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Funny or Die is a comedy website founded by comedians Will Ferrell and Adam McKay that features both original and user-generated content in the form of videos, images and podcasts.
The site was founded by Gary Sanchez Productions owners Will Ferrell and Adam McKay in January of 2007. On April 17th that year, Funny or Die premiered its first sketch video titled “The Landlord,” in which Ferrell is harassed by his two-year-old landlord played by McKay’s daughter Pearl (shown below). In the following six years, the video has received over 8.94 million views.
In December of 2007, the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital provided Funny or Die with $15 million in funding.In September of 2008, the website’s parent company Funny Or Die Networks launched the United Kingdom spin-off Funny or Die UK. In June of that year, the production house announced its premium cable TV series Funny or Die Presents in partnership with HBO, which premiered on February 19th, 2010.
Funny or Die hosts podcasts, videos, images and several notable web series. Site users are given the option of selecting “Funny” or “Die” to vote on content. If a video has received an 80% “Funny” rating after reaching 100,000 views, it is given an “Immortal” ranking. Conversely, if the content has received 20% or less “Funny” ratings after 1,000 views, it is given the ranking of “Crypt” and moved to that portion of the site. The “Chosen One” rating can only be selected by Funny or Die staff, which hides the video’s score from public view.
On August 6th, 2007, the first episode of Drunk History was uploaded to the site, in which actor Michael Cera reenacts a historical event told by actor Mark Gagliardi while inebriated (shown below, left). In the first five years, the episode accumulated more than 1.89 million views. As of May 2013, seven episodes have been uploaded, including a reenactment by Crispin Glover and John C. Reilly of a intoxicated retelling of 19th century scientist Nikola Tesla’s tragic story told by comedian Duncan Trussell (shown below, right).
In February of 2008, Funny or Die launched “Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die Comedy Tour: Presented by Semi-Pro,” featuring Ferrell, members of the Funny or Die staff and comedians Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin, Nick Swardson, Andrea Savage, Adam McKay and Will Arnett. The tour began at the Bramlage Cliseum at Kansas State University on February 4th and continued through six other cities before ending on February 22nd at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Several video exclusives from the tour were uploaded under the “comedy tour” tag on Funny or Die (shown below).
Between Two Ferns
On January 4th, 2008, the first episode of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis was uploaded, featuring Galifianakis rudely interviewing actor Michael Cera (shown below, left). Within the first five years, the episode received over 10.3 million views and 101,000 funny votes. As of May 2013, a total of 16 episodes have been released, the most popular of which featured actress Natalie Portman (shown below, right) with 12.8 million views.
Sorority Girl E-Mail Rant Dramatic Reading
On April 22nd, 2013, Funny or Die released a video featuring actor Michael Shannon performing a dramatic reading of the Sorority Girl’s e-mail rant written by University of Maryland student Rebecca Martinson (shown below). Within one month, the video received over 3.58 million views and 60,000 funny votes.
HUVr Hoverboard Hoax
On March 3rd, a YouTube channel for a company called HUVr was launched with a promotional video in which Back to The Future actor Christopher Lloyd presents professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, electronic musician Moby and pro football player Terrell Owens riding airborne skateboards modeled after the “hoverboard” device from Back to the Future Part II (shown below, left). (shown below, left). The same day, HUVrTech uploaded a second video explaining how the skateboard uses a magnetic field to float in the air (shown below, right). In the first 48 hours, the video received upwards of 3.6 million and 500,000 views respectively.
On the following day, Hawk tweeted a link to the HUVrTech website and an Instagram video in which he is shown riding a hovering skateboard. Within 24 hours, the tweet garnered upwards of 1,300 retweets and 600 favorites. Also on March 4th, the news blogs Elite Daily and Extreme Tech highlighted the videos as if they were authentic, while other major news outlets and tech blogs reported on the mysterious promo trailers with cautious skepticism.
Shortly after, Redditor Brenden105 submitted the “Belief” video to the /r/videos subreddit, where Redditor terinbune commented with a screen capture of the video highlighting the shadow of a crane seen in a frame from the video (shown below).
Meanwhile, blogger Andy Baio identified actor Nelson Cheng as the HUVr spokesman from the “How” video.
Also on March 4th, the tech news blog CNET published an article about the viral videos, noting that costume designer Lauren Biedenharn listed a commercial for “Back to the Future HUVR BOARDS” on her online portfolio with Funny or Die as the employer and producer. The line was subsequently removed from the resume. In the coming days, several news sites published articles about the videos, including UpRoxx, Gawker, The Verge and Tech Crunch.
Google “Sex” Ranking
On May 1st, 2013, The Verge published an article about Funny or Die’s “sex” topic page receiving the top ranking on Google search for the keyword “sex.” The article revealed that the humor site used search-engine-optimized architecture to automatically generate topic pages that could potentially gain a high Google search ranking.
Extreme Tech – HUVr The Back to the Future hoverboard is finally here