IFC shakes up Saturday nights with shorts from Funny Or Die.
All kinds of crazy characters — from the Shirtless Painter to Pigeon Man — are popping up in short-form programming from a network dubbed FODtv during IFC’s Saturday movie nights.
It might look like IFC is being hacked, but the cable network is in on the joke. IFC commissioned the interstitial content, which began airing in October, from Funny Or Die, the comedy website and production hub founded by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy.
“They reached out earlier this year and asked if our team had any ideas about fun stuff they could do on IFC on Saturday nights,” says FOD editor-in-chief Dan Abramson. “That was a fun jumping-off point to brainstorm, which is how we ended up on the FODtv premise.”
“It was not hard getting to Funny Or Die TV,” says IFC president and general manager Jen Caserta, noting that the FOD approach to humor is a natural fit with IFC’s “Always On, Slightly Off” brand positioning.
“We’re telling the world we’re in business together,” Caserta adds, and that’s true in more ways than one. AMC Networks, parent company of IFC, bought a minority ownership stake in Funny Or Die not long after the FOD short Brockmire was developed into an IFC television series starring Hank Azaria and Amanda Peet.
Content for FODtv — which has the look of a network with “the budget of a public-access station,” Abramson quips — is created by an in-house team at Funny Or Die as well as producers brought in for specific projects. The result: micro-episodes — all under a minute — of shows like Learn to Paint with the Shirtless Painter, Conversations with Pigeon Man, Long-Haired Businessmen, ASMR with Kelly Whispers, Yelling Man and The Divorced Dad Cooking Show.
Viewers can glean all they need to know about the premise of Learn to Paint with the Shirtless Painter from the show’s title.
Conversations with Pigeon Man developed from a comic on the Funny Or Die site. “We wanted to find new homes for Pigeon Man, so a while ago we built a Pigeon Man costume,” Abramson relates.
The costume was used a couple of times but was mostly lying around the FOD L.A. office collecting dust until Conversations with Pigeon Man — which finds the bird-man in a Charlie Rose talk show–style setting — was created. “He is the opposite of Charlie Rose in every way,” Abramson says of the character, who, notably, doesn’t wear pants.
So, is creating comedy for television any different than making it for the web? “It’s pretty similar, for me at least,” Abramson says. “One of the beauties of the internet is, you have a lot of creative license and a lot of freedom. It was great of IFC to welcome that. They’ve been receptive to a lot of really absurd ideas every step of the way.”
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, issue No. 10, 2017