Wired News Radio Interview - 23 Jun 2003

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In June of 2003, Kari Lynn Dean of Wired News Radio interviewed Mike and Matt Chapman, and then Missy Palmer, in relation to their website, homestarrunner.com.

[edit] Transcript

Offensive content Warning: Language that may be considered offensive by some readers follows.
To view a censored version of this page, see Wired News Radio Interview - 23 Jun 2003 (censored).

KARI DEAN: Hi, I'm Kari Dean, and today on Wired News Radio we're talking to the lovably funny characters at HomestarRunner.com.

{Musical interlude, lowered during Homestar's monologue}

HOMESTAR RUNNER: They have the best snacks in the break room. Like, they have a- an entire assortment, I would- I would go so far as to say a smorgasbord of Little Debbie treats and confections.

{Music ends}

KARI DEAN: I'm joined on the phone today by brothers Mike and Matt Chapman, and Missy Palmer, the creative talent behind HomestarRunner.com. I started out by asking each of them how they became involved with the site.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Hi, I'm Mike Chapman, I'm 29 years old, I started Homestar Runner along with Craig Zobel in, uh, July of 1996, started doing the website in January of 2000. I do half of the graphics and animation and writing and, everything, {laughs} for the last three and a half years.

KARI DEAN: Okay, um, that's Mike, and Matt?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yes, I'm Matt Chapman, and I'm 26 years old, and uh, so I didn't- I was working at the theatre the summer that Mike and Craig were working at the Olympics that they came up with Homestar Runner so I didn't have a lot to do with the inception of it. Then, once uh, Mike dropped out of school and I graduated from college, and we uh, moved back in together, we started working on it together and so I've been involved since we put the website up. Uh, and I do the other half of all the writing and animating, whatnot and then except the- with the exception of Marzipan and uh, the occasional odd voice that Mike does, I do all of the voices.

KARI DEAN: And Missy?

MISSY PALMER: Um, well let's see. I was friends with Craig Zobel, and produced the movie that Matt and Mike worked on a long time ago, they were the only ones that listened to me. So, Mike and I started dating, and I uh, became the voice of Marzipan and did a little bit of writing at the beginning.

MATT CHAPMAN: So there's really, I guess there's me, Mike, Melissa, and then, three business-types.

KARI DEAN: How long ago did you have to start getting business people?

MATT CHAPMAN: Uh well, then I guess it was uh, July of 2001 Mike? Or no, 2000.

MIKE CHAPMAN: May, yeah May of 2001 we started selling shirts.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, May of 2001 we started selling shirts.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Then our dad was a- is a retired accountant um, and he offered to uh, you know, do that for us, send out the shirts. be the- our fulfillment. And uh, at the time it was, you know. Maybe a shirt a day. And so he was able to handle it, about six or, six months ago or so it became overwhelming, and now a fulfillment company does it.

MISSY PALMER: We- we ended up having to divide their ping-pong table into quadrants in the basement, {laughter} of their parents house. In like... 12.

MATT CHAPMAN: They were like, shipping stations.

MISSY PALMER: All the neighbors would have to come over, and fill orders.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yeah, Christmas was a lot of fun this year... {laughter}

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah it was great 'cause all our friends were home from, you know, school or- or wherever they lived New York or wherever and we put them all to work in our parents' basement, shipping T-Shirts.

MISSY PALMER: And then the mini-van would have to run to the post office twice a day with boxes of packages. {laughter}

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah we ran a tight ship. {laughter} You know it was great, it was so-

MISSY PALMER: {unintelligible}

MATT CHAPMAN: -it was a lot of fun though, but then, since then, because of that actually, we had to- now we have um. So we have um, our dad still helps with the store, our mom still helps with like, on the side, like, I mean not even uh- she's not even officially involved, our dad is sort of officially involved, and then our sister is- is like our customer service rep. Sister Karen. And then, we have uh, like main business guy that does all the like, you know any time there's like a deal or whatever, um, he takes care of that stuff. So I guess there's really, I guess there's me, Mike, Melissa, and then three business types.

