Way back in 2007, long before its hit shows like Billy on the Street and @midnight, long before Zach Galifianakis was interviewing President Barack Obama betwixt houseplants, the comedy website Funny or Die made its grand debut with a quick and cheap video featuring Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and McKay's toddler daughter, Pearl, playing a boozy foul-mouthed landlord.
That video, titled "The Landlord," was an instant hit and Pearl was a bonafide viral video star, much to the concern of her parents.
"Within a week, The Ellen DeGeneres Show wanted Pearl on the show, and People magazine wanted to do a spread," McKay told Wired in a recent feature on Funny or Die's history. "Jackie Chan was doing some movie, and they needed a little kid, and they wanted Pearl to do it… We said no to all of it."
Today, for the ten-year anniversary of the site, Pearl McKay, now 12 years old, has broken her decade-long silence to speak with me about acting, the current state of internet comedy, and what she thinks of her dad's Oscar-winning film, The Big Short.
VICE: Do you have any memories of filming "The Landlord" or the initial reception to it?
Pearl McKay: I was like two years old so I don't remember filming the video but I have a couple loose memories of being there but not really.
Have any of your friends figured out you were "The Landlord"?
A couple days ago at school, my friends were watching the video and I had no idea and was like, "What's that sound?" and they go, "Pearl, we're watching your video!" Nothing's really different now, though. It doesn't come up a lot but yeah, some friends know about the video. They don't care very much. Some reactions from the public have been pretty weird, though. When I was six or seven, I went to get my hair cut and this lady said, "You look like Pearl from the Landlord video," and my nanny said, "Yeah, she was in that video." Basically, they said they named their dog after me and had me sign a hairbrush. Other than that, I haven't had any weird encounters.
What do you think of when you picture a landlord and why do you think so many people have a negative perception of them?
I think most people don't like their landlords just because they're a reminder that they have to pay rent. I don't think most landlords are actually mean, though. People just picture them in a mean way.
Besides "The Landlord," you've also done some acting in Anchorman 2. What sorts of roles you'd like to sink your teeth into going forward with your acting career? Any actors or actresses you'd like to work with?
I love Jennifer Lawrence. She seems like a great actress.
I really like comedy. I do like drama improv classes. There's an after-school program where the drama teacher does improv stuff. I really like acting and I hope I get to do more of it.
What's your favorite improv game?
I like "Portrait," where you run up and everyone poses and they have to make a portrait. My teacher taught us this game called "Emotional Park Bench" where one person gets an emotion and they walk in [to the scene], and another person walks in and has to figure out the emotion and then also be that emotion.
How do you think comedy has changed since "The Landlord" came out?
Today, I think all the social medias have different types of humor. Awhile ago adults would go, "Oh, a two-year-old swearing, that's hilarious," but now I think that would only appeal to maybe a nine-year-old. I don't really find it funny.
Also, grownups will find humor on stuff like The Walking Dead. Anything my parents like they'll find something funny about it. I don't know how they do it. My mom will be like, "Breaking Bad, that's such a funny show. I love it." But it's actually not such a funny show.
What other sorts of comedy do you think is dumb?
Puns. They're not funny at all. And knock-knock jokes.
So who or what makes you laugh the most?
Anything in the moment. Like a YouTube video or something. I like BuzzFeed a lot. I mostly watch that.
Do you have a favorite web video of all time?
I have some I like that aren't that funny, but more entertaining. There's a YouTube video I've watched with my friends a few times called "Responsible Friend vs. Hot Mess" and we laughed really hard at that. Most of the stuff I watch isn't really comedy stuff. Not serious, but part of my morning routine. Kind of pointless but entertaining at the same time.
What's your routine?
I sleep a lot. Then I brush my teeth and hair, watch a lot of TV, and then I go to Starbucks. My go-to order is a green tea latte and a spinach-feta wrap.
What do you predict for the future of internet and comedy videos?
There's not going to be any large TVs left. Everything's going to be on the computer because it's more convenient. I don't think YouTube's going anywhere, or Netflix. I think maybe Amazon [video] might not be around because people don't like paying for so much stuff. I also don't think future TV [programming] is going to be necessarily good. I don't think there will be characters. But who knows?
Your dad has said that he looks to you for a sort of seal of approval on his work. What advice would you give to him going forward for future projects?
He should do more comedy projects. My favorite movies of his are Anchorman and stuff. The Big Short was boring. It's probably a good movie but I kind of fell asleep during it. It's not really for 12-year-olds.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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