No joke: Will Ferrell is serious about the Web

Ferrell's Funny or Die comedy Web site is attracting some high-profile stars--and investment dollars. Photo: Funny or Die scores laughs with Sequoia investor

LOS ANGELES--Imagine a site just like YouTube, except that the people posting videos are successful comedians and actors.

That's a little of what comedian Will Ferrell is going for with Funny or Die, a Web site he started with writers Adam McKay (Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby), and Chris Henchy (Entourage). The two latter men spoke at the OnHollywood conference here Thursday and showcased a few of the company's wares.

In one clip, boxer Oscar De La Hoya appears in a spoof of traditional pre-fight trash talk. Sitting ringside, glaring into the camera, and directing his comments to upcoming opponent Floyd Mayweather, De La Hoya hisses: "You are going down, my friend.

"You'll think the fight is over but the next day, May 6, I'll ruin your credit. I'll say you skipped a payment on your JCPenny card. I'll sign you up to one of those Columbia House DVD clubs...You'll get a lot of bad movies."

The plan for Funny or Die, which is backed by Sequoia Capital, is to fill the site with videos made by a combination of professionals and amateurs, McKay told conference attendees. While the men declined to discuss how they plan to make money, they did say the site is off to a great start thanks to a two-minute skit called The Landlord, featuring Ferrell and McKay's 2-year-old daughter as an overbearing and alcoholic landlord.

The clip has been watched more than 22 million times since last month. Had it appeared on YouTube, it would be among the video-sharing site's top 10 most viewed videos of all time.

Another popular video on Funny or Die is a lampoon of magician David Blaine, called David Blaine Street Magic 2, starring little-known actors Mikey Day, Michael Naughton and Mitch Silpa.

Presenting comedy on the Web has been tried many times before, but with mixed results. And some analysts question whether individual performers can create enough entertaining content to consistently attract an audience, or whether there is enough profit in such a venture to make it worthwhile. Sites like YouTube could have an advantage, because they harness the creativity of the masses.

Nobody with star power like Ferrell's has given it a try, however. Ferrell, star of Blades of Glory, now commands $20 million per movie and knows some talented people in the entertainment business.

McKay is a former writer for Saturday Night Live and the director of Talladega Nights. Henchy is a producer and writer and is married to actress Brooke Shields. In a Funny or Die clip called Playground Tales with Brooke Shields, the actress scolds her daughter using urban slang.

"I'm this close to putting down my pimp hand," Shields shouts.

Her daughter tells her playmate: "Uh oh. I gotta bounce cause when my mom comes with her pimp hand she comes correct."

McKay said he and Funny or Die's other leaders plan for the site to also be an online channel for struggling comedians and actors.

The combination of pro and amateur content should provide visitors with enough laughs to stick around, said Mark Kvamme, a partner at Sequoia Capital. Currently, people are spending an average of more than 20 minutes on the site, he said.

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