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Happy Birthday, Funny Or Die

Will Ferrell stars as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
DREAMWORKS
FunnyOrDie.com, the Web site started by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, is 1 year old. Its biggest star, Pearl, is 3.

The comedy site is celebrating its anniversary with a video posted Wednesday of its stars wishing Funny or Die a happy birthday.

Among those many making cameos: Pearl, McKay's toddler daughter who became a star in her own right in the site's first video: "The Landlord," with more than 55 million views.

In just a year, Funny or Die has expanded to become a repository of professional content created by many top comedians, including Judd Apatow, Jack McBrayer ("30 Rock") and the comedy troupe Human Giant. Their videos are mixed with (the less popular) viewer-submitted videos, which can remain on the site if they are rated highly enough.


Photos: Celebrity Circuit
Pearl isn't coming out of "baby retirement," as was announced at the end of her last video, "Good Cop, Baby Cop." McKay says he'd prefer to keep her out of the spotlight, but figured a little birthday wish was harmless enough.

"It's sort of like when a professional boxer fights a professional wrestler," McKay tells The Associated Press. "It's not really a sanctioned bout."

McKay, the director of "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," never expected the site, which he founded with Ferrell and partner Mark Kvamme, a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital, to take off like it has.

"I always thought we'd be getting a couple hundred thousand hits a month and it'd be a fun thing to screw around with," McKay says.

Instead, Funny or Die has swelled to include several other sites in the "Or Die" network including a skateboarding site with Tony Hawk, ShredOrDie.com, and BlueCollarOrDie.com, a more Southern-style comedy site with Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.
More offshoots are planned, including the soon-to-be-announced EatDrinkOrDie.com with celebrity chefs.

Next week, a redesigned Funny or Die will debut with more blogs and a social networking component.

"The big thing that separates us is the original content," says McKay. "I don't think anyone else has the amount of pieces written specifically for the site, with the amount of actors we have."

McKay says making the videos is "so pain-free": They'll dispatch a film crew within hours if someone they know has a good idea for a video, and they will shoot videos quickly and casually before a weekly basketball pickup game.

"The Green Team," which starred Ferrell, McKay and John C. Reilly, was shot on the set of their upcoming film "Step Brothers" in "negative time it was so fast," McKay says.

Though FunnyOrDie.com hasn't again found lightning in a bottle like it did with "The Landlord," it has been a dependable source of funny, original content. Often, the videos are deployed as promotional tools for movies.

This week, the Apatow-produced "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is loosely advertised with a video by one of its stars, Kristen Bell, pleading for people to contribute to the "McLovin Fund" to help "Superbad" actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse avoid being typecast.

Chief executive officer Dick Glover would like to see the business of Funny or Die start grossing a few million dollars this year, after making what Kvamme has said was a few hundred thousand dollars last year. Glover hopes Funny or Die, which averages 3.2 million unique visitors a month, will double its size this year.

"There are now 30,000 videos on it; it started with a handful," says Glover. "At the launch, it was looked at, for good reason, as Will Ferrell's Web site. Now, it's looked at as its own brand."

McKay says he's considering creating a Funny or Die Productions to make more elaborate webisodes, even movies. So, what started as a way to circumvent the studios and interact directly with fans may itself become a studio.