Nerdy Stuff, Pop Culture

The Inside Workings of Funny or Die at SXSW

Recap of the SXSW panel – Inside ~

Panelists are Richard Glover, CEO of Funny or Die – Andrew Steele, Chief Creative Officer (writer at SNL for 13 years)

“The secret to the internet is swearing – especially kids cursing – and naked women” – Andrew Steele

“I really think we are at a point where there is a creative explosion… every one of you people could go out there and make a good video. The one thing that drives all of this is hard work.” – Steele


Why it works

  • Funny or Die is a risk free environment to do whatever they want – that’s why we get the caliber of talent who will do it without pay.
  • It’s like Indie Films – there’s no money, but there’s freedom to express yourself.
  • Why talent gets on board: promote a cause, change your image, plug something
  • Also – we’re friends
  • Because there are locations all over – we get the best of breed people in what they do
  • It all boils to if we don’t have a great product, the rest of it’s not gonna matter
  • 2 1/2 – 3 minutes is the “sweet spot” – “I thought that at SNL too, but no one listened to me” – Steele

How it works

The strategy (same as all TV shows) is – get eyes on your site/show

Three types of videos:

  1. Topical Material
  2. Celebrity
  3. Causes – i.e. Prop 8

The driving force is creativity

Improv is 50/50 – We never improv anything with cameras, we need at least an outline

How it Started

Primary backing is Sequoia capital – the son of one of the higher ups is an aspiring stand up comic. Once at dinner, he asked: “why isn’t there a hot or not of comedy.”

Led to meetings in LA with Will Ferrel and Adam McKay – sat in a hotel room and came up with an idea (wrote the landlord, Eva Longoria/ Perry Hilton)

Within a week, the site was getting 30,000 views a minute.

Necessity is the mother of invention – a great platform was built – we found that was not a competitive advantage. The formula “celebrity + user generated content = interest” wasn’t the competitive advantage either. It can’t be just any celebrity.

“Celebrities on the internet is nothing now – you don’t just get views by putting a celebrity up”

“it can’t be just throw anything you want in the pipeline – because then you lose the trust of the people who are reading”

On Viral Success

“No one can guarantee viral success, because a monkey walking across a piano or a cat rolling around in a bag can be more viral.” – Steele

For instance – the Lonely Island guys have done 50 videos, 4 of them have become viral hits

On Full Disclosure

I think those are all good things. We try to do everything as openly as humanly possible – Glover

On Webisodes and Web Series

I think it will change TV – I think it will be in the sci fi world because that medium is so episodic

dealing with a cause are the easiest ones to get people behind

On expanding to different Platforms

Stand alone niche destination site – usually fails. But we did it, and we built a brand. Our content is funny on a good budget. If we stay on that track, we feel it fits with the brand.

“I think the internet is the future – and I can write whatever I want”

On Why SNL isn’t funny

“I don’t think SNL is funny – I never did. Other than one or two sketches a night” – Steele

  • Sketch comedy is the hardest thing because it’s so broad
  • They can’t speak to a smaller group
  • A lot of constraints in terms of production add more challenges
  • My rating for my 13 years at SNL is a C+ or C-

It was a great panel! Check out the new show on HBO Friday nights

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One Comments

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    June 9, 2011

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