It’s easy to take comedy website Funny Or Die, launched by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay in 2007, for granted, but the site’s ascension from “The Landlord” video to high-profile, comedic interviews with the most prominent political figures in our country is pretty staggering. That journey is explored in intricate detail with an oral history from Wired, which chronicles the site’s inception, hit videos, staff shakeups, and more. The best part? Telling the story are people like Ferrell, McKay, Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Bell, Paris Hilton, Scott Aukerman, Billy Eichner, and Jon Hamm.
There’s plenty to get lost in here, especially if you’ve ever found yourself habitually replaying any of the site’s most viral videos. For example, here’s McKay talking about “The Landlord,” the video that first raised the internet’s eyebrows:
The first 10 minutes of filming were a train wreck. She was just too distracted by the room. At one point I thought, “Oh, this was a mistake.” And then Will started jumping in and giving her the lines, and once she was able to look at Will—and Will’s obviously great with kids, he has three kids—we started to get on track.
My wife said, “Don’t you dare make our daughter a child star.” And I was like, “Honey, it’s a goof-around video. Because of Ferrell, it’ll get like a million hits. Don’t worry about it.”
Within a week, The Ellen DeGeneres Show wanted Pearl on the show, and People magazine wanted to do a spread. Jackie Chan was doing some movie, and they needed a little kid, and they wanted Pearl to do it. My wife was so pissed at me: “What have you done?” [Laughs.] We said no to all of it.
There’s also an extended section devoted to Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns interviews with President Obama and Hillary Clinton, which includes bits about Galifianakis getting yelled at for sitting in antique chairs and how the Obama video went on to benefit the Affordable Care Act. Here’s Galifianakis talking about his experience with Clinton:
I was hesitant to do the Hillary one. I was a Bernie guy first, and then when it was she and Trump, the stakes were too high. I think there was an exchange with her representatives like, “You can’t bring up the emails.” And then it was like, “Well, then what’s the point?” You have to be open to making fun of yourself—which, in the long run, can be very endearing. With the Hillary one, there was one bit we had to edit out because it was too long. I was like, “Oh, we have a faxed question from one of our viewers.” So Hillary Clinton had to wait for this long fax question to come through. And there was just the noise of the fax machine while I was trying to make small talk with her. That was probably the happiest I’ve been performing in a long time. It was just so ridiculous that I’m having small talk with a very high-profile leader, and it gives me joy when those two worlds can kind of dance with each other. But I did try to get her to say the punch line about Donald Trump’s “white-power tie.” She said, “It would be better if you did it.”
Now that you’re nostalgic, do yourself a favor and revisit Galifianakis’ inaugural Between Two Ferns interview with Michael Cera. It’s still brilliant.