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This is why so many A-listers want to appear on Funny or Die

Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover explains how it manages to get so many comedians, actors and public figures to appear on its comedy videos.

Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover speaking at the Web Summit earlier today.
Funny or Die CEO Dick Glover speaking at the Web Summit earlier today.
Image: Web Summit/Flickr

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED in comedy, it’s very difficult to ignore the influence Funny or Die has on the industry.

Managing to turn web videos into a lucrative business is no mean feat. In an area dominated by YouTube, it has developed a reputation for A-listers to appear on comedy sketches and shows, and for the most part, it hits the mark.

Granted, having the likes of Will Ferrell and Adam McCay as founders certainly helps matters, but the site is free from the restrictions associated with making a movie or TV show. The creative side do what they want without any interference from the corporate side.

Much of the site’s growth has been down to its CEO Dick Glover, who has been with the company shortly after it was founded in 2007. The site had the best of starts with one of its first videos ‘The Landlord‘, a video that has 81 million views to date, setting the tone and standard, but there’s a more important reason for being so popular with many actors and performers within Hollywood.

“We provide them with some value in what it is that they’re looking for,” Glover tells TheJournal.ie. “If they’re looking for creative freedom, something new and different, we provide that [and] there’s no interference from the executives.”

That approach is what draws (and convinces) a large number of A-list actors, comedians and other important figures to appear on these videos. One recent example was the US President Barack Obama appearing on Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns earlier this year, a way for him to promote the affordable healthcare act.

While the reason for his appearance was to reach out to a younger audience (the video reached 26 million views and caused a spike in visits to healthcare.org), the key behind their success is to maintain the same principles .

“It’s the same thing for a brand, what’s the message you want to get across and how do we make a video that accomplishes that goal and doesn’t feel like a 30 second commercial. The effectiveness of that is very high because it really resonates with the audience, it’s not someone preaching to me, somebody is entertaining me with a really good video.”

While promoting a new service or movie tends to be the main motivator behind such collaborations, sometimes the people involved want to show that there’s depth behind their skills or present themselves in a different light, one that might not be immediately obvious to its audience.

“Sometimes talent want to demonstrate that they’re able to do comedy or do something different and that becomes a big opportunity for them … It’s also in many ways a risk free endeavour in the sense that if it works, it gets as much notoriety and attention as a movie, or television. If it doesn’t work – a lot of times comedy doesn’t work – nobody cares, it’s a little video, it was a fun little thing.”

That freedom allows the writers and creative teams to put together ideas and videos together very quickly. Glover says that it could go from the writers’ room to the completed video going live on the site within twenty four hours, but the short length of time needed from each person makes it accessible, even if it’s a larger project. 

“We can do very big things, we did a mini-movie called iSteve, a satire of the Steve Jobs movie with Ashton Kutcher, and we wanted to do it quickly. Literally from the writers’ room thinking about it to it actually being up on the site took about eight days, a 70 minute movie. We can move very quickly and that’s very important as a lot of the humour that we do is tied to events and moods of the day.”

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