This Robot Chicken 'Homestar Runner' Parody Is the Worst Way To End 2017

There's something inherently WRONG with doing a "parody" of something that's already intended to be silly and funny and over-the-top - what ends up happening is that you take the comedic elements of the thing you're parodying and mix it into your own style, which winds up making the thing that was already funny into something significantly more muddled and far, far less funny. It's why Deadpool 'parodies' are inherently pretty lame (which is one big reason you'll never see a Deadpool Dorkly Bit, unless we ever do one, in which case it'll be the one exception to this rule), and it's never been better exemplified than this Homestar Runner parody done by the folks at Robot Chicken.

First of all, whoa! Robot Chicken is still making episodes, apparently? Good for them. Less good for them, on the other hand, is what is actually contained in this particular episode. I'm not going to make any broad, sweeping statements about the value of Robot Chicken's comedy, since humor is such a subjective thing and my tastes are probably not that great (although if you'd like to hear me give an impassioned speech about how much I love American Dad!, please tell me so in the comments). But one absolutely objective fact is that Robot Chicken's recent Homestarrunner sketch is the absolute worst thing to come out of 2017:

The Voices Are Genuinely Terrible


Where do you even start? Oh, that's easy - the voices are goddamn ATROCIOUS. The iconic voicework done by the Brothers Chap has been deeply ingrained into the minds of anyone who's been a fan of anything from the Homestar-verse in its nearly 20 year existence - to copy the LOOK of the cartoon so precisely but then do SUCH AN UNBELIEVABLY BAD JOB with the voices is jarring as hell (especially because Robot Chicken will often get the actual actors and actresses who played characters in movies and TV to voice their characters on RC). Strong Bad's voice here alone would be enough to outright declare this thing unfit for humanity, then we roll into the King of Town and I too wish I was being riddled with bullets.

The Violence Is Awful


Speaking of getting riddled with bullets, pretty much the entire "joke" of the piece is "haha, we're adding lots of violence and death to Homestar Runner!" This requires a few assumptions about the audience - firstly, that they know enough about Homestarrunner that they would be aware that horrifying violence isn't a normal part of the franchise; and secondly, that they would think adding bits about each character being maliciously gunned down by FBI agents would be HILARIOUS. Part of the charm of H*R is how weirdly clean its remained for its entire existence - it's never gotten overly violent or sexual or curse-heavy, and could have aired on Cartoon Network without any issue. The violence in this short ends up feeling SO WRONG and SO OUT OF PLACE - and not in a way that's funny.

Listen, here at Dorkly, one of our go-to moves is adding violence to things that don't normally have violence in them - and I think we (generally) do it pretty well. But there are rules to doing this and not making it feel like it's ugly and in bad taste:

  • It needs to actually be funny.
  • The violence should be unexpected and brief
  • If "extended violence" is the joke, the violence needs to be unexpected throughout as it escalates ("Mario Goes Berserk" is a good example - the WAYS in which Mario's violence changes and grows in each section)

The violence here is repetitive and expected - the soldiers just keep gunning down various characters, and we occasionally see weirdly specific references to H*R's history, which would be kinda confusing to anyone watching who wasn't intimately familiar with H*R (which I have to imagine is a decent portion of Robot Chicken's viewership).

It's Underhanded As Hell


One weird thing about the sketch is that it APPEARS that it was done in conjunction with the creators of Homestarrunner - there are original-looking assets and backgrounds and character art, and Robot Chicken has something of a reputation of working closely with the properties they parody (and have even had sponsored specials for The Walking Dead and DC Comics). Because - why would they steal the artwork of a well-known but small web series and create something that looks like a collaboration?

The real problem with this is that the line between parody and collaboration seems incredibly blurred - to use us as an example again, we're pretty sure people are always able to tell the difference between us parodying something and the actual thing. There ARE no official Nintendo sprite sketches starring Mario or Pokemon, so there's no way you would mistake a Pokemon Rusty video for some official collaboration with Nintendo. The mediums are clear and distinct (at least as far as I can tell) and we have no history of collaborating with other media companies to use their IP in our sketches.

This is different - Homestarrunner specializes in short, funny sketches - so inserting the characters into a short, (intended-to-be) funny sketch isn't altering things enough. Plus, Robot Chicken DOES have a history of collaborating with other media companies to use their IP. But what really makes this confusing is that it uses the look of Homestarrunner, when it's very much the norm for Robot Chicken to adapt other properties into its own action figure stop motion aesthetic. The fact that this LOOKS like actual Homestarrunner is a genuinely confusing choice.

It's Mostly Just References To Something Funnier


Reference humor is fine if you understand that it's the CONTEXT of the reference that's supposed to be funny, not the reference itself being a joke. Including references to Frank Bennedetto, Teen Girl Squad, Homsar, and Bear-Holding-a-Shark isn't funny in the context of this video - all these references do is remind me of what is ACTUALLY funny about all of these things, since they're all genuinely funny in the source material. It'd be like including Kramer sliding through a door in a Mario video and Mario yelling "Hey look! It's Kramer!" and that being THE ENTIRE JOKE. It wouldn't be funny - you'd just be thinking "Man, I wish I was watching Seinfeld instead of this."

And mostly, I have to imagine these references were completely lost on the actual audience for Robot Chicken. Homestar calling a popcorn machine "Frank Bennedetto" is going to be absolutely baffling to someone not familiar with H*R, and annoying to H*R fans who would then realize they would rather be watching the actual thing.

So, do yourself a favor, and just watch this: