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It’s been almost eight years since Funny or Die’s first viral video, “The Landlord,” took the Internet by storm. Over these years, they’ve dealt with a recession and a $600,000 movie flop, all while handling an enormous viewer following. They sat down for our series, Conversations from the Corner Office, to discuss how staying true to comedy allowed them to stay ahead of the curve.

CEO Dick Glover says Funny or Die isn’t just a name, it’s their business plan.

We live by the mantra: the creative drives the deal, not the deal drives the creative. Have I said that 5,000 times? We make what we hope is funny, great product. Period … And we will sink or swim on how good that is.

Just a year after they launched, the recession hit, and Glover says the company barely survived. In fact, a presentation by Funny or Die’s investor, Sequoia Capital, predicted that the company was doomed.

“The recession hit in 2008,” Glover says. “[We got] the famous Sequoia Capital ‘Rest in Peace Good Times’ business presentation … I sat through [it] and wanted to throw up.”

Funny or Die downsized, but made sure to stay true to their content and business mantra. Despite the tough economic climate, they were able to grow an enormous following. Glover credits part of this success to maintaining a “start-up” mentality.

I would be very concerned if we ever lost that sense that “Hey, we’re a start-up.” And that’s what I learned at ESPN. ESPN, as it became this huge, huge company, I mean huge company … never lost the sense that it’s a sports fan. If a company can be … a person, you know, ESPN’s the guy that you’re wanting to tweet about the game with last night, or in the old days, stand next to the water cooler and talk to. So we want the same thing. We want to make sure this culture does not change as, hopefully, we continue to get bigger and bigger.

President of Production Mike Farah says it’s because they aren’t afraid to fail, that they can learn, grow, and succeed.

“I’ve messed up a lot,” he says. “I cost us $600,000 on a movie that didn’t happen. But what can you do? You just move on.”

Often, Glover adds, it’s this risk-taking that attracts talent to their studios in the first place, and is what will allow them to create innovative content in the future.

We’re not afraid to fail. We do tons of videos that people don’t like. In fact, one of our selling points to A-list talent is: ‘You’re in an environment that by and large does not tolerate failure…with us if you do some crazy idea and it doesn’t work, who cares? But if it works it gets as much attention as anything else you’ve done.’

Video produced by Preditorial

Director and Editor: Rick Kent

Director of Photography: Anton Seim

Producer: Mimi Kent

“The Heist” and “Bubble Bath” Kevin MacLeod 

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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