At the end of May, we introduced you to some viral marketing Universal had implemented for Funny People, the Judd Apatow film starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen. Last week, we added the film to our list of viral campaigns we would be covering in depth, thanks to the viral exploding with content. You can check out our page for the viral yourself, but for those wanting some incentive to explore, let’s go over what this viral campaign is all about.
The viral all started with NBC (a subsidiary of NBC Universal) adding a TV show called Yo Teach! to their official webpage and on their Hulu channel. The show is fictional, of course. Jason Schwartzman’s character Mark Taylor Johnson is the star of the show, though I have yet to get any sense of what part this Mark character plays in the film. The fake show is pretty dumb, which I expect is part of Apatow’s attempt to make it a typical Saturday morning sitcom (ala Saved By the Bell or Hanging with Mr. Cooper). On a side note, YouTube celebrity Bo Burnham plays one of the students on the show.
From there, the viral exploded. Many of the characters actually have their own websites, and the whole thing is kind of trippy. It’s already a bit confusing that the movie stars actors playing actors that mirror their real selves, but with the viral you now have actors with fake sites for their actor characters. Schwartzmann’s character Johnson is one of the characters with his own website. Although the site looks realistic and professional at first, if you actually read the content, it’s pretty funny (and ridiculous). I was interested in looking at the character’s work, so the big thing I noticed was that he has only been a few episodes of three shows prior to his first starring role as Mr. Bradford in Yo Teach!. So we can gather that he’s a small-time actor with little talent (based on the sitcom clips we’ve been given).
Adam Sandler’s character George Simmons also has his own webpage, and it’s personally my favorite. The site makes it very clear that the character is modeled after Sandler himself and other outlandish comedian actors in the same vein (Eddie Murphy is the first that comes to mind). Watch all the video clips of Simmons’ films to see what I mean. They are a little on-the-nose (as a lot of viral humor is so far), but still hilarious. Explore the site for some more subtle humor like ads for other Simmons films and even information on his comedy albums.
All of the sites I’ve mentioned so far can be easily found on the Funny People official website. However, there is one “secret” character page not listed on the site. Aziz Ansari’s character Randy (read the URL after you click it for extra laughs) is a crude comic who seems to be more of a performer than a true comedian (think of Dane Cook mixed with Dave Attell, but like 10 times worse). His site has things like a soundboard and ironically a page on Darfur. Randy also has a DJ, just to up the ante on his performance-before-comedy persona. I’m not sure I like this character (which may be the point), but Aziz is a great comic, so I’m open to it. Check out the NSFW videos on the site to get an idea of his humor (as if the site isn’t enough to drive the point home).
That pretty much sums of the viral. The big thing I noticed were that the characters and content were pretty broad stereotypes that were a little too obvious and in-your-face for my liking. A bit more subtly would have gone a long way. What does this all mean for the film? I doubt the careers of the characters will be the centerpiece for the film, so if they are as caricature as they seem, I doubt it will be too much of a problem. Not to mention I trust Apatow’s judgement immensely.
The other thing this viral brings to mind is that it is the one of the first comedies I have seen to do a complex viral campaign usually reserved for action and sci-fi flicks (Others that come to mind are 2008’s Tropic Thunder and this year’s Bruno, to a lesser extent). This is most likely due to the fact that (at least until now) only film geeks and computer nerds followed viral, so action sci-fi were the appropriate genres. Who would bother following a viral campaign for Bride Wars? Now that studios are making an effort to mainstream viral campaigns, this could be a sign of a sign in the idea of what films can do virals. What do you guys think of the Funny People viral? Is this a good sign for more comedy virals in the future?
Funny People opens nationwide July 31st. See our page on the film for more info.