A concerned citizen has tipped me off to this 2011 Funny Or Die sketch featuring Paul Rudd, then promoting Our Idiot Brother, pitching a bunch of marketing ideas to Harvey Weinstein. It is titled, simply and elegantly, “Paul Rudd Pitches Harvey Weinstein” and it was written by current Saturday Night Live co-head writer Colin Jost and former SNL co-head writer Rob Klein, who also directed. And it, uh, seems like the kind of thing that Funny Or Die might want to take down, now, all things considered?
To be totally clear, I’m not suggesting there was any malice or wrongdoing on Funny Or Die’s part in making this video six years ago. It’s a sketch! It’s dumb. It’s three minutes of Paul Rudd riffing. The jokes are… certainly what you’d expect from future SNL head writers. It plays very much like the sort of thing that was done in a day and nobody ever thought of it again. (And also like Rudd and Weinstein were never in the same room at the same time.)
Still, it does make you ponder all the ways this industry works in service of power, and by extension those who abuse it. So many of comedy’s institutions are, at their core, PR machines. Branded content is Funny Or Die’s bread and butter. Every week SNL promotes someone’s new movie or TV show or album. Late night talk shows, with few exceptions, use jokes to bookend celebrity press tours. Comedians host awards shows because otherwise we might see them for the rituals they are—the wealthy and famous celebrating their own wealth and fame. Comedy normalizes power; it’s so successful at normalizing power that it feels weird to even write that as a criticism. Well, what’s wrong with normalizing power? Lots of things, but to start it lets monsters play the straight man in comedy sketches. It makes them relatable, which makes them less threatening. But power is always a threat, even more so when it seems innocuous, even more so when it seems… funny.
Again, none of this is to impute any ill will to Funny or Die. They made a sketch to promote a movie. All I’m saying is: Look at that ugly “#IdiotBrother” hashtag floating in the corner of the entire video. Look at how bad Harvey Weinstein is at acting. It’s all very pathetic, isn’t it? And yet it’s also such an ordinary, middle-of-the-road piece of branded content, something any smart young comic would do to pay rent. That’s what makes it so frightening
I’ve reached out to a Funny Or Die representative for comment and will update accordingly.
Update, 12/22/17 at 6:15pm:
Funny Or Die
has declined to comment on the video, but they have removed the post.
Seth Simons is Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Follow him on Twitter.