Times are tough in the entertainment biz. Network TV viewership continues to fall, job cuts are a fact of life, and latte budgets are reportedly being slashed in executive suites all over Hollywood. Enter 16-year-old pop throb Justin Bieber, who swooped in to purchase the sketch comedy Web site Funny or Die on Thursday (April 1).
"The timing just seemed right for 'Bieber or Die,' " Bieber said in a statement about the newly renamed site. "No one really cares for 'funny' anymore anyway. I mean, try to define funny and then try to define Bieber, and you will understand completely."
Except not all. It was an inspired April Fools' Day prank that had FOD and Bieber conspiring to rebrand the site and produce a series of sketches in which he faced off against an O-faced kitty cat, took a nasty spill while singing "Baby" and proudly declared, "Sometimes I don't feel like walking, so I make enormous people carry me around. ... Let's go get a lollipop!"
Still sticking very much to the Bieber or Die script, Lauren Palmigiano, one of the site's writer/producers, called up MTV News to tell us about shooting the videos and what office life is like under the reign of the Biebs.
MTV: How did this whole thing come together?
Lauren Palmigiano: Justin just wanted to run the world. He came to us and wanted to buy a Web site, and we realized that comedy can only get us so far. And videos with Justin Bieber will take us to the level we're trying to get to.
MTV: How long did it take you guys to shoot all the videos?
Palmigiano: The production staff for Funny or Die spent the day with Justin on Tuesday, and we just followed him around. He's a really busy guy, and he had a ton of things going on and we shot the videos in a total of about an hour over the whole day. He squeezed us into a day where he had meetings, interviews; he did a surprise appearance with Ludacris. We just hung out and waited for whenever he had five or 10 minutes and pulled him aside and shot the videos as quickly as possible.
MTV: Tell us about the creative process? Did you just pitch him ideas? Did he throw any out to you?
Palmigiano: Little bit of both. We had some ideas of things we wanted to get with him, and once we were with him, he had some ideas of videos he wanted to shoot as well. "Bieber After the Dentist" was his idea. "Bieber Takes a Tumble" was his idea. He really had fun with the "Bieber Takes Over" video.
MTV: So you've lived out the dream of millions of middle school girls. What was it like spending the day with Justin Bieber?
Palmigiano: He's a really fun, cool guy who's fun to work with — and just a talented kid. He's very busy. At the core of it all, he's just a regular kid who's living his dream. We hoped for him to be cool, and he's been cool, since he's our new boss. He took over Will Ferrell's office upstairs. His posse's hanging out. Everyone on staff is required to wear high tops at this point. He's running it, and we couldn't be happier.
MTV: Aziz Ansari did an FOD video poking fun at Bieber not too long ago. Did that ever come up when Bieber was shooting his videos?
Palmigiano: We did talk about it. When we arrived to start the day, we had the actor that played Justin Bieber in [Aziz's] re-enactment with us. There was a little bit of tension there. We were worried because Justin's going to be our new boss, we helped Aziz make that video — are we going to have a problem? Justin was really diplomatic about it. Just a couple lashes, and it was a thing of the past.
MTV: Not to get too much into the contract details, but what did Bieber pay for FOD? Did he pay in Monopoly money or candy corn?
Palmigiano: I don't think I'm at liberty to say exactly, but I will say it's all in sweets and bubblegum.
MTV: What's Bieber like as a boss?
Palmigiano: It's like being in the movie "Big." There's toys everywhere and music playing constantly. He's singing while walking down the hallways. It's a really upbeat, positive environment. Most of us are in our 30s, so I don't know how long we can keep up this pace. We're doing our best.
MTV: Now that Bieber's in charge, are we going to see more of his videos on the site?
Palmigiano: Absolutely. We have some ideas that we're working on. This will not be the last of the Justin Bieber videos. Bieber is just getting started.
What do you think of Bieber or Die? Let us know in the comments!