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
"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
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 www.cinema.indiana.edu.