Funny or Die, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s comedy website, has garnered plenty of attention over the years for its commitment to political content. The site posted a “sex tape” starring Alyssa Milano that was actually all about the bloodshed in Syria.
They did a bunch of pro-Obamacare videos, including the famous “Between Two Ferns” sketch with President Obama. (The “interview” segment included a link to Healthcare.gov, which made Funny or Die the biggest driver of referrals to the Affordable Care Act site the morning the video dropped.) They even worked to get an amateur comedian—who was jailed for supposedly endangering the United Arab Emirates’ national security with a YouTube video— out of a maximum-security prison in Abu Dhabi:
And this week, Funny or Die entered the news business—sort of. “It’s time for an even less respectable news outlet. Welcome to Funny Or Die News!” they tweeted on Wednesday. The new content vertical will feature posts covering (and adding humorous commentary to) the day’s top stories, ranging from politics and pop culture to sports and technology. The four-person, New York City-based news team is overseen by editor-in-chief Dan Abramson, who used to run the comedy section of The Huffington Post.
“Basically, it kind of felt like a natural extension of what we were doing already,” Abramson told The Daily Beast. “We wanted to create a dedicated hub where people can dive into it and get all this commentary on the news.”
The team has published items such as this satirical interactive map of state ballot initiatives, and a piece on Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States who died on Wednesday. Funny or Die News also features Vox-style “explainers,” including “The Middle East—Why Shit So Fucked Up?” and “Wars You've Never Heard Of.”
Funny or Die News promises to post on subjects like the Obama presidency, Ferguson, and ISIS horrors, and has pledged to avoid “click-baity, salacious topics that would come across as SEO-centric,” like celebrity nude pics and “Amtrak ticket prices group rate.” And though the team is taking on news from a decidedly comic perspective, they are well aware that they might have to take a cautious approach when tackling ISIS or Ebola.
“It’s gonna be hard,” Abramson said. “There are a lot of sensitive topics in the news…and we will have to figure out what the right comedic angle is, and be smart about the jokes.”
As for what’s next, Abramson says he might add more news writers to his staff, and plans to work closely with the video crew that also works on Funny or Die’s other political content. Also, he’s considering sending his writers out into the field and on the road to do some original reporting.
“I love the idea of sending a Funny or Die reporter out to cover an event,” he said. “To have a [politician] take a question, and have them say, ‘I’m with Funny or Die News’…That would be a lot of fun, to send them on the campaign trail, get ’em press passes.”
Abramson is also open, “in theory,” to the idea of interviewing high-profile figures for the new vertical. When I asked if he meant politicians like, say, Vladimir Putin, he simply responded: “Yeah, sure. Anytime. If he’s available.”