Ever since the online launch of their wildly popular animated political parody at JibJab.com -- one that's equally insulting to President Bush and his presumptive Democratic challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry -- life hasn't been the same for the Spiridellis brothers, the site's creators.
Set to the tune of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," the two-minute cartoon lambastes "the right-wing nut job" (Bush) and the "liberal wiener" (Kerry) with amusing animation and slightly off-color lyrics. The site, www.jibjab.com, registered 5 million hits in the week after the short first appeared July 9 on the Internet.
Now brothers Gregg and Evan Spiridellis have stopped counting. Their site, produced in a warehouse on Berkeley Street in Santa Monica, has been intermittently crashing ever since because of the traffic. The national media has caught on; Gregg, 33, and Evan, 30, appeared this week on NBC's "Today" and "The Early Show" on CBS and have a date on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on Monday. .
"We got a call from my sister-in-law in Holland that said they've been playing it on the air in Holland with Dutch subtitles," Evan says by phone from their office. They've also gotten requests from Australian and German television and hundreds of U.S. news outlets.
In the short, the candidates drawn with large heads and mouths like marionettes go at each other. Bush says Kerry has more waffles than a house of pancakes, a reference to alleged flip-flopping on the issues. Kerry finds it scary that the president can't pronounce "nuclear."
The brothers, the only permanent employees of their company, Jib Jab Media Inc., can't keep up with the demands of their latest creation. "We're getting requests from every agent, manager and lawyer in Hollywood to help us out," Gregg says.
On their projects, Evan is the animator. Gregg, who earned an MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is the writer. It's not the first time they've poked fun at politics. During the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election, they made a 90-second cartoon titled "Arnold for Governor" that was shown at this year's Sundance Film Festival. They also did an animated rap battle in 2000 between presidential candidates Bush and Al Gore.
The Web shorts aren't money makers, the brothers say. Instead, they're used "as a calling card for us as a creative team," Gregg says, to attract advertising business from corporate clients. They started their company in a garage in Brooklyn in 1998, just before the dot-com bust. They headed to Southern California 2 1/2 years ago.
Currently they are in production on an independent feature based on their bestselling children's book, "Are You Grumpy, Santa?" "The movie has a kind of a 'Shrek' tone," Evan says. "It's kind of an updated fairy tale."
The brothers are dazed by the response to JibJab. "A son wrote, 'This is the first time my dad and I have been able to approach politics without yelling at each other in our entire life,' " Gregg notes.