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Comedy Stars Challenge Amateurs on Web

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

By JAKE COYLE, AP Entertainment Writer

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Last week, a video starring Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and McKay's toddler daughter was one of the most popular on the Web.

In "The Landlord," little Pearl plays Ferrell's insistent landlord. Standing outside Ferrell's door in a light blue dress, she demands her rent money so that she can "get my drink on."

As millions flocked to see the video on FunnyOrDie.com or YouTube.com, it was clear that something had changed in online video: The pros had arrived. Like Ferrell and McKay, professional comedians are increasingly producing original material online.

The road was paved by Dane Cook, who was early to embrace MySpace and the Web in the general. Since then, the online world has changed considerably. Now, Stephen Colbert facilitates interplay between his Comedy Central show and Web site, and clips from NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman" are commonplace on YouTube.

Comedians Chris Parnell and Tim Meadows (who both have series running on Bud.tv) have been recruited by Web sites, as well. Last week, Super Deluxe, a new comedy broadband network from Turner Broadcasting, announced that on May 16 it will start a 12-episode comedy series, "Derek & Simon: The Show," created by Bob Odenkirk.

A former "Saturday Night Live" writer, Odenkirk has been the brains behind some brilliant comedy _ namely the revered HBO sketch program "Mr. Show" he did with David Cross.

Tom Green, who used to have a show on MTV, now has one on TomGreen.com. He broadcasts live every weeknight from the living room of his Los Angeles home, and often welcomes celebrity guests. An interview with a drunken Steve-O of "Jackass" lasted four hours. Viewers are encouraged to call him at home; the number is posted on the Web site.

Ferrell and McKay have an actual stake in their online venture. Their company, Sanchez Productions, became partners with Sequoia Capital (a venture capital firm that was an early investor in Google, YouTube and others) to create the comedy video site FunnyOrDie.com.

The site is made up of user-generated videos, which are rated by viewers. Those ratings determine whether a video stays or is banished to the site's "Crypt."

One of Hollywood's most powerful agencies, CAA, had a hand in creating FunnyOrDie.com, and more big name talent is expected to contribute material.

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VIDEO OF THE WEEK: "Creep" Copycats

Radiohead has traveled a long way since their breakthrough 1993 single "Creep." Many fans still love the early song, though, and an acoustic version of "Creep" has inspired an impressive bit of animation. The site MediaStorm.org hosts the video by Laith Bahrani, which stars the animated character he created called Low Morale: http://mediastorm.org/0014.htm. What makes it unique is that it relies almost entirely on a gradually built background and shifting perspective. The character hardly moves, but the video is moving. There is also, in the ever burgeoning viral phenomenon of "Sad Kermit," a version of the muppet singing "Creep": http://myspace.com/sadkermit. Odd as it may be to do so, we must note the foul language in Kermit's version.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: "1234," Feist

"1234" is the first single of Canadian singer Feist's dazzling new album, "The Reminder," which will be released May 1. Feist's last album, "Let it Die," gradually grew in popularity after coming out in 2004 _ partly based on the euphoric single "Mushaboom." See the video for "1234" on YouTube to see why "The Reminder" will likely catch on without delay.

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EDITOR'S NOTE _ What's your favorite Web site? E-mail AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle at fcoyle(at)ap.org

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