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'Funny or Die' leaps from Web to TV

On the Web site Funny or Die, Will Ferrell is dressed up as President Abe Lincoln and Don Cheadle as Frederick Douglass.

On the Web site Funny or Die, Will Ferrell is dressed up as President Abe Lincoln and Don Cheadle as Frederick Douglass.

NEW YORK — Will Ferrell and Adam McKay forged their partnership years ago on Saturday Night Live. Now, in a much different way, the two are back on TV with a sketch comedy show.

On Friday at midnight, HBO will premiere Funny or Die Presents, a half-hour series that compiles clips from the comedy video Web site that McKay and Ferrell created in 2007.

The show arrives as part of a new batch of HBO comedy. The Friday slate also includes the premiere of The Ricky Gervais Show, the start of season eight of Real Time With Bill Maher and the second season of The Life and Times of Tim.

Funny or Die Presents is the fruition of a deal hatched in 2008 between the site and HBO, which purchased a piece of reportedly in the neighborhood of about $10 million. There's further overlap in that HBO airs the McKay and Ferrell-produced hit Eastbound & Down, which is prepping a second season.

Funny or Die Presents represents an increasingly common fusion between Web-created content and television. When the series was announced, Ferrell sarcastically asserted the deal was "the missing link moment where TV and Internet finally merge."

The show is introduced by a 1950s-style TV host who intones: "Funny or Die is at the forefront of computer technology, leading the way in computer comedy programming. Tonight marks a departure from our usual business model as we join the ever-declining world of broadcast television."

McKay, best known as the director of comedies such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Step Brothers, says that joke is "70 percent true and 30 percent joking."

When launched, it was rare in its combination of professionally created content (from Ferrell, McKay and their Hollywood friends) and user-generated videos that, if deemed funny enough by viewers, could compete with the pros. It has had some mammoth hits, such as The Landlord (nearly 70 million views).

'Funny or Die' leaps from Web to TV 02/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 11:10pm]
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