For Funny or Die, comedy is serious business


There's FUNNY BUSINESS afoot here this morning, And "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric has tracked down those responsible:

It started with "The Landlord," starring a tough-talking toddler, and Funny or Die co-founders Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. The video became a viral sensation - 75 million views and counting.

When Funny or Die launched in 2007, there were five employees. Today, there are 63, led by Mike Farah, the president of production, and director Jake Szymanski.

"I would argue that to start off at Funny or Die is even better than starting off at 'SNL' or on a TV show," said Farah. "I mean, Jake's reel is a perfect example of it."

When asked by Couric to name a favorite of the video's he's worked on, Szymanski demurred: "There are so many. Honestly, so many of them are great experiences."

"That's a lame answer," said Farah.

"No, no, no, but it's true, it's true," said Szymanski. "I mean, we get to work with so many great people."

Such as? Charlie Sheen ("Charlie Sheen is Too Damn Hot"), and Dylan McDermott ("The Douche")

The team produces an average of 25 videos every month, like "Undercover Karaoke," starring Jewel - in disguise. "They had no idea," Farah said. "She was awesome. We pitched her that idea on like a Wednesday. And we shot it on Monday. And she was totally into it."

The videos range from the risque ("Prenatal Pole Dancing") to the outright ridiculous ("Lashisse" for long, long lashes).

One writer called it "a ridiculously fun job." But don't be fooled: At Funny or Die, comedy is a serious business.

"Are you guys surprised at how well the site has done, because it's still a bit of a brave new frontier?" asked Couric.

"This is one of those where if 14 of our friends were watching we'd still be kind of psyched about it," said the writer, Alex. "And then you're like, A million people looked at that? That's amazing!"

The videos are viewed an average 33 million times each month. Celebrities star in them for free, and advertisers pay for a chance at a viral video of their own.

"Jake will pitch 'em some ideas and probably pitch himself starring in said video," Farah laughed. "And then, yeah, then they'll pay us to do that. And when we get paid, everyone who works for us gets paid."

And since last year, Funny or Die has been profitable.

They signed a lucrative deal with HBO, and have their first feature film in development.

As for "Undercover Karaoke," TBS bought the pilot for a potential reality series.

Do they think the web will ultimately replace TV as we know it?

"I don't know if it replaces TV, but I feel like no one watches live TV anymore," Szymanski said. "It's all recorded and DVR-ed. And part of what that's about is watching what you want to watch, when you want to watch it.

"It's all about choice," Farah said.

"And that's," Szymanski added, "what the Internet is."

And for now, a hit video called "The Landlord" - and the hundreds that have followed - can more than pay the rent.

You can also watch the original Funny or Die videos by clicking on the embed players below: