HBO’s sketch comedy show Funny or Die Presents has all the appeal of the website. With all-star cameos from Will Ferrell, Will Forte, Zach Galifinakis and more, there is a lot of potential. But what is inherent in the viral site is still here on Funny or Die Presents: it’s hit or miss.
Set up as the Funny or Die network presenting various programs, or rather the three to five sketches in each episode, each installment has a retro-style intro from an older guy (Steve Tom) that can sometimes be funnier than the sketches themselves. He pokes fun at HBO, television in general, even the poor business decision of making a TV show based on a website, and makes general sexist comments towards the eye candy secretaries in the background.
The twelve episodes consist of stand alone sketches with several serial bits throughout the first season. The serial sketches tend to be the best, and hold the biggest star power. “Designated Driver” stars Paul Scheer as the responsible guy who has to pick up his drunk and destructive friend, Rob Riggle, from a bar. Chaos ensues between bar brawls, adultery, and misunderstandings. It’s not exactly a night that’s going well for either guy, and we get a few laughs at their expense.
Similarly amusing “Holdup” is about a group of hostages caught in the midst of a bank robbery, trying to get out alive and take down the robbers, and failing horribly at it. From obviously stupid mistakes, to ignoring the fatally wounded in favor of hand models, the comedy is all in the absurd. The Office’s Ed Helms and Creed Bratton, Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon and Rachael Harris, and Children’s Hospital’s Malin Akerman and Rob Huebel star.
While others, like “Space Baby,” (which is exactly what you would think it is), strive to find any laughs at all. “Playground Politics,” where kids on the playground act out some of the more complex world struggles, can have some good moments but sometimes feels like it’s trying too hard. There are also a few viral hits to anchor the show, like the “Drunk History” of Frederick Douglass featuring Don Cheadle, Will Ferrell, and Zooey Deschanel.
Sure, the show pushes the boundaries of inappropriate content as many comedy sketch shows do, and sometimes to amusing ends. But even with some sketches to stand out amongst the awkward duds, there’s not a lot of content that is vastly different than what can be found online. If you come across Funny or Die Presents when channel surfing, it could be good for a few laughs on a late night. But ultimately, it’s not required viewing.
Funny or Die Presents: Season One is on-sale now, and season two is airing Fridays at midnight on HBO.