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Homestar Runner’s “Indie vs. Independent”

Panelists, critics, educators, please step aside, for the masterminds behind everyone’s favorite long-running animated episodic comedy website, Homestar Runner, are here to explain the real difference between “independent” and “indie” cinema.

For years, Mike and Matt Chapman (and tech guru Ryan Sterritt) have sent out a consistently sharp and funny weekly short film/email, in which the tempestuous Strong Bad responds to questions sent in by viewers. In addition to Strong Bad, the characters of the HR universe—Free Country USA—include Homestar Runner himself, Strong Mad, Strong Sad, Coach Z, The Cheat, Marzipan, Pom Pom, Bubs, The Poopsmith, and The King of Town. Before the word “webisode” had cluttered the e-waves, Homestar Runner was doing its own thing with tender irreverence. The Brothers Chaps have a special ability to satirize and poke fun at anything you could imagine—music, caffeine, video games, sleepovers, movies, computer viruses, funerals, public radio, theme parks, and even animation itself—without ever coming across as snarky or bitter. There’s an inherent sweetness to their humor that makes Homestar Runner that rarely encountered pleasurable family friendly treat.

While all of the emails are available for viewing online, that isn’t the only way to experience the fun that is Homestar Runner. If the three-disc Strong Bad Emails (1-100) DVD set seems too overwhelming for you, the recently released SBEmails’ 50 Greatest Hits is a more streamlined way to enjoy the SBEmails on an actual television screen (though at almost three hours, this one-disc release is jam-packed as well).

But back to the main reason for this post. Recently, the Brothers Chaps decided to sharpen their hilarious blades on our very own industry. That Coach Z was inspired by site co-creator Craig Zobel (Great World of Sound) is only more proof that Strong Bad is up to the challenge of breaking down this ultra-sensitive dilemma to its core.

Watch and learn: Independent (SBEmail 203)

— Michael Tully

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Michael Tully was born and raised in Maryland and now lives on Tennis Court in Brooklyn. His most recent narrative feature, Septien, world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects. In addition to directing Cocaine Angel (2006) and Silver Jew (2007), he is also a proud alumni of Filmmaker Magazine's annual "25 New Faces of Independent Film" club (2006). Visit his indieWIRE blog Boredom at its Boredest——for more sporadic personal updates.

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