|Review of "JibJab"
I wouldn't consider any of the titles on "JibJab" to be webcomics, primarily because they are not a reading experience. Comics are read. If the presentation is timed for you, I'd consider that to be an animated cartoon, even if it may have subtitles that you read.
Still, having said that, I can see why it might be useful to review along with webcomics, because "JibJab" succeeds in an area where 99% of webcomics fail. It has (to a certain degree) reached a mass audience. I can walk around my office floor and no one there will have heard of "Penny Arcade" or "Sluggy Freelance" but nearly everyone will have not only heard of, but actually seen a "JibJab" cartoon. Now that doesn't make "JibJab" better as a work of art, but the Spiridellis brothers are obviously doing something right to reach such a huge audience using just the Internet. What webcartoonist wouldn't love to have their strips being e-mailed around the globe as fervently as last year's "JibJab" cartoons?
On to the cartoons themselves...
"DJ Fred & McGinger"
More novelty game than cartoon. This is one of the three interactive mixer programs where there is a stage with figures, props, and connected sound effects. You cursor over or click on various images to mix a live video of sounds and animations. It's moderately funny and fun to play. But it's also instantly forgettable.
"It Bit My Ass"
Unfunny. This one is typical of the numerous amateurishly awful Flash films that are out there. It stars the grumpy old men characters, Cicero & Leo, and is not worth the download time.
"Cooking With Clinton"
Weak. The facial animations for Clinton are surprisingly comical at moments, but the comedy doesn't last the length of the brief program. It just keeps wallowing in the Clinton goofiness without really going anywhere.
"Bush Vs. Gore"
Another interactive Flash mixer, but more effective than "DJ Fred", as it combines the mixer board with political figures. This may be the first "JibJab" program link that someone e-mailed to me way back in 2000. It's fun interactive stuff that I spent way more time playing with than I'd like to admit. But again, it's less a webcomic (a reading experience) and more a novelty game.
"Funny Foreign Names"
Pretty funny cartoon mocking Bush, but not as good as it could be. The little elf character was cute.
"Geezers: The Musician"
Another awful outing with the two horribly-voiced, stereotyped old folks Cicero & Leo. Truly an arduous experience to sit through. I hope the Spiridellis brothers are smart enough to abandon these terrible characters and stick with the political caricatures.
"Raps: Founding Fathers"
This third Flash mixer was the weakest of the three, with mediocre lyrics about the Founding Fathers of the USA (Franklin, Washington, etc.) done in a rap style. On a technical level, I couldn't even get all the rapping fathers to function, and I didn't really care.
"Ahnuld for Governor"
Less a satire than a full on campaign commercial for Arnold Schwarzenegger from when he was running for California Governor. Ahnuld comically uses his movie roles to justify why he deserves to hold the office. But these movie allusions are exactly what Arnold does all the time (so did Reagan), so there was nothing actually critical of Arnold, just a friendly exaggerated homage. Nonetheless, as a cartoon it was still fast paced and rather funny.
"Good To Be In DC"
One of the two best "JibJab" cartoons and a link that got e-mailed around a lot. It's fast, catchy and has lots of cameos and secondary gags (the Clinton slap) that make the whole experience fun.
The most widely seen and best "JibJab" cartoon. It summarized all of the negative candidate cliches being tossed around during that time (2004 US presidential election) and blended them into a fast paced and catchy musical cartoon. It really captured the moment and was almost a cathartic release from all the campaign negativity to see all the figures from the nightly news lampooned in such a fun way. Further successful mileage was gained from the Clinton slap.
No one e-mailed me this one and I watched it for the first time to write this review. I can see why this cartoon didn't quite catch fire like the previous two. It was still a generally successful entertainment and drew a smile from me, but it felt like more of the same old same old. I don't think any of the Bush gags felt like they were filling a cultural gap in quite the same way "This Land" did. Alas, in it's third outing, the gag of the Clinton slap had lost all comical mileage.
The biggest drawback with these cartoons (even the two best) is that there is no real edge to them. They are designed to get laughs without really offending anybody and just riffing on and exaggerating the traits of the politicians that we are already familiar with. That approach struck lightning with "This Land," but doesn't suggest an actual satirical perspective worth returning to. The timing and the gags work well enough on the better ones to be funny, but there aren't a lot of layers of artistry to appreciate beyond that. The photo-caricaturing is not nearly as satisfying as a good hand drawn caricature by Jack Davis or Mort Drucker (of Mad Magazine fame). Come to think of it, the song lyric rewrites aren't nearly as clever as the ones that used to appear in Mad (the "sung to the tune of" feature). One good thing about "JibJab" is you don't have to check back on their website. It they come up with another popular gem, chances are someone will e-mail it to you.