It isn't all long-winded policial speeches at the DNC. You can imagine our delight when Ken Jeong, best known for his role as Mr. Chow in “The Hangover,” appeared onscreen alongside economist Austan Goolsbee for the video, “Donald Decoded: Outsourcing.”
The comedy site, Funny or Die, produced four videos in total for the DNC this year— one for each night of the convention. Ben Sheehan, executive producer and head of talent tells us what it was like working with Jeong and why comedy is so effective in getting a message across.
What is a typical day like for you at Funny or Die?
A typical day is that I’ll go through email and see what requests have come in from talent to do Funny or Die videos — whether it’s actors, actresses, musicians, comedians, reality personalities. People reach out all the time. I field those requests and talk with the staff to see if they make sense.
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Do you have a hand in writing the bits, too?
Sometimes I will come up with an idea and then I'll work with one of our writers, but my role is primarily as a producer rather than a writer. The one thing I do actually get to write are when we do songs. I have a music background so I write a lot of the songs that have become topical comedy music videos for our site.
I wrote one recently about the transgender bathroom situation in North Carolina, which was a fake country song. And then I wrote the music and lyrics for a video called “Climate Change Denier’s Anthem,” which was a “We Are the World” styled anthem trying to convince people that global warming is fake.
Very cool!So let’s talk about this DNC video series. How did that come about?
Yes. The DNC and its affiliates approached us and asked us to create them. I don’t know which of the ones will end up airing, because we made four for them and some of might be online only. As of now, the Ken Jeong one aired Monday night. They star four really funny comedians and two different economists and they basically take a look at different economic platforms, plans and histories of Donald Trump.
What was it like working with Ken Jeong?
He is so nice, so smart, very thoughtful and so funny on set. And obviously we had certain policy points that we had to hit but some of the best lines in the video are things that he improvised.
Oh, I loved his “Holy Melania!”
I’m almost positive that’s improve on Ken’s part. [laughs]
So what other celebrities did you work with on these videos?
We have a video coming out with a very funny comedian named Andrea Savage, who is on the current season of Veep. Also Michael Ian Black and Cameron Esposito — we also shot videos with them.
It used to be that music was the platform to express political beliefs, but now comedy seems to be a bigger platform for it. What are your thoughts on that?
I completely hear your point and in my opinion I still think that there is a lot of great current political music, but you’re probably not going to find it on the pop charts. And also there are more and more musicians coming out and expressing political points of view. If you look at Beyonce, her first music video off her most recent album, that’s an incredible, incredible political and social piece. You have musicians like Usher taking political stances, Katy Perry, you know it may not always be reflected in their music but more and more people with a really large platform are kind of expected by the public to share their piece of mind on things that are prevalent in the national consciousness. With comedy, I’ve always felt like at the core of comedy is truth, and so comedians aren’t afraid to speak truth to power and also being able to take a complex issue and infuse humor into it makes it a little more palatable.
You can watch the first video of the series “Donald Decoded: Outsourcing,” below.