This being the Internet, many of you are probably familiar with FunnyOrDie.com, the website that rocketed to page-view heaven in 2007 with a clip, "The Landlord," featuring Adam McKay's 2-year-old daughter harassing Will Ferrell for rent money. It's gotten 70 million looks for a reason--it's pretty God damn funny.
The site has featured tons of great videos since, including Zach Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns" segments, and lots of political-leaning stuff created by biggish names in the comedy world.
It should come as no shock that the site jumped into bed with HBO a while back, and the first fruits of that relationship will air over the next 12 weeks as Funny Or Die Presents, a sketch-comedy show of mostly new material that’s in the same vein as the slickest stuff the site has to offer. Like the site, it’s a bit hit and miss; unlike the site, it asks you to stick around for half an hour rather than randomly click around once you’ve gotten bored.
By that measure, it actually works pretty well. Even though FOD takes time with some of its pieces, it still moves along nicely, and doesn’t get too confused about its vision, even through various styles. For me, the most direct stuff didn’t work: Steve Little (a.k.a. the amazing Stevie Janowski on Eastbound & Down) taking some ecstasy and having an amazing time was a little dull, as was the overlong sketch featuring a sentient T-shirt that drugs and date-rapes Busy Phillips. (That one’s actually funnier on paper than it was on screen.)
But some of the more conceptual stuff really hit nicely. A new episode of the site’s recurring feature “Drunk History With Jen Kirkman” was pretty great. It involves the comedian getting blasted, then relling a drunk version of Frederick Douglass’ relationship with Abe Lincoln. Don Cheadle and Will Ferrell show up to play those parts, but they don’t speak—just lip-sync Kirkman’s slurred words. “Playground Politics,” which will apparently recur, also did well, hitting actual issues on the nose but getting solid laughs in a very Onion-like manner. “Space Baby,” though supremely silly, was chuckle-worthy, and any appearance by Fred Willard is generally welcome.
It’ll be interesting to see if Funny Or Die can keep pacing episodes as well as they did this one: Future installments promise appearances by Zach Galifianakis and Tim & Eric, whose sensibilities might not match up exactly with the more mainstream leaning bits, like Paul Scheer and Rob Riggle’s sub-Tenacious D sketch, “Designated Driver.” (Hate to knock those guys, because they’re generally really funny, but these characters will run out of gas—pun intended!—soon.)
In any case, it’s nice to see a bunch of smart people putting together a show on a channel that allows liberal use of the word “fuck,” especially when that word is delivered by an old guy sitting in a room full of outdated computers. Though we won’t be covering the show every week, I’m definitely going to keep watching it. Like the site, the good bits are well worth waiting around for. And there’s no buffer time on HBO.