Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign has explored partnering with the traditionally GOP-hostile comedy website Funny or Die in an effort to expand the candidate’s message to “broader audiences.”
The liberal-leaning comedy site, founded by Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay in 2007, signaled an aggressive push into politically-themed content earlier this year when it opened an outpost in Washington D.C. and hired formed Obama administration official Brad Jenkins to manage it.
Bush communications director Tim Miller told the Daily Beast this week that Jeb’s campaign had discussed partnering with the site, which has traditionally produced progressive fare like “Prop 8: The Musical” and “Indiana’s Anti-Gay Tourism Commercial.”
“We emailed a while back,” Miller told the outlet, while saying there were no concrete plans at the moment to work with the site. “But always looking for Jeb to reach broader audiences so would certainly be open to it if the right opportunity arose.”
Jenkins, who worked as associate director for Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement before taking the reigns at FoD’s D.C. office, told the Daily Beast that the comedy site has been involved in discussions with “candidates from both sides of the aisle” ahead of the 2016 election as part of a larger, concentrated effort to become a major player in the world of online political advocacy.
“We’ve definitely gotten interest from groups and campaigns that are not progressive,” Jenkins said. “We are not only looking for progressive groups that have an agenda, in the same way that our company in LA isn’t looking to work with just progressive brands… For instance, one of the issues we’ve been in talks with is doing something around criminal justice reform, which has very strange bedfellows – something where Van Jones and Rand Paul are on the same side.”
While the site may have spoken to both Republican and Democrat candidates about working on comedy videos and other branded content, Funny or Die’s bread and butter is progressive-leaning satire.
In addition to the Prop 8 musical and the “commercial” taking aim at Indiana’s religious freedom law earlier this year, the site recently produced “The Dealbreakers,” a skit mocking congressional Republicans for trying to kill the Iran nuclear deal. The site reportedly partnered with the progressive foreign policy-related nonprofit New Security Action and liberal advocacy organization MoveOn to produce the bit.
Funny or Die was also behind the now-infamous “Between Two Ferns” interview with President Obama, in which comedian and Hangover star Zach Galifianakis poked and prodded the president over the Affordable Care Act, which was struggling to attract sign-ups shortly after its disastrous rollout.
Mike Farah, president of production at Funny or Die, told the Daily Beast that the website’s D.C. outpost was a direct result of its work in Washington with political groups, and the success of the Obama skit prompted him to think about the bigger picture.
“Our biggest branded entertainment client of all time was the White House,” Farah told the outlet. “So I started daydreaming about what if we did try to make this an official thing. Not for the White House, because the White House has no money. But for people in the world of politics, especially with the election coming up, I felt it was a natural evolution.”
While Bush communications director Miller stressed that there are currently “no plans on the books” to work with the site, the candidate could probably stand to benefit from some social/new/online/”cool” media exposure; Bush’s raffling off of free Late Show tickets prompted some not-so-good-natured ribbing from host Stephen Colbert earlier this month.