Judge Clark Douglas has always found death immensely funny.
Our review of Funny Or Die Presents: The Complete Second Season, published December 24th, 2012, is also available.
A series that crosses lines you never knew existed—and laughs while doing it.
Since its creation in late 2006, the Funny or Die website has become an immensely popular way to waste time on the internet in the wee hours of the morning. The concept is simple: videos are posted and people vote on them. If they're deemed "funny," they get to stay on the website. If people feel they should "die," the videos are placed in the site's "crypt." Many of the site's most notable videos feature celebrities (Will Ferrell, one of the website's co-founders, has made quite a few appearances) and/or are created by well-known comics. Now HBO has blessed/cursed us with Funny or Die Presents, a television show offering the same sort of sketches without the voting option.
Each episode is hosted by a polite network executive named Ed Haligan (played by a dryly amusing Steve Tom), who presents a collection of odds n' ends for our viewing pleasure. The sketches presented vary dramatically in both running time and quality. Some items are presented as one-and-done affairs, while the majority of sketches are ongoing miniseries that appear in multiple episodes.
Let's take a look at the show's assorted pieces.
Playground Politics (4 segments): A genuinely hilarious segment in which
children on a school playground act out a series of global political
Designated Driver (4 segments): A four-part tale in which a blustery Rob
Riggle (The Daily Show) and his mild-mannered pal Paul Scheer (The League) get into a series of strange,
violent conflicts over the course of a very long night. Fun for a while, but the
series starts repeating itself all too quickly.
Sleeping with Celebrities (4 segments): We watch for a lengthy period of
time as a series of celebrities sleep. A cute joke the first time, but there's
no reason we should be getting this more than once.
Father and Son (1 segment): A lengthy short film from Tim & Eric (of Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) about
a son's desperate attempt to connect with his step-father. A few bright moments
are overwhelmed by the short's mean-spirited nature.
The Amazing Adventures of David & Jennie (3 segments): While this
segment admittedly offers a clever joke or two on occasion, the central
characters are obnoxious and not particularly funny.
Derek Waters Presents LOL (2 segments): A sketch show within a sketch show,
this program takes up the majority of the running time in both episodes it
appears in. While the first program is middling aside from the amusing
"Drunk History" sketch (featuring Will Ferrell, Don Cheadle, and Zooey
Deschanel), the second is solid from start to finish.
The Slovin & Allen Show (2 segments): Another sketch show within a
sketch show. This one relies heavier on surreal material and is less successful
overall, but as with "Derek Waters Presents LOL" the second
installment is a good deal stronger than the first.
Men of Unquiet Desperation (2 segments): Two comic essays of terribly sad
men courtesy of Mr. David Koechner (The Office). Koechner's good, but
the sketches seem uncertain of whether they're more interested in mocking or
pitying his characters.
The Carpet Brothers (1 segment): The only segment of the series that gets an
entire episode to itself. This one tells the story of three brothers attempting
to keep their late father's carpet business up-and-running. Stars Tim Meadows
(Mean Girls), Will Ferrell (Step Brothers), and David Spade (Tommy Boy) seem to be having a good time,
but things start to drag after a while. I can't help but feel this could have
been tighter and funnier at 10-15 minutes.
Casual Sex (3 segments): A very pregnant woman allows us to witness her
ongoing quest to sleep with lots of guys during the late stages of her
pregnancy. The second installment features a fun supporting turn from a spot-on
Chris Parnell (30 Rock), but otherwise this idea gets tedious quickly.
Day by Day (2 segments): Two shorts in which a couple of guys have very wild
days. These pieces go to extremes to get laughs but are nonetheless quite
Magical Balloon (1 segment): Easily the strangest, most peculiar piece of
the entire season, this one stars Bud Cort (Harold and Maude) and Karen Black
(Five Easy Pieces) as the owners
of a small video service. Not especially funny, but inventive and oddly
Hold Up (4 segments): An ongoing tale of numerous individuals being held
hostage inside a bank. Like many other parts of Funny or Die Presents,
this one relies too heavily on cheap shock value for laughs. A disappointment
considering the talent involved (including Ed Helms and Malin Akerman).
Morning Prayer with Skott ∧ Behr (1 segment): Tim ∧ Eric offer this
slightly-too-long parody of televangelism programs. They've got the look and
feel down perfectly, but this sketch wanders down rabbit trails a little too
often for its own good. Will Forte is onhand to present a clip from "The
Animated Adventures of Forrest Gump" (starring Tom Arnold as the voice of
Space Baby (3 segments): The concept is immensely silly, but these segments
are brief and clever enough to justify their existence. The two segments
guest-starring a dryly hilarious Fred Willard are particularly amusing.
Songs with Mike O'Connell (4 segments): These repetitive, irritating songs
only serve to accentuate O'Connell's limited comedic (and musical) range.
Just 3 Boyz (3 segments): There are three segments of this one, but they're
all stuffed into a single episode. It's a bizarrely overdramatized sitcom parody
that plays like a variation on that odd rabbit show from David Lynch's Inland Empire. Tim & Eric do their
thing, Zach Galifianakis sports women's clothing and pigtails and Richard Lewis
(Curb Your Enthusiasm)
voices a lamp shade. Props for sheer strangeness, but the laughs are few and far
between. Also, I'm afraid I'm never going to get that image of a chicken stuffed
with semen out of my head.
One Thousand Cats (1 segment): A one-note, bland, much-too-long parody of
pretentious Broadway productions. A real pretentious Broadway production would
have been vastly more enjoyable. I'm still impressed with myself for actually
sitting through this entire thing.
The DVD transfer is fine, though a surprisingly huge amount of the sketches incorporate a crappy faux-VHS look. Audio is also fine, though there's nothing to give your speakers a workout. There are no extras of any sort included.
Despite a handful of bright moments (those "Playground Politics" segments in particular never failed to make me laugh), too much of Funny or Die Presents doesn't work. Here's hoping the success ratio is higher next season.
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