Funny or Die goes long with Charlie Sanders’ “The Big Dog,” debuting at L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Fest

The second annual L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival kicks off tonight with a sold-out collection hosted by Frangela that includes films featuring Jane Lynch, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Patrick Warburton, Mindy Sterling, Nicole Parker, Cedric Yarbrough, Scott Lawrence, Dax Shepard, and the world premiere of Funny or Die's first venture into short films that aren't so short. It all used to make sense before the Internet changed our definition of shorts, didn't it?

I spoke yesterday with Charlie Sanders, star and co-writer of Funny or Die's 17-minute-long short film, The Big Dog. Co-writer Eric Appel directed, with a cast that includes Nelson Franklin, Rich Sommer, Bob Odenkirk, Jessica St. Clair and Andrew Astor. After its debut tonight, you should be able to see it online via Funny or Die or at the film's site for Famous Andy's Pizza. Sanders plays Ron, an unemployed former pizza chain manager who schemes to get his job back by winning the company's contest. If you haven't seen the trailer yet, watch it now:

Sanders, who moved from New York to Los Angeles as "part of a migration wave of UCB-NY people," acknowledged that "the allure of Funny or Die is what gets people interested" in living in Los Angeles, considering how many UCB Theater players are involved in the original content on FoD.

How'd the film come about? "Eric Appel, who directed it and co-wrote it with me, is a good friend from back in the New York day," Sanders said. "We were playing golf, and Eric said Funny or Die were interested in doing a longer piece, and I said I was interested in doing a film based on my one-man show." Fun fact: Not as many comedy decisions get made on the golf course in NYC than in Los Angeles. "The actual one-man show was called 'You're Welcome For What You're About to See.' It was me doing a bunch of charatcter monologues. One of the four or give characters was this pizza guy, Ron, the 'big dog.' There are a lot of lines that come straight out of that. We filled out sort of the arc and gave it a plot."

How did you get a great cast? "Gosh, it was so awesome. They all wanted to do it. We all told Mike Farah, who produced, is here's who we ideally want, and he called them. Bob (Odenkirk), he had seen my one-man show in New York, he directed my sketch group, The Buffoons, when we did Montreal a couple of years ago."

So what's next for you? "I just shot a pilot for MTV." How much did The Big Dog help in that regard? "I would presume the trailer and the existence of 'Big Dog' really helped. Eric directed the pilot, too." What can you tell me about it? "It's about cops who fight zombies."

In the meantime, you can catch Sanders most Sundays at the UCB Theatre in north Hollywood in "Sh*tty Jobs," monthly at his storytelling show, "This One Time." He shot a role in the upcoming Ed Helms movie, Cedar Rapids. And he maintains a blog based on his other one-man show, Minnesota Muslim.

What about the rest of the L.A. Comedy Shorts festival, though? You can see the entire schedule here. It runs tonight through Sunday at the Downtown Independent Theater, with 74 shorts in competition (including foreign entries), competing for $30,000 in cash and prizes from The Funny or Die Best-of-Fest Grand Prize, Best Comedy Short Film (30 minutes or less), Best Comedy ‚ÄòShortie‚Äô Short (5 minutes or less) and Best Animated Comedy Short (30 minutes or less), as well as the Audience Choice Award.

Each day also features Industry Panels, including:

Famous People Talkin‚Äô About Sh*t — Bryan Cranston, Julie Bowen, Missi Pyle, Mark Hamill & others

What‚ĶIn This Economy? ‚Äì Giving Management/Production Companies What They Really Want. — JC Spink (Benderspink), Chris Prynoski (Titmouse), and others from Generate and Mosaic Media

But I‚Äôm a CeWEBrity! ‚Äì How to Translate Success on the ‚ÄòNet into Success in TV/Film. — Mike Farah (Funny or Die), Tom Hoffman (Fremantle Media) & others from

I Write, I Produce, Therefore I Am ‚Äì Tips on Creating Your Own Product by Comedy Writer-Producers — Thomas Lennon (Reno 911, Night At The Museum), Robert Ben Garant (Reno 911, Balls of Fury), Laura Kightlinger (SNL, Lucky Louie), Linwood Boomer (Malcolm in the Middle), Rodney Barnes (Boondocks, Everybody Hates Chris)

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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