Video site is becoming an industry unto itself

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NEW YORK --- FunnyOrDie.com, the Web site started by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, is 1 year old. Its biggest star, Pearl, is 3.

FunnyOrDie.com began with a video called The Landlord, starring Will Ferrell. It is now branching out into other entertainment.  Associated Press
Associated Press
FunnyOrDie.com began with a video called The Landlord, starring Will Ferrell. It is now branching out into other entertainment.

The comedy site is celebrating its anniversary with a video posted of its stars wishing Funny or Die a happy birthday. Among the many making cameos is Pearl, Mr. 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.

Pearl isn't coming out of baby retirement, as was announced at the end of her last video, Good Cop, Baby Cop . Mr. McKay said that he would prefer to keep her out of the spotlight but that a little birthday wish was harmless enough.

"It's sort of like when a professional boxer fights a professional wrestler," he said. "It's not really a sanctioned bout."

Mr. 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 Mr. Ferrell and partner Mark Kvamme, a venture capitalist at Sequoia Capital -- to take off as 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," Mr. McKay said.

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.

Soon, 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," Mr. McKay said. "I don't think anyone else has the amount of pieces written specifically for the site, with the amount of actors we have."

He said making the videos is "so pain-free" that they will 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 Mr. Ferrell, Mr. McKay and John C. Reilly, was shot on the set of their upcoming film Step Brothers in "negative time it was so fast," Mr. McKay said.

Though FunnyOrDie.com hasn't again found lightning in a bottle as 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.

The Apatow-produced Forgetting Sarah Marshall is being 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 a few hundred thousand dollars last year. He 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," Mr. Glover said. "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."

Mr. McKay said he is considering creating a Funny or Die Productions to make more elaborate webisodes -- even movies. What started as a way to circumvent the studios and interact directly with fans may itself become a studio.


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