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Funny or Die, the company known for Between Two Ferns and Billy on the Street, has tapped CAA comedy agent Luke Esselen as a talent producer focused on working with the A-listers and up-and-coming comics who are the bread and butter of many of Funny or Die’s online clips.
Esselen joined CAA in April 2015 as the agency looked to rebuild its comedy team following the departure of 11 agents to rival UTA. He previously served as the assistant to Michael Lasker at Mosaic.
“We’ve always prided ourselves in our talent relationships, and with Luke on board we know we’ll continue to put talent first,” said CEO Mike Farah.
Funny or Die has further hired TV veteran Deborah Wolff as head of physical production, where she will oversee all digital and longform production. Wolff has spent more than 15 years in the industry, overseeing G4’s Attack of the Show while a production manager at NBCUniversal and more recently consulting with Funny or Die on upcoming IFC series Brockmire.
In addition, Funny or Die has promoted Kate Lilly from television development coordinator to executive producer of digital. Her credits since joining Funny or Die include working as a producer on NBC’s Red Nose Day, TBS’ America’s Next Weatherman and Brockmire.
Added Farah: “Deb and Kate are also paying critical roles in taking our premium longform and shortform content to a whole new level, on the web, on TV and beyond.”
Nine-year-old Funny or Die, which was founded by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy, was one of the early online video hubs and has come to be known for its viral comedy videos, including a recent Between Two Ferns episode featuring Hillary Clinton that was viewed 30 million times in its first day. Meanwhile, it is behind a growing slate of TV projects, including Billy on the Street and Triumph’s Summer Election Special, which streams on Hulu.
Last year, the company explored a sale but remained an independently operated company. A few months later, CEO Dick Glover left to run Mandalay Sports Media, leading to an eight-month-long CEO search that resulted in longtime production executive Farah assuming the role. Under Farah, Funny or Die has focused in on its strength in producing timely online videos, including its many election-themed videos such as online movie The Art of the Deal starring Johnny Depp as Donald Trump, as well as its TV production. In September it laid off 37 employees, about 30 percent of its staff, including its San Mateo, Calif., team of engineers focused on app development.
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