From Will Ferrell’s comedy shorts website FunnyorDie.com comes the HBO series “Funny or Die Presents.” A simple litmus test: If you like the Interwebs version, you’ll like the cathode one, too.
“FoD” is hosted by Ed Haligan (Steve Tom, channeling Leslie Nielsen), the FOD network’s white-haired West Coast head of sales who intros and outros each episode. I love the look of these sequences, with their empty backgrounds, retro technology and “Mad Men”-ready hotties. The space-age construction-paper graphics of the theme are cool, too.
With one exception — episode 9’s groovy, full-length “The Carpet Brothers” — each of the 12 half-hours features multiple sketches, many of which are recurring and sport famous names and faces. Others highlight up-and-coming absurdist talent, such as Derek Waters, Sloven & Allen and David & Jennie.
Among the highlights:
• Rob Riggle engages in a night of rampage, much to the dismay of Paul Scheer, his “Designated Driver.”
• “Space Baby,” a parody of “Flash Gordon”-esque serials of yore, but starring a babbling infant and the great Fred Willard.
• “Casual Sex,” which finds Andrea Savage’s pregnant single gal attempting to have the wild phase she never had, before she gives birth. Her would-be suitors aren’t so enthusiastic when they discover her delicate condition: “Did you hear that, penis? ‘Mucus plug.'”
• A bank robbery goes terribly, hilariously wrong in Rob Heubel’s “Holdup,” which co-stars Ed Helms, Malin Akerman, Thomas Lennon, Rachael Harris, Creed Bratton and, in a cameo, “Weird Al” Yankovic.
• A commercial for the Prius Racing Set. As one kid exclaims, “I’m having fun and I feel good about myself!” (Aside: As a Prius owner, I take umbrage to the depiction of the cars moving a snail’s pace, but I still laughed.)
But they can’t all be highlights. On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Sleeping with Celebrities” is a one-joke bit that gets trotted out three more times too many. “One Thousand Cats” went on so long that I wanted to scratch my eyes out, and no matter how hard Zach Galifianakis tries to spice up Tim & Eric’s “Just 3 Boyz” sitcom spoof, it’s too stoned for its good.
Luckily, the good far outweighs the bad — or, more appropriately, the funny far outweighs the die — and the funny is often very funny. Can’t wait for season two; doughnut mind if I do. —Rod Lott