KARI DEAN: They're all relatives?

MATT CHAPMAN: And, uh well no. The, their, our guy, Mike Hascone who's kind of our main business-type is the guy that, is funny enough went to junior high with us but we were never like, really friends with. But we grew up, you know, in the same neighborhood, the same, sort of people, and he just kind of came back into our lives like, right around the time were, sort of starting to get overwhelmed, and uh, offered to help us. He had just sold like a technology company out in silicon valley and all that, and so he was like "well hey I- I" you know, a friend of his, introduced him to the site before he even realized that it was, you know, these two guys he we to high- or junior high with. And then uh, we started working with him. So he takes care of the, like the nitty-gritty. You know, the deals, and all that junk.

KARI DEAN: So um, how overwhelming is overwhelming? How many T-Shirts do you think you're shipping out in an average day?

MATT CHAPMAN: Well, in December that was like... I mean we were like, around Christmas which was ridiculous and this was running it out of our parents basement, we were doing, I mean there were days when we'd have like 400 orders a day, and um, and uh that was just, you know, picking stuff off the shelf at mom and dad's house. And now we've, we've since moved to like a fulfillment company, so it's all warehoused and they do all the shipping and stuff. And I think, you know, because you know, Christmas is obviously a- a peak point, but now I think our average- what is our average, like 300?

MIKE CHAPMAN: I guess Matt.

MATT CHAPMAN: Around 300 a day. Yeah, we're pretty, we can't believe that that many people want to wear T-Shirts with our dumb animal characters on them. {laughter}

KARI DEAN: Was there, a certain point at which, um, you felt that like, you suddenly started, really taking off, or was- has it been like this from the very beginning...?

MIKE CHAPMAN: Well it's definitely not been like this. It's been pretty gradual, I think the biggest spike probably happened in about September of last year which is, uh, coincidentally and just randomly the time uh that, Matt quit his job, he had, a job at Earthlink for the previous three years, and uh, that it had just gotten to the time where we uh, had, you know were making enough off of T-Shirt sales that you could quit his job, um, we just kind of wanted to focus on it. I guess-

MATT CHAPMAN: Yea and at the time it was like an unknown, it was like-


MATT CHAPMAN: -kind of unsure about it, you know, like-


MATT CHAPMAN: -oh I'm not gonna get the steady paycheck necessarily, but then immediately like, kids got back in school I guess, in colleges or something, and it just went nuts. So that was very fortunate for- for me that, you know immediately I was like "okay this is gonna work out alright."

KARI DEAN: Were you guys doing some sort of PR [Public Relations] or, I mean that it just-

MATT CHAPMAN: No, I mean that it really, I mean that's been the coolest part about this, we've never done any kind of advertising, we've never- we've never really- we've just concentrated on puttin', you know-


MATT CHAPMAN: -updating the site, and it's just seemed like word of mouth has really just sort of, done it's thing. Yea, I mean-

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea that's why it's been-

MATT CHAPMAN: -we've been, we've been fortunate that like, you know, certain bands, like fairly popular bands and stuff would link us on their site and, you know we were sock- shockwave site of the day a couple of times over the years. But uh, so there's been things like that that definitely spike it and sort of get it into maybe a little more of a mainstream internet audience. And then um... But yea, it's been really cool, I mean just to like watch it grow. I mean we've just, you know, we'll hear like our cousins, {laughs} We had a cousin, that just came back, and then uh, two of her brothers were watching it, and they knew that we did it, but she didn't even know. Like she had heard about it through- so like even our relatives would like hear about it like independently through other people, and they'd be like "wait, my cousins do that? That's weird."

KARI DEAN: {laughs} That's amazing. That's amazing...

MATT CHAPMAN: Yea, so that's, that's really cool.

KARI DEAN: Okay. So, moving away from the business stuff, we've got lots of questions about characters and stories. One of the most pressing questions we've gotten is: "Why is Marzipan the only girl?"

