SXSW Interactive — DAY 2

Anjli Mehta

Panel: Funny or Die: Future of Comedy & Everything Else

The minds behind Funny or Die (sans Will Ferrell and Adam McKay) hosted a panel at SXSW Interactive on Sunday to discuss how the site started, their celebrity collaborations, and an upcoming series, First Dates.

Fuse’s Funny or Die presents Billy on the Streets' Billy Eichner played the role of moderator for the minds behind Funny or Die. Eichner co-created and hosts the show, where he ambushes strangers on the streets of New York City with pop culture trivia and a chance to win cash. The panel’s presenters were creative director Andrew Steele, CEO Dick Glover, president of production Mike Farrah, actor Seth Morris, and vice president of marketing Patrick Starzan.

Funny or Die launched without any employees with the infamous video The Landlord featuring Will Ferrell and co-creator of Funny or Die Adam McKay’s daughter. Once Ferrell, McKay and their team realized they could make a market out of creative high quality comedy videos on the internet, they slowly added employees and created a staff of 73 people with offices in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and New York.

“We have found that the internet responds well to cats and boobs but we try not to do lowbrow comedy, and instead stick with the standards from Saturday Night Live to keep up the zeitgeist that is Funny or Die now,” Steele said.

Funny or Die makes 20-25 original videos every month, many of which star celebrities and have celebrity cameos. Steele said that while celebrities are used to the discouraging processes of production and development in Hollywood films and shows, when they come to Funny or Die, they have a virtually risk-free chance to make something out of their own ideas.

“There’s really no risk for celebrities because it’s not a major motion picture, if it fails, who cares?” Glover said. “It’s just a shitty internet video, so it’s not that bad if it fails but if it goes viral that’s great.”

Morris explained that celebrities collaborate with Funny or Die because the company is more than willing to help them create videos they’ll be happy and excited about.

“When Will and Adam started the site, they wanted it to be a sort of playground for them and their friends to create videos out of their ideas,” Morris said.

Glover said that the company doesn’t have a specific model for creating videos.

“We’re not looking to make the next Stars Wars, we want to feature people we love and doing things that make us laugh, like Tim and Eric,” Glover said.

The panel presented Seth Morris’ new Funny or Die series, First Dates, where the main character, Toby Harris, jumps back into the dating scene after a relationship ends and finds himself on the worst first date ever…over and over again.