Funny Or Die’s Henry Muñoz III on Harnessing Humor’s Power to Connect, Inspire and Motivate

Henry Muñoz III is the first to admit that he was a surprise bidder for Funny or Die when the digital comedy brand was put up for sale last year.

“It was kind of a surprise to me too,” Muñoz jokes on the latest episode of Variety podcast “Strictly Business.”

The entrepreneur and activist sees Funny or Die as a vehicle for expanding his work that is focused on creating greater access to opportunities and greater equality for Latinx communities in his native Texas and around the country. Muñoz, who was most recently a co-founder of the Somos Community Care chain of health care providers, acquired the company with his own resources, without any partners or bank loans.

Funny or Die was an early Hollywood foray into short-form digital media. The website was founded in 2007 by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Judd Apatow and others and quickly expanded with a content production arm. At 15, Muñoz notes that Funny or Die is just marking its “quinceañera.”

Drawing on his varied career experience and personal journey as a gay man whose parents were activists, Muñoz aims to bring a more inclusive vision and presentation to Funny or Die. Among the first moves under Muñoz’s regime was to option the coming-out memoir “Hola Papi” for development as a scripted series.

“It’s not a surprise to say the origins of Funny or Die were kind of ‘bro’ humor. I love that. I don’t want them to stop doing that. But I want us to be more inclusive and to reflect what the young people in this country share that they’d like to see in their entertainment,” Muñoz said. “There’s so many components to what it means to say, ‘This is my identity.’ I’m brown, I’m Latino and I’m gay. I’m a businessman and I’m an activist and I’m a philanthropist. I have many interests. And so I’m really working very hard with a group of people who have been at Funny or Die for a long time and a new generation of talent at Funny or Die to open up that aperture.”

Muñoz spent a few years serving as finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the Obama years. He was also loosely involved in bringing President Barack Obama to Funny or Die in February 2014 to guest on Zach Galifianakis’ talk show spoof “Between Two Ferns.” The President urged viewers to sign up for Affordable Care Act insurance plans by that year’s March 31 deadline.

Obama’s direct pitch to millennials was a viral hit for Funny or Die and for the administration. The memory of that experience helped spur Muñoz to pursue the brand when the opportunity arose.

“I just fell in love with the fact that it’s a business that seems to have been blended political thought and philanthropy and comedy,’ Muñoz said. “And I think the country needs a laugh.”

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. New episodes debut every Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.