MISSY PALMER: Yea, that's what I've been wondering. {laughs}

MIKE CHAPMAN: She's not the only girl anymore-

MISSY PALMER: What do you mean?

MIKE CHAPMAN: -there's Teen Girl Squad now.

MISSY PALMER: Oh, well they don't count very much...

MATT CHAPMAN: Yea, well now, Strong Bad has his own independent comic that he makes, he draws, and- and writes. And uh, and it's called Teen Girl Squad. So then there's four girls. So now we- we feel a little more comfortable, that, even though they're not technically girl characters that are interacting with everybody else, there are- there are four girl presences now, you know, on the site. In some form or fashion. And um-

MIKE CHAPMAN: And the other reason is that uh, well she gets more attention this way, right Melis?

MISSY PALMER: I don't know about that. I'm pushing for more females. {laughter}

MIKE CHAPMAN: We, it grew to a point where we-

MISSY PALMER: But, then again, I'm the most important one.

MIKE CHAPMAN: -yea. Well you- we just um- {laughter}

MATT CHAPMAN: It became a joke very quickly obviously, because she was-

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea we didn't- we didn't mean, you know, it was just like "hey, the main character's gotta have a girlfriend." And then, we didn't think about it for a few months, and all of a sudden there was 11 characters and 12 characters and 11 of them were, you know... {laughter}

MATT CHAPMAN: Dudes or, androgynous shapes.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea all, a couple of them are just kind of weird things that, you know, I guess they're technically male but, they could just as easily be female.

MATT CHAPMAN: We had discussed that, there's a character named The Cheat, and we had discussed him having a litter of babies at one point, so. Maybe some A-sexual characters. {laughter}

MISSY PALMER: Maybe- maybe somebody will have a gender change. {laughter}

KARI DEAN: Um, you said that you invented Marzipan because your main character needed a girlfriend. That was actually a question that was posed by a few people here is: "is Marzipan really Homestar Runner's girlfriend?"

MIKE CHAPMAN: Well that, yea I think, definitely back when she was created she was Homestar Runner's girlfriend-


MIKE CHAPMAN: -but now it's uh-

MATT CHAPMAN: She's sort of been fleshed out.

MISSY PALMER: I'm kind of independent now.


MIKE CHAPMAN: {simultaneously} Yeah.

KARI DEAN: So there was no official breakup or...?

MIKE CHAPMAN: There's n-no, it's um. Homestar didn't-

MATT CHAPMAN: You know, it'd probably take a while for it to sink in with Homestar anyways, even if they did break up. He's not the sharpest, uh, knife in the drawer. It's one of those relationships like you know, I dunno, what's- what's one of the- what's- what's some sitcom relationship where it's like for seasons and seasons they're off and on and off and on, it's almost like that where they're like-

KARI DEAN: So um- I'm back to moonlighting.

MIKE CHAPMAN: {simultaneously} Moonlighting or something.

MATT CHAPMAN: -yea, like moonlighting. Exactly. {laughter}

KARI DEAN: I've noticed that, you know, it's a pretty clean site. There's, no real adult content and no swearing. Was that a conscious decision?

MATT CHAPMAN: That's just sort of how who we are.-

MISSY PALMER: {unintelligible}

MATT CHAPMAN: -I mean like if we were going to make anything it would probably be, you know, I mean we would just sort of, just growing up watching TV, I mean you just sort of get into that mode where it's like... I mean I guess it's changing now, sort of getting a little more edgy and crass but, for the moment we just sort of see it as, we'd write anything like an old Looney Toons, or an old Three Stooges or an old whatever, where it's like got some, you know, definitely humor that's more for adults, but not necessarily that it's like... inappropriate or, I dunno. I mean it's just, I guess that's just sort of the way we'd do anything, I mean it wasn't like, a decision where like "We are going to be very clean, and- and appeal to the young children, and families". {laughter}

MIKE CHAPMAN: Also it was partly a reaction to when we started doing it in 2000, everything on the internet, all flash cartoons anyway were just kinda like South Park rip-offs and you know like this cute little cartoon character that, you know, says cuss words, or this cute little cartoon character that's gay or whatever, and so it was just about-

MISSY PALMER: Crass humor.

MIKE CHAPMAN: -trying to be shocking, and, you know "hey we can make cartoons that cuss now, and no one can stop us." And uh, so there was a lot out that wasn't too... {unintelligible}

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, so we were just trying to do something that was original, was part of the, and yeah, that was definitely, that was more of a challenge that we actually just like-

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea, so what- and uh, yea, that's just the way we are too.

KARI DEAN: So, how did you develop the characters for the site?

MIKE CHAPMAN: The characters-

MATT CHAPMAN: Yea, well tell her who all came in the book.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea the original story was uh, Homestar and Pom Pom were kind of like best friends. And then Strong Bad, and The Cheat um, were like, sort of-

MATT CHAPMAN: The foils.

MIKE CHAPMAN: -the two bad guys. And those were the two, really the only two characters that were really {Someone unintelligible in the background corrects Mike} or four characters, from the original story. And uh, when we first started the site it was, you know, obviously going to be centered around Homestar and... You know for the most part the cartoons, the early ones, were. And it was then in uh, I think I guess in the beginning of 2001, is that right? No, in the middle of 2001 we started doing Strong Bad emails. He had already sort of become, you know everyone's favorite character. We try to get the other characters in there, as frequently as possible, so they don't get too- {Says something unintelligible due to being cut off by Missy}

MISSY PALMER: Forgotten.

MIKE CHAPMAN: {laughs} Or forgotten.


KARI DEAN: {pause} Okay. Is there one character that you specifically identify with? So Melissa is it actually Marzipan for you?


KARI DEAN: Really? {laughter} Can- just- in a couple words, how would you describe Marzipan?

MISSY PALMER: Ummm... {pause} Oh I don't know. Maybe, um, freethinking, intelligent, charismatic, {laughs} and attractive? {laughter}

KARI DEAN: Okay. Umm, and how about Matt and Mike?

MATT CHAPMAN: Mike, you go first.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Ummm... {pause} I'm trying to think if I, {pause} I think I'm just saying this because it's my favorite character, but uh, we have, I don't know if you've ever seen those, old time black and white versions of all the characters in the whole world, the, you know, the cartoons from 1936...

KARI DEAN: Oh yea, I have seen those, I think.

MIKE CHAPMAN: They look, weird and are black and white. And that version of Homestar Runner, {laughter} Old-Timey Homestar is uh, {pause} I don't know, he's...

MATT CHAPMAN: He's a little more aloof maybe than modern Homestar.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea, he's- he's definitely not as dumb as real Homestar, he's smarter and, um, he- he seems to know what's going on more than any other character.

MATT CHAPMAN: And he's Old-Timier, and that's always a bonus.

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea, {laughs} exactly.

KARI DEAN: So you guys diss Homestar Runner a lot, {laughs} can you give me uh, just a few words how you would describe Homestar Runner, the character, to someone.

MATT CHAPMAN: He's like um, he's like the really dumb caption of the football team, like the sort of clueless figure head, but that's like-

MIKE CHAPMAN: Because he's really nice too.

MATT CHAPMAN: -yea, he's super well intentioned-

MIKE CHAPMAN: Like he's nice to nerds...

MATT CHAPMAN: -he would never do, and- and when he, even if he is uh, mean to you, he doesn't even know, you know he's so, he has no idea you were mean to him and, er, he was mean to you, and then, when you were mean to him, on purpose, he just, he can hardly even imagine that you're being mean to him, because, why would anyone be mean to someone else? And uh, so he's like that uh, yeah, sort of the clueless, figurehead, captain of the football team type, um, but then has a little edge that comes out here and there, like-

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yeah that's- that's the fun stuff about the characters, and how they've developed, is like there's definitely, there's that aspect of Homestar but then there's this like five percent mean streak where he's like, he could just be a jerk. {laughter}

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, like especially to Marzipan. {laughter}

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yea, to Marz- sometimes to Strong Bad, he'll just like call him out on his stuff.

KARI DEAN: Matt, can you tell me which character you identify most with?

MATT CHAPMAN: Um, I- my favorite character, I- I like Homestar the best. And I'm the- I'm the one that's rooting the most for like, to, to like, you know, we need Homestar to have his own weekly thing like Strong Bad does, whatever. I think that Homestar's the- anytime Homestar shows up he's like the- It's sad because he used to be the sort of focus of it but now he's sort of become the salt of the site. I feel like it's shifted towards the sort of bad guys and then whenever Homestar shows up it's like, always, you know, it's always gold or at least I feel like, you know I always love it whenever we make him pop up so... I'm uh, I don't know if he's exactly like me, I hope I'm a little more uh, a little less gullible, maybe a little more uh, aloof than Homestar, but uh, but I'm pulling for him more than anybody.

KARI DEAN: And you do the voice of Homestar?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yea, I do all- everybody except Marzipan.

KARI DEAN: Oh, Mike said he does a couple of voices.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, Mike does when uh-

MIKE CHAPMAN: It's very few-

MISSY PALMER: Sort of just like random...

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, whenever we-

MIKE CHAPMAN: {unintelligible through Matt}

MATT CHAPMAN: -need another voice like it's usually when it- we need a voice that is, just kind of funny and completely out of left field, that's when Mike will do.

KARI DEAN: {laughs} Okay.

MATT CHAPMAN: The Cheat is uh, our character The Cheat is a flash animator-

KARI DEAN: Mmm hmm...

MATT CHAPMAN: -whenever he makes flash cartoons Mike provides the voice that The Cheat- and The Cheat doesn't speak, he just kind of makes these squeaking noises, but so when he, {laughs} when The Cheat is doing his impressions of other characters, it's Mike, doing bad impressions of me.

KARI DEAN: Can you describe The Cheat, for, the audience?

MATT CHAPMAN: Describe him?

KARI DEAN: Yeah, um, like who he is, what his character is, I mean, not what he is, 'cause, well unless you know what he is-

MISSY PALMER: Well he's cute...

KARI DEAN: -because, I don't know any of this. {laughs}

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, he's the adorable like uh, evil sidekick, um, that uh, is a little, like he's sort of the whipping boy, but, you know, not your generic whipping- like he knows he's the whipping boy and kinda gets pissed off about it a lot. And so he- he's a little more pro-active, and like I said you know, he's- he's a flash animator. He's got his own thing going so it's sort of like-

MISSY PALMER: Doesn't he, sleep in the barbeque grill?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yes, he lives in a- he lives in the King of Town's barbeque grill.

KARI DEAN: And he slept in a crisper once too, didn't he?

MATT CHAPMAN: {laughter} Well yes, he did, he's recently- he's- he loves that, and so whenever he gets the privilege to sleep in the crisper he's very excited. {laughter} But uh, he's definitely like, you know, sort of you always have your- the bad guy's right hand man who's always just getting smacked by the bad guy. Whereas, you know The Cheat sort of like you get to see what that guy does when he goes home at night. And it's- you know, he wants to be a flash animator.

KARI DEAN: Okay. So, do you ever get concerned that you're gonna run out of content, or that you're gonna run out of story ideas, or I dunno, letter ideas, or, do you see yourself doing this for another, you know, twenty years or...?

MIKE CHAPMAN: Yeah we keep expanding, what- there's been, new characters and new realms, like we were talking earlier about Teen Girl Squad, and there's just been, as the site evolves there's new things keep coming up. Um, so I think they'll, or the foreseeable future there'll be, ideas for, you know whether or not it's- maybe focus the shift off of Strong Bad and Homestar Runner, and goes to a couple other characters and whatever, so I- I think there's definitely plenty of room, to, keep expanding.

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah I mean, my concern is more of if people discontinue 'cause I mean, all along we've just been coming up with whatever we think of and putting on the, on the- internet, you know. And- and fortunately people have been digging it. But my concern is just like, {pause} you know, as long as people keep digging it we'll keep doing- you know, I mean well not that it's- it's- whatever- uh it's- whatever that if, if people stop coming we'll stop doing it, that's not necessarily true. Um, we may- we may not be able to, uh live on it anymore if people stop coming to the site obviously. But uh-

MISSY PALMER: You guys have huge imaginations. {unintelligible through Matt}

MATT CHAPMAN: But yeah, but I mean that's seriously, that's- that's the part that I'm actually, fortunately I'm not worried about, just growing up with Mike, I mean we just, I mean just- putting me and Mike in a room for ten minutes, we'll just come up with something dumb that hopes- that I- you know that maybe somebody else will think is funny. So, isn't- it's less the ideas and- and the content that I'm worried about is more is this like I hope people continue to dig what we're doing. I mean there may be one of those things where me and Mike thinks it's hilarious and it comes out of left field and nobody likes it anymore, I dunno. But, the idea part is uh, um, I dunno, I think we've got enough dumb crap up in our heads that we can up- we can continue to come up with.

KARI DEAN: Okay I know I'm springing this on you, but please indulge our listeners. Can you have one of your characters tell me what he or she likes about working for Homestarrunner.com?



MISSY PALMER (AS MARZIPAN): -I think, for Marzipan, it- it allows me freedom of um, choice. And um, freedom of um... Movement. {laughter}

KARI DEAN: Was that in Marzipan's voice?

MATT CHAPMAN: Yeah, that's hers pretty much- {laughter}


MISSY PALMER: {unintelligible through Matt and Kari}

MATT CHAPMAN: -like she says, she's not acting at all.

KARI DEAN: -I was like wait, wait. I think it's the same. {laughter}

MATT CHAPMAN: Alright Mike, you do it. Be- be The Cheat doing Strong Bad, talking about the site.

MIKE CHAPMAN (AS POWERED BY THE CHEAT STRONG BAD): I like the part of the- with the punishment, {laughter} guy, right. I like to kick in the face. Dumb people. Twice I did it. {laughter}

MISSY PALMER: I think that's really mean.

MATT CHAPMAN: That's good! {laughter}

POWERED BY THE CHEAT STRONG BAD: I... eat... food? {laughter}


MATT CHAPMAN: Okay. I'll do Hom- I'll be Homestar, I suppose. And um...

KARI DEAN: So what does Homestar Runner like about working for Homestarrunner.com?

MATT (AS HOMESTAR RUNNER): They have the best snacks in the break room. Like, they have a- an entire assortment, I would- I would go so far as to say a smorgasbord of Little Debbie treats and confections. I mean, they've got Suzy Q's, and they've got, um, banana, what?


HOMESTAR RUNNER: And they've got, fudge-rounds, and star crunches. So, I'm pretty much pleased, that's all I need in life is a decent snackfood, or snackcake.

KARI DEAN: Okay, thank you. {laughter} Sorry. Thank you very very much, um...

MATT CHAPMAN: Awesome. Thanks sorry- sorry we ramble on so long.

MISSY PALMER: Can we stay on the line and talk to each other afterwards?

MIKE CHAPMAN: {laughter} Okay uh, yeah this little, this you know's cool, can we keep using this 800 number? {laughter}

{Musical interlude starts}

KARI DEAN: Okay, {laughter} You can try. Well it's been really fun talking with the three of you, but that's all the time we have. I want to thank Matt and Mike Chapman, and Missy Palmer for taking time out of their day to talk with us. Be sure to click on the link at the right, to watch Strong Bad answer one of his emails. Also, be sure you check out Homestarrunner.com, for more from Homestar, Strong Bad, Marzipan, and the rest of the gang. I'm Kari Dean, and thanks for listening to Wired News Radio.

{Music ends}

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