Friday, November 11, 2011

An evening with Funny or Die

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM

It started modestly enough, with comedian Will Ferrell turning his infant daughter into a potty mouth in a short film entitled The Landlord.

After the video premiered on April 17, 2007, the website Funny or Die (founded by Ferrell and Adam McKay) spread like wildfire, putting celebrities in outlandish situations and viewers in stitches. (Since its debut, The Landlord has been viewed more than 77 million times.)

The name of the site not only serves as a motto, but hangs like a threat over the online comedy community. It's a fitting reference to the fierce competition created by this age of instant, ADD-inducing entertainment.

In this YouTube-era, what is the key to grabbing - and holding - people's attention?

According to president of production and IU alum Mike Farah, much more goes into that goal than meets the eye - something he will discuss further this Sunday during IU Cinema's "Evening with Funny or Die."

"It all starts with the content, but then you need to go beyond that - what's the best idea, why will people care, share it with others, talk about it. We talk all the time about entry points online, like 'Why does this make sense?' It's not enough just to make something or have a famous person in it. You have to think through what you're making and the best way to position it to your audience because there are so many distractions and choices out there and for better or worse that leads to changes in the style of content."

Mike Farah
  • Mike Farah

To make a TV comparison, Funny or Die seems like the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia to YouTube's Seinfeld, aiming for a heightened yet no less relatable reality.

Farah agrees, saying "The goal of Funny or Die is to make great, funny pieces, videos, articles, everything, that hopefully surprises people and has that unexpected voice and sensibility but is still accessible to most people. Part of what I love about the site is all the diversity that's still rooted in the voice and creative direction Will Ferrell and Adam McKay founded the site on."

This Sunday, Nov. 13 (6:30 p.m.) at IU Cinema, you can get a free "behind the scenes look at Funny or Die and hear some great stories of how it comes together, and why."

Farah will be there along with a few of the site's filmmakers to present their work and discuss the importance and influence of short-form content on the Internet.

But that's not all. The next evening, at 7 p.m., Farah will be joined by his brother Chris for a free screening of their film Answer This! - a comedy set against the backdrop of competitive pub trivia at the University of Michigan.

Beforehand, at 3 p.m., the brothers will share their perspectives on the filmmaking process. No ticket is required as the event is part of the Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series.

For more information about these events, visit

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Alibabba's Thought Bubble 3: The Fungus Among Us

Posted By on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 7:30 AM


Alibabba’s Convenience Store clerks, Azziem and Habib, are up to the same shenanigans in the third installment of Alibabba’s Thought Bubble: The Fungus Among Us.

Before you even ask- the answer is yes. We’re talking about that kind of fungus.

Although this episode focuses slightly more on Azziem, the victim of the pizza contaminated with extra ‘shrooms, there is also a fair amount of customer heckling by street-smart Habib. For the duration of the 20-minute cartoon, the story toggles back and forth between Azziem’s illusion-filled trip (which includes ice skating on bars of soap and climbing people he’s mistaken for trees) and Habib’s antics from behind the checkout counter.

A slew of new characters are introduced in The Fugus Among Us, including a talkative hillbilly who orders a beer smoothie, a sickly old woman with a bizarre fondness for instant lottery tickets, and a vegetarian contemplating stuffed crust pizza (“What’s inside of it? What’s the meat ratio?”). For cohesiveness, there are plenty of recurring themes and references from the first two episodes; one customer almost gets his blunt ripper for purchasing the required (but unheard of) quantity of 58 Swishers.

As always, my urging to watch the cartoon comes with a personal disclaimer: the humor is off-beat and easily offensive. Racial stereotypes are recurrent, depicted through over-emphasized illustrations and mannerisms. My roommate and viewing partner commented on the disjointed plot line, suggesting that director Jeremiah Little obtain guidance in achieving a more focused story for the fourth episode. But then again, has there ever really been a narrative to stoner cartoons like Family Guy and Squidbillies?

My conclusion draws on the age-old adage, “To each his own.” Inevitably, there will be one person who likes it for every two who hate it. But with countless hours devoted to the making of the three episodes currently in existence, it’s apparent that Little has accepted this challenge with open arms and isn’t giving up anytime soon. “In the next episode, we plan on building onto the Alibabba’s neighborhood and community with the addition of a liquor store and a house for rent,” Little says of the next chapter in the Alibabba’s saga.

If for no other reason than to support a local artist who’s doing something fresh and outside of the proverbial box, get your mind right and swing by Local’s Only on Wednesday for the premier of Alibabba’s 3: The Fungus Among Us.

And while you’re there, stick around afterward for the weekly Audio Recon Showcase, this week featuring Cultural Cannibal’s DJ Kyle Long.


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