, production schedule, we'd never be able to do that.

JOHN: Mike and Matt Chapman aren't interested in TV, but Strong Bad seems to have a talent for radio. Here's how he responded to an email from a fan who wanted advice on becoming a radio host.

STRONG BAD: {excerpts edited together from radio} "The first rule of thumb for all radio personalities is to look absolutely nothing like how they sound. So once they've got the voice/appearance mismatch working, then it all just depends on what kind of radio station they work for. First up is public radio: smooth 'n' smarmy. {In smooth 'n' smarmy voice} You are listening to member-supported public radio."

JOHN: John Ydstie, and even though it doesn't sound like it, this is NPR News.

MARZIPAN: {second excerpt from radio} "Dang old public radio. I never got my tote bag."

{Music button (what NPR calls "a brief musical interlude"): The Magic Organ playing "Winchester Cathedral" from the CD "Happy Music".}

STRONG BAD: This just in: Strong Bad is still awesome. You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.

[edit] Fun Facts

[edit] Remarks

  • John Ydstie should have said "Free Country, U.S.A." rather than "Freedom Country, U.S.A."
  • John also says that Strong Bad wears a mask and boxing gloves which, according to Strong Bad, is not true. Apparently, they are his actual head and hands.
  • He describes Strong Badia as a one-dimensional Flash world. One dimension would be a line (length, no width, no depth).
  • It's possible he meant that the characters and settings are unchanging.

[edit] External Links

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