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A new digital studio is looking to replicate the success of Funny or Die in Korea.
Be Funny Studios launched Thursday in partnership with the comedy website, Creative Artists Agency and Korean public relations giant Prain.
The studio will partner with talent from the Asia Pacific region to create one-off comedy shorts, branded videos and web series. Much like Funny or Die, Be Funny plans to produce between 15 and 20 of these videos a month, premiering them on the studio’s website before distributing them on other video platforms, such as YouTube and DailyMotion. In addition, Funny or Die has the rights to promote any of the Be Funny videos on its site.
While most of Be Funny’s video’s will be geared toward Asian audiences, the studio, which is based in Seoul, will also look to co-produce shorts with Funny or Die every month that also feature Hollywood talent that could cross over to American audiences.
“Digitally distributed content is inherently global, but not all comedy crosses borders so easily,” said Funny or Die chief operating officer and president of digital Mitch Galbraith. “We’re excited to help BFS make great comedy content for Asia and to collaborate with them on co-productions of content designed to crossover Asia and the US.”
The genesis for Be Funny came in 2012 when the video for Psy‘s Gangnam Style became a viral hit. “That video showed the power of content from Korea and showed that if it’s great content, it can cross over to the U.S. despite the language barrier,” says co-founder Won Lee.
That year Lee spent time at Funny or Die’s West Hollywood offices “learning about the culture and how they’ve become a successful operation.” He then arranged Be Funny’s first collaboration with Funny or Die on Anna Kendrick Goes K-Pop With f(x), which shows the Pitch Perfect star learning how to join one of Korea’s most popular girl groups.
“When the video was released, it had more than 5 million viewers worldwide,” says co-founder and chief creative officer Chris Lee. “It was basically 70 percent international, 30 percent domestic. And we realized there was a huge opportunity.”
The group has since co-produced another video with Funny or Die, Girl, You Better Walk starring Rita Ora and Korean pop star HyunA. Then, earlier this year Funny or Die and CAA came on board as equity partners, and Korean film producer Ho Sung Kim signed as a producing partner.
With the launch, Be Funny is rolling out its first independent franchise, What’s Eating Steven Yeun. The web series follows the Walking Dead star as he leaves his girlfriend, Sandara Park of girl group 2ne1, to return to his home country of South Korea. There, he gets sucked into the viral craze of “broadcast eating.” The video has both English and Korean dialog with subtitles. The videos also come subtitled for other major Asian languages. The founder say it’s important to have that cross-cultural appeal.
“We are both Korean Americans,” says Won Lee. “I grew up watching Saturday Night Live, but I watch a lot of Korean comedies too. These collaborations are very important.”