The entertainment and advertising worlds said farewell to one of its top funnymen with the passing of Matt Villines, who at the age of 39 lost his battle with cancer this weekend.
Half of the directing team known as Matt and Oz (Osmany Rodriguez), Mr. Villines is perhaps best known for his helming popular "Saturday Night Live" sketches such as "The Jay Z Story," the "definitive" tale of the entrepreneur and music star, as played by Mike O'Brien; "Sad Mouse," the sweet-funny tale of a sorry Times Square costumed character starring Bruno Mars and the laugh-out-loud "A Thanksgiving Miracle" in which a heated holiday family faceoff becomes harmonious thanks to, of all things, Adele.
Prior to his turn at "SNL" with Rodriguez, Mr. Villines had worked on numerous FunnyorDie films including "The Amazing Adventures of Dave and Jennie," "The Wire: The Musical" and "Sense of Smell With Bryan Cranston."
And while he was big on the Hollywood comedy scene, Mr. Villines had a prolific advertising career as well. Out of Caviar Content, he recently directed a Letgo campaign out of Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, which invited consumers to create their own funny ads and saw the hilarious return of action star Dolph Lundgren.
Along with Mr. Rodriguez, he also directed the Martin Agency's Stovetop campaign starring disgruntled Pilgrims, Sundown Naturals ads for Droga5. The pair were also behind the popular branded FunnyorDie Under Armour film starring Tom Brady.
Andrew Steele, creative director at FunnyorDie, published a tribute to Mr. Villines yesterday, recalling a telling moment with Will Ferrell:
"About six months ago, I was talking to our co-founder Will Ferrell about Funny Or Die," he wrote. "As much as we love our little comedy company, we can be critical as well when we feel we aren't being our best. Will says to me, 'Why aren't we doing more videos like that Dave and Jennie we did a few years ago?' I agreed with him, but then I didn't have an answer. I do now. Comedy is hard but every once in awhile a special person comes along and makes it look easy. If you were ever on a set with Matt Villines, you knew he made it look easy."
"Having worked with Matt just four short months ago, we are all shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news of his passing," said CP&B Miami Exec Creative Director Jay Gelardi, who led the recent Letgo campaign. "In an industry awash with giant egos, Matt was like a shining beacon of humble brilliance, a joy to collaborate with, and a genuine comic powerhouse. And I can honestly say he was one of the nicest guys I've ever worked alongside. It's a sad day for those who like to laugh."
"I'm not sure I have the right words to express how amazing a person Matt Villines was," said Caviar Executive Producer/Managing Partner Michael Sagol. "He balanced optimism and talent so gracefully that it inspired everyone around him. Matt also knew the fine line between funny and story. Always mindful of all of the elements in his filmmaking, he found a way to elevate and find humor with a soft touch and every time his vision became more and more apparent. It was all of these capabilities that made him the amazing director and human being he was. As you can see our grief is echoed even louder by the comedy community. We have lost a shooting star to the universe. I have lost a friend."
Mr. Villines was born June 5, 1977, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He studied at the University of Oklahama and then at Los Angeles Film school, