Looking at most Forgotten Childhood entries over the past few years, the differences in content watched during childhood across the writing staff marked me as something of an outlier. As one of those pesky millennials, I didn’t watch the classics of TMNT or Darkwing Duck as a child, Instead opting for a more obscure way to occupy my time. Flash Animation. Yes, I grew up in that awkward period of the Internet right before YouTube exploded, so I had to find other sites to quell my hunger for poorly animated videos and wacky scenarios. Enter Homestar Runner.
Created by the Brother Chaps (Mike and Matt Chapman), Homestar Runner was a website of flash animated cartoons featuring a quirky set of characters. The idea for the site came from the original picture book The Homestar Runner Enters the Strongest Man in the World Contest written by the Mike Chapman and Craig Zobel in 1996. The picture book featured the characters that would eventually be brought into the digital age in May 2000 with the launch of homestarrunner.com. The site went on to become one of the most popular flash animated websites of the time with the introduction of the Strong Bad Email series in 2001. The Brother Chaps created a twelve character main cast, multiple side characters, spin offs and countless cartoons all still hosted on the site today. The site saw years of success due to a rampant fanbase, iconic catchphrases and even their own line of merchandise, but sadly the fun had to end sometime.
The site saw a rapid decrease in content from 2009, due to a new baby in the Chapman family. The site saw a four year hiatus period from 2009 until 2014, with Matt Chapman going on to write for Yo Gabba Gabba and eventually Gravity Falls. The site has seen some random content here and there over the last two years, but mainly just for the occasional holiday or April Fool’s Day special. The heyday of a new short every week was long gone, though the series still has a passionate and loving fanbase to this day.
So, with all that being said, you may be left asking what exactly was Homestar Runner. The website was primarily a series of flash animated shorts, split into different shows with a recurring cast. The two main characters were the titular Homestar Runner (lovable dimwit) and the more popular ‘villain’ of the series, Strong Bad (lazy Mexican wrestler). The shorts dealt with these characters’ day to day lives, such as checking emails from beloved fans, dealing with spooky Halloween monsters and, above all else, referencing everything from the past 30 years. The best way I could describe the humour of these shorts would be surreal, low key and character based. The small cast gets a massive amount of range; from the environmentally passionate Marzipan to the creepy King of Town, everyone had a weird character trait that made them simultaneously awful yet likeable.
This website is nostalgic to me as it was one of the biggest influences on my sense of humour growing up. While The Simpsons was certainly a huge contributor, Homestar Runner was this weird, off the wall and trippy series that I fell in love for a good part of my late childhood to late teens. I remember spending countless hours scrawling through every part of that website, wasting hours in my school computer room watching weird stoner cartoons while everyone else was playing Runescape.
Me and my friends still quote the characters to this day, as Homestar Runner has some of the most obscure in-jokes on the Internet, such as the Trogdor craze that took the world by storm in the mid-2000s. The site spawned countless iconic jokes, images and songs that will be remembered and cherished by dumb internet nerds like myself for years down the line.
This cast of characters is one of (if not the most important) set of characters to who I am today, based on how much of this website I watched and when I watched it. The series went on to create merchandise, music and even their own Telltale video game series called Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, a game so filled to the brim with fan-service it may as well be Project X Zone‘s weird estranged cousin who went to college for two years and dropped out to live abroad. In fact, that is how I would sum up Homestar Runner.