Will Ferrell knows comedy. After years of performing on Saturday Night Live and appearing in a slew of films including Anchorman and Step Brothers, Ferrell and his production company have turned to the web. The result is Funnyordie (www.funnyordie.com), a comedic take on news, lifestyles, politics, sports--almost anything, really.
The site includes live interviews by comic Billy Eichner with a variety of celebrities and people on the street, the result being a sort of combination of TV programs The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live and the website The Onion (www.theonion.com).
Funnyordie’s organization is loose and visual, not based around specific topics. It is, however, structured into these basic categories: Home, Videos, Pictures & Words, Podcasts, Politics, Billy on the Street, Web Series, and Celebrities. By not designating specific subjects, Funnyordie can operate almost spontaneously, choosing whatever target it wants to aim at and adapting to everyday events.
For example, when Anthony Weiner sent recurring sexual images online to women around the country, even after he resigned from Congress, Funnyordie created a two-minute video on why he refuses to extricate himself from the New York City mayoral race. New Yorkers refuse to give up and quit, quips the Weiner-lookalike actor. When we send sexual images, we don’t quit, but keep on sending them, says the actor. When homeless people up to no good on the subway are Tasered, they don’t quit either. The video is a scathing satire of how Weiner is out of touch with morals and ethics and oblivious to everything but his own desires.
Another example is a four-minute spoof of the TV program The Office. In the video, three office workers must complete a sales presentation in a couple of hours to present to a demanding client. Spoofing the feel good but fuzzy lingo that dominates most marketing campaigns, the workers stress creating elements of success. If they say it, they expect it will happen.
When the client arrives and the sales manager tries to establish rapport, the client cuts her off, explains he has no time for small talk and tells her to move on. After the team displays a host of pie charts, the client is won over, gives them the account, and asks for suggestions for the best rhythm-and-blues club in town. Like a Saturday Night Live skit, the video mocks the fake camaraderie at work, the misleading marketing lingo, and the tough client.
Funnyordie attracts celebrities to appear in its spoofs. In one satire of Tom Brady promoting products in a sporting goods store, the NFL quarterback appears as himself.
A sporting goods sales clerk asks if Brady will spend a minute meeting the salesman’s girlfriend and parents. Reluctantly, Brady agrees, but the salesman makes believe that he and Brady are close friends.
“I taught Tom how to play football, right Tom?” he says to the quarterback. The clerk calls Brady a series of nicknames, such as Tom-a-hawk and Shady Brady to demonstrate how close they’ve become, and then asks him for a loan.
When Brady balks, the clerk’s girlfriend and parents turn on the quarterback. And then they mock Brady’s pretentious Boston accent. It’s a clever spoof of how non-celebrities crave getting close to celebrities they don’t know at all.
In the politics section, one skit includes a mock White House briefing by a spokesperson explaining what the sequester means. The spokesperson defines it as “large budget cuts that will screw us. It will affect everyone.” That triggers one reporter to ask, “How will the sequester affect me?” Another reporter asks how it will affect equestrians because horses are her life. The skit mocks America’s extreme self-involvement and politicians’ ability to make up nonsensical and meaningless terms.
Stand-up comic Billy Eichner is hysterical in his man-on-the-street questioning of typical New Yorkers and interviews with celebrities such as Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon.
In the “For a dollar quiz,” he asks New Yorkers if they could name a Christmas song that hasn’t been written. One woman responds with “Christmas Tomorrow,” which prompts Eichner to improvise a song with original lyrics. She wins a dollar.
Several people look at him as if he’s nuts and refuse to answer questions. He also asks who’s weirder--Tom Cruise or John Travolta? With Ferrell, Eichner plays the game “Would Drew Barrymore like it?” She, for example, likes taking naps because she’s tired, would never go to a public pool, and hates Will Ferrell. The routines turn into an absurdist playwright Samuel Beckett “take” on pop culture. The routines are often brilliant.
Not every video on Funnyordie is brilliant, however. Some skits are sophomoric and aimed at people in college. For example, there’s an emphasis on cartoons, which many college students watch to relax and ease their stress.
Brevity is the soul of wit, Shakespeare said, and these Funnyordie videos offer zingers in two to four minutes. Instead of having to endure 20-minute drawn out, extended videos, its visuals are quick hits. They’re well-written, targeted, satirical and concise.
Gary M. Stern is a freelance writer based in New York City.