Joshua Funk has worked for The Second City since 1994. After three years on The Second City Detroit main stage, Joshua became a resident director for The Second City. He received Joseph Jefferson Awards for “Best Director” for Holy War Batman and “Best Production” for Pants on Fire, as well as directing The Second City’s first tours to Asia and a USO tour to Sarajevo. As an improv director/coach, some of his film & television credits include MTV’s Wild n’ Out, Katt Williams: American Hustle, The BET Hip Hop Awards and multiple pilots for both FOX and CBS. As an actor, some of his film and television credits include Reno911!, Short Circuitz, Wild n’ Out, 3lbs and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant. Joshua currently serves as the Artistic Director of The Second City Training Center Hollywood and is thrilled to be the Managing Director, New Media for The Second City Network.
How long is the period between the idea for a short and its completion? Does the online short format allow for a satire to be even more timely?
Depending on the concept, the period between the idea for a short and its completion could be anywhere from a day or two to a few months. The online short format definitely allows for satire to be more timely than with other forms of media. With more reactionary videos, a quick turn around is easy and preferable since we can get our content to viewers when the topic is still relevant, giving us an edge over typical broadcast programming.
What are your thoughts on sketches being self-contained shorts, rather than parts of a longer show (either live or on broadcast television)? Is there an identity that develops across the videos the way it would in a single show or does the separate videos allow for greater variety of approaches?
Many online comedy sites, including The Second City Network, are gravitating towards more long-form and serial content. This is beneficial in terms of developing a concept or character and garnering repeat viewership, but sometimes an idea is better suited as a single one-off video, so that’s the approach we’ll take. In the end you never know what viewers will respond to, and what opportunities will present themselves by presenting concepts in a variety of formats.
Does your audience generally respond stronger to some of the sustained characters you’ve done videos for? Does your approach change as a director for those videos, which form somewhat of a series, from that taken for one-off videos?
Our strongest character thus far has been Sassy Gay Friend, who has developed a large and loyal following amongst viewers. When directing videos in a series like this, it’s important to consider the elements that audiences are responding to most positively, while at the same time staying true to the original character and taking him in new directions to keep things fresh. For one-off videos, the audience’s needs are still taken into consideration, but on a much broader level.
What about new media appeals to you? As Managing Director of New Media, how would you like to move forward in this regard?
The cutting-edge content and the freedom to experiment and develop ideas are the most appealing facets of new media. Our culture is getting more and more digitally oriented, and to be on the front lines of emerging Internet comedy providers is truly exciting, as are the opportunities to integrate our content with both traditional media and other digital platforms.
How much improvisation goes into your videos and how does that affect your role as a director?
It varies from video to video. Some are tightly scripted, and some have a lot of leeway for our actors to add to the content on the fly via improvisation. One of our most valuable assets is our pool of incredibly seasoned improvisational actors and content creators. Sometimes just taking an outline and letting them do what they do best works better than anything scripted could ever produce. Having directed for stage and screen, it’s my job to recognize the elements that are working and make sure their performances translate to solid video content.
Are there any qualities that you have noticed recur in popular or ‘viral’ comedy-based videos?
There seem to be a lot of elements that can make a comedy video go viral, but unfortunately there is no recipe for success. Celebrity actors, big budgets, relevancy to popular cultural events or trending topics – all of these seem to help, but if the comedy isn’t there then there’s little hope for success in the long term.
Working with young comedic actors at the Second City Training Center, have you found the increased social sharing of online video to be well received? Is it perceived as offering a good chance to begin developing a career in film/television – to be ‘seen’?
Being a part of The Second City community has proven to be a great stepping-stone for young comedic actors and writers. The opportunity to have their content produced or perform in/create a potential viral hit has its appeal, as well as the fact that the finished product is out there for a worldwide market. Our videos have definitely opened doors for many actors and content creators to make a name for themselves in the broader entertainment community.