Persons of the Week: Spiridellis Brothers

Evan and Gregg Spiridellis — think of Gregg as the tycoon and Evan as the artist — designed and released via the Internet a funny parody of the 2004 presidential campaign.

Called This Land, the animated cartoon has garnered a substantial amount of attention for the brothers this week, with appearances and mentions on hundreds of news outlets.

"We could have never expected this," Gregg said. "There is such divisiveness, and it was just so pent up, and I think the first bit of humor to tackle it gets the golden ring."

The "golden ring" has turned into success on the Internet. The brothers' cartoon, presented to the tune of the patriotic song "This Land Is Your Land," lampoons President Bush, Sen. John Kerry, and even former President Bill Clinton.

It has been downloaded and played at least 8 million times since Monday. Earlier this week, so many people tried to watch it at one time that the brothers' company's computers crashed.

To their credit, the abuse doled out in the cartoon is very even-handed, portraying Bush as an inept, macho simpleton and Kerry as a dull, aristocratic flip-flopper.

"We'd be frightened if someone looked at our animation and made a decision about voting one way or the other. We'd be terrified actually," Gregg said.

Cartoonists have been lampooning American politicians for ages. Benjamin Franklin used political cartoons in his newspaper, The Philadelphia Gazette, to attract readers.

The Spiridellis brothers have attracted viewers from all over the world.

"We've got e-mails coming in from Jordan, Germany, Prague, and Brazil. We got an e-mail from a gentleman in Cameroon," Evan said.

He added: "We got a letter from a guy who [watched the cartoon and] said 'I'm a right-wing nut job and I sent this to my dad who's a liberal whacko, and the two of us laughed and talked about politics with a smile for the first time in years.' "

But the outpouring from viewers comes with a disadvantage.

"We're not an organization built to handle 30,000 e-mails in three days," said Gregg.

"That's why Gregg hasn't slept," Evan added.

Even and Gregg, both in their 30s, work out of a Santa Monica, Calif., warehouse, making ads for the Internet and using cartoons for the publicity. The company's name, JibJab.com, doesn't mean a thing.

Destined for Elvis Art?

The Spiridellis brothers grew up in New Jersey. Early on, Gregg was interested in computers, while Evan loved to draw.

"I always drew pictures," Evan said. "My dad thought I'd end up selling black velvet Elvises by the side of the road."

This year, with so much political warfare on the Internet, Gregg and Evan were bound to be noticed.

"It's just been Gregg and myself," Evan said. "He writes and I animate and it's all done with personal computers. For a $2,000 computer, you can create something and send it out to the world."

15 Minutes and Counting

They recently wrote a best-selling children's book titled Ae You Grumpy, Santa?, and they plan to turn it into a feature film. Given all the recent attention, the brothers know all about 15 minutes of fame.

Said Evan: "Our clock is running fast!"

On the other hand, with so much political noise on the Internet, maybe they're making history.

"I think it was a political historian in Nevada who sent us an e-mail saying, 'I'm archiving everything about this election and we'd like to get a copy of your piece because in a hundred years this will help define the 2004 election,' " said Evan. "And that was really kind of heady. That makes you think."

Visit www.jibjab.com to watch the cartoon.

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