It’s now been a week since the film Funny People has been released, so it’s time to review their viral campaign. In case you missed it, be sure to check out Nick’s review of the film itself. Funny People follows established comedian and actor George Simmons (Adam Sandler) as he takes a young comic under his wing (Seth Rogen) after he thinks he’s going to die. This is definitely one of those Hollywood insider films where most of the characters are actors or comedians.
The point of a viral campaign is to draw attention to the film in alternative ways. The internet has become the go-to destination for viral and ARGs, so it’s not surprising that all of Funny People’s viral campaign was online. While the medium they used was limited, the reach within that medium was not. Not only were there individual websites for many of the main characters, there were also pages and videos on mainstream websites such as Hulu and NBC.
The viral kicked off with the faux show “Yo Teach!”, starring Jason Schwartzman’s character Mark Taylor Jackson. NBC and Hulu each had entire pages dedicated to show (since the show was on NBC). The show even has a YouTube page. The videos (the same on each site) are mostly just clips from the show and interviews with Jackson. The NBC page is especially good because of how real it is, even offering the Season 1 DVD for sale. This plays into the film pretty well because Jackson flaunts his success in front of his roommates (Rogen and Jonah Hill), and Rogen even visits the “Yo Teach!” set.
Then came the character websites. Jackson, Simmons and comedian Randy (Aziz Ansari) each had their own pages, as is common for actors and comedians. Jackson’s page is the simplest of the bunch, but is humorous in how pompous it is, especially compared to the Jackson we see on screen. Randy’s page is very involved, considering he only has a small role in the actual film. Randy isn’t really that funny (just vulgar), much in the same way Dane Cook’s humor is based on delivery and theatrics as opposed to punch lines. The site really plays this up, including a soundboard of his funny vulgar sayings. Simmons’ site is my personal favorite, showcasing some clips from his movies, including “Re-Do”, which Funny People shows a bit of. All the sites are rather in-depth and realistic, making the experience that much better.
The viral didn’t stop there. Funny Or Die had a three part series on Randy, which was hilarious. Then on the day Funny People opened, a YouTube page created for Leo Koening (Jonah Hill) posted a funny clip of him and kittens, which is referenced in the film briefly.
All in all, the viral did what it was supposed to do. Since it’s marketing for a comedy, it should be funny, and for the most part it was. It gave some good insight in the characters, especially their careers. This was valuable, because we saw these characters more as people than as actors/comedians, so to get more of that side of them helped put everything in perspective. Lastly, the viral works because you didn’t have to follow it before the film was released to enjoy it. Funny People (like most comedies) isn’t the kind of film a lot of people are going to follow closely leading up to its release, say like a Cloverfield or The Dark Knight. Sci-Fi and mythology films have that nerdy base (which includes me) that has the time and effort to do that. Comedies are aimed more broadly, so a viral campaign has to be able to work after someone has seen it. The fact the sites aren’t blog or news-like in nature makes them fit this need perfectly. Many people will see the movie first then go to the sites to find the funny clips and sites. In fact I saw someone do that on Monday. So, it obviously works.
Final Viral Review: B+