Awesome Men Throughout History: Jonti Picking
When people talk about how the Internet has changed the way people interact with visual media (which means “watch television” 90% of the time), they always talk about content distribution and don’t really touch on content itself all that much. That’s weird, because popular Internet content flies in the face of what television saw as a winning formula for over 50 years.
“Good” TV paints in broad, predictable strokes: likable protagonists, strong villains, and easily digested points of view. Homegrown Internet content, though? Not so much. That’s where this week’s Awesome Man Throughout History—Weebl & Bob creator Jonti Picking—comes in, because he was responsible for a lot of the Internet’s earliest viral hits.
Jonti, a sound engineer who dabbled with animation on the the C64 and Amiga in his spare time, was working for a top drawer London media company when he created Weebl and Bob, a surreal and blissfully stupid cartoon about two egg-shaped characters who love pie. “I was bored stiff,” Jonti explained to Remix64, “and…I figured: I can use flash and pie is a funny word… Let’s see if I can do the most idiotic and simple cartoon ever.”
He didn’t expect it to catch on, and in a traditional media environment, it wouldn’t have, at least not beyond a very niche market. But over time, enough people liked Weebl and Bob’s goofy dialogue and incomprehensible gibberish voices to keep it going.
And that wasn’t Jonti’s only success story. He’s also known for Flash animations of weird looping songs, like “Badgers,” his 2003 creation that scored millions of pageviews and dozens of parodies, and became a bonafide media phenomenon.
It’s hard to explain the popularity of “Badger” to a 2014 audience that’s used to more sophisticated Internet humor (well, sort of), but the fact remains that it was successful enough to grab an audience that Jonti retained with more silly offerings. Eventually, he had to partner up with w00t!media to manage his server costs and monetize his site through advertising, which led to a partnership with Cadbury, of all things.
Jonti is still making cartoons, and they’re still as nonsensical and fun as ever, which is his appeal, I think. His work never stops to congratulate itself (ahem, Family Guy), it can reference other things without depending on them as a crutch, and it doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. Neither does Jonti Picking, which is fantastic, because there are a lot of Internet personalities with 1/3 of his popularity who are unendurably arrogant.
Also, some of his songs are damned catchy. I dare you to not bop your head along with “Pork Song.” I DARE YOU.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.