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Great art, much like a Twinkie, really has no expiration date. So John Tayman’s 2004 animated clip “Passing Fancy” is as fresh as ever.
As the Redskins’ 2006 season goes to hell, with Joe Gibbs and Mark Brunell seemingly more concerned about maintaining a good quarterback rating than winning games, Tayman’s three-minute piece, which lampoons this particular coach/player relationship with brilliance and belly laughs, has been e-mailed from Redskins fan to Redskins fan. Given what’s transpiring with the team and how hard Gibbs still works to shield Brunell from blame in the franchise’s latest swoon, it’s more relevant now than when Tayman drew it up.
“I guess it’s timeless,” says Tayman, with a chuckle, when asked about the continued currency of his 2-year-old work of art.
In the piece, an animated Brunell is shown participating in NFL Quarterback Challenge, a play on those made-for-TV events that run every summer. He’s put through a series of skill tests: trying to hit the side of a barn, throw a football into the ocean from the beach, and toss a pass to earth from a helicopter.
This Brunell, talentless and washed-up, fails each test. But, lucky for him, Coach is in the booth providing color commentary. Tayman captures Gibbs down to the chicken-skinned neck, the overuse of “supersmart” and “fighting his guts out,” and, best of all, the giggle.
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The monologue the faux Gibbs gives when his QB misses the barn is by itself worth the price of admission: “He hits that about 60 percent of the time in practice,” Gibbs drawls. “I think what you see here is a supersmart guy, always a thinker, doesn’t know exactly what’s in that barn. Could be a bull or a big dog that might come out and bite him, it could be cows and chickens, and the sudden sound of a football hittin’ the broad side of that barn might spook ’em, and all the children in that town might not have eggs or milk to drink in the morning, and I think that what you see is a supersmart, really intelligent guy that would rather throw it away than risk starving all the kids in the town.”
Then again, there is no price of admission. Tayman’s cartoons can be viewed by anybody who surfs by his Web site, bangcartoon.com. He says the site gets between 10,000 to 30,000 hits a day.
“It’s not paying the bills yet by any stretch,” says Tayman. “But it’s not a burden, either. I’m having a lot of fun with it.”
Tayman, 43, became a Skins fan as a kid growing up in Forestville and now lives in Lusby, Md., on the Eastern Shore. He had a career in construction until 2001, when domestic matters forced him to look for a new field.
“I was a single parent trying to raise a young son and keep a job that had me leaving home at 4:30 in the morning to get to a site on time,” he says. “That wasn’t working out.”
He quit that job and went back to school. Computer courses led to a job developing Web sites, and as his proficiency with Flash animation grew, his inner artist and his inner stand-up comic began coming out to play with his outer a-hole.
Not all of the final products are as loaded with nuance or are as high-minded as “Passing Fancy.” Tayman admits he knows some of his creations will bother folks even as he’s drawing them up.
He made a good portion of Detroit angry earlier this year when local TV stations showed a cartoon he made of Bill Cowher and Jerome Bettis advising Super Bowl attendees on how to survive the Motor City.
But harsh cartoons are in vogue, and Tayman says he’s just going with what he knows. “I’ve always been a wiseass,” he says. “I’m told I’m mean-spirited, and I guess so. But these are the kind of jokes that me and my friends used to use on each other around at the street corner. We were mean. We pretty much said the same things.”
For example, there’s “Vick TV,” in which the old ESPN Sunday Night Football crew covers the Atlanta QB’s bathroom break with all the zeal they’d devote to one of his naked bootlegs. The animated Joe Theismann gets particularly animated on the job.
“In my time with the Washington Redskins, I was around Hall of Famers like John Riggins taking a dump, Joe Jacoby leaving a load!” shrieks the Tayman-voiced Joey T. “But I’ve never been around such a gifted all-around athlete when he takes a crap. Quite frankly, I’ve got goosebumps.”
Tayman stands by the bathroom humor.
“Michael Vick had gotten hurt, and I was watching him when he played his first game back on a Sunday night, and those ESPN guys just would not stop gushing over the guy,” he says. “So I figured I’d just put all three of them in the bathtub and talking about him taking a dump.”
And after Dolphins tight end Randy McMichael and his pregnant wife, Cawanna McMichael, were arrested for domestically assaulting each other, Tayman drew up a script that had them in a boxing ring. The underdog, Cawanna, giving up a foot and 100 pounds (even with her big belly) to her adversary, does not fare well in the mythical rematch.
“If it had been just him assaulting her, obviously, I wouldn’t make fun of that,” says Tayman. “But, I figure, if she’s throwing down, too, well, hell yeah! So I put ’em both in a boxing ring and had him beat the hell outta her. I thought there was something funny about seeing that. I can’t name any names, but I’ve heard it’s a badge of honor for the players to show up on my site, even though it’s mean. Because, well, you’ve made a fool of yourself somewhere along the line if you’re in my cartoon.”
From the beginning, Tayman has done all the animation, writing, and voices for his clips; he wears every hat but the sound engineer’s, in fact. A typical cartoon takes him about three work days, and he generally puts a new one up on his site each week.
“I’d never done anything artistic at all,” he says. “I probably thought about being a comedian, but the choices I’ve made in life didn’t let me try to make those kind of things happen. But going to school again changed everything. I was working with computers and cranking out goofy cartoons.”
There has been some backlash to his crass act. His cartoon series, called Bang, got its first big break when ExtremeSkins.com, a highly trafficked message board for Redskins fans, began posting his clips in 2003. But when Dan Snyder, as part of his plan to control the world, took over that fan site last year, Tayman’s work was suddenly cartoona non grata.
Snyder has been a frequent target of Tayman’s parodies. And, Tayman says, if he were the owner, he would have gotten rid of the links, too.
“It was great being on that site, great exposure, and all of a sudden it was like Dan Snyder bought the site and said, ‘I’ll take everything but that guy!’” Tayman says. “But I can’t blame him. I’m a guy who pokes fun at people, specifically him. But I don’t think it was sour grapes that led to his decision. For one, think of all the bulletin-board material that it would give the other team! And, really, it’s got to be tough to put a guy on the payroll who will draw you as a 3-foot munchkin.”—Dave McKenna