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Q: Yet the more ubiquitous the Funny or Die brand gets, don't the jokes have to get broader, too?
A: That's really complicated. "Seinfeld," for instance, was a very specific show, and it had a strong point of view and was as popular as any sitcom in history. Stuff that tries to appeal to a lot of people is often white noise and forgettable. Our marching orders are: Keep it as specific to what you think is funny as you like. But it has to be about what is going on in the world. Not politics necessarily. It has to feel relevant. When I was at "SNL," I would constantly get in arguments, "Why aren't we more political? We're not going after Bush." Then look what happened - that Sarah Palin season, they were on fire. It was about something. When we had Paris Hilton respond to John McCain (on Funny or Die), that's when I felt our site working.
Q: Would you let the McCain campaign respond back?
A: They did, just not in a video. Which is when I knew they were desperate. But the door would have been open for McCain to post a video - just like it is for Romney to make fun of himself as an uptight white guy.
Q: But you're a political person. You would do a video with someone even if you didn't like their politics?
A: Maybe we would do something. It would have to poke fun, and they couldn't state policy or anything.
Q: One hallmark of Funny or Die is famous people making fun of themselves. At what point, when everyone is in on a joke, does complicity blunt the edge? You mentioned Palin on "SNL." Having her in on the joke, aren't you telling an audience this is just good fun, even if it's not? Humor often starts with anger.
A: That's a great point. There's a false equivalency in this country, a sense that both (political parties) are full of it. That's not true. When you've started a war on false evidence and 500,000 people die as a result, that's an evil deal: So if Dick Cheney is willing poke fun at himself on Funny or Die, should we let him on?
Q: Was he?
A: You know what ... kind of. This is fantastic: Darrell Hammond was going to do a video because he does a good Dick Cheney, and he knows Dick Cheney, so there was discussion (from Hammond) of 'I can get Cheney.' We had a big discussion and here's what we said: Unless he lets us write and call him out on some of the stuff he's done, we won't do it. Those were the terms. We won't let him come and have happy, fun times then leave it at that. So, you're right - this is extremely tricky ground for us. As it was for "Saturday Night Live" with Sarah Palin. Which I didn't like, by the way. We don't want to be accused of censoring (Funny or Die). We're open to allowing people to upload pro-right wing videos. But ... I guess it comes to personal choice, and I could never stomach Dick Cheney on our site just acting self-deprecating.
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Q: This isn't the same thing, obviously, but you've made videos with Lindsay Lohan -
A: Because I don't care as much. The thing is, with someone like that: Are they in the final stages of a crippling addiction? Seemingly about to die? We had this conversation about Charlie Sheen, who made a cooking show video with us in the middle of all his craziness. It seemed like he could die, didn't it? He seemed to be going through some psychosis. We talked about whether we should have him and ultimately, someone from the site sat with him and said this guy isn't going to die - he's a little wackadoo, but not bad.
Q: Still, you could be enabling him.
A: Yes, that's right. At "Saturday Night Live," when we had Chris Farley host, that came up. It was tricky because he was a friend to everyone there and a lot of people were saying "If he is going to get back on his feet, it will come from working and being around people who care for him." The other side of the argument was, "He's pretty bad and on a lot of drugs." And he ended up dying soon after he hosted. Lindsay Lohan? When we shot that, she seemed in a party-girl-getting-in-trouble stage. Dick Cheney? I just don't know.
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