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Will Ferrell scoring laughs with Web fare

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Will Ferrell's production company is making a big splash on the Internet, partnering with a venture capital firm to launch the comedy video site FunnyOrDie.com (www.FunnyOrDie.com).

Will Ferrell attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Blades of Glory" held at the Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood March 28, 2007. Ferrell's production company is making a big splash on the Internet, partnering with a venture capital firm to launch the comedy video site FunnyOrDie.com. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Since quietly going up as a beta release Thursday, the site is off to a sizzling start. A two-minute video featuring Ferrell and production partner Adam McKay, writer-director of Ferrell vehicles including “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” has racked up more than 1.5 million page views.

Titled “The Landlord,” the clip features Ferrell as an apartment tenant forced to reckon with an angry landlord -- who happens to be played by McKay’s toddler daughter. “Landlord,” which is featured on the FunnyOrDie home page, has generated more than 2 million streams alone.

In addition, “Landlord” has popped up on YouTube, where it has drawn thousands more views. However, an effort was afoot to have YouTube remove the clip.

FunnyOrDie also features user-generated comedy videos, allowing anyone to upload their clips. But unlike YouTube and other popular user-generated sites, the viewers’ ratings for the videos determine their fate -- thus the name of the site -- with only the highly rated staying on. Those with negative reviews are banished to the “Crypt” section of the site.

Sources said FunnyOrDie.com has been in the works for months, following an overture by venture capital firm Sequoia Partners to Creative Artists Agency, which represents Gary Sanchez Prods., the company run by Ferrell and McKay.

Sequoia knows a thing or two about successful user-generated Web sites, having provided early rounds of funding to YouTube. The company also delivered venture capital for YouTube’s parent, Google, as well as Yahoo! PayPal, and Meebo. Sequoia also was one of the first investors in Cisco Systems, Oracle and Apple.

Ferrell and McKay employed their alter ego, Gary Sanchez, to talk about their first foray into original Web content.

Sanchez, an enigmatic character described as a Paraguayan ex-NFL player who sounded on the phone awfully like McKay with a Spanish accent, said that video starring Hollywood heavyweights will appear regularly in the “featured” section of FunnyOrDie, but “the meat and cabbage of the site will be the real peoples.”

He added that the site’s principals will regularly scour the site to look for new talent who will then be whisked away and “put on a private jet to Paraguay.”

Comedy has long been considered a driver of the video boom on the Internet, and there have been a number of attempts of launching Web sites dedicated to comedy videos, though few have broken through to the mainstream.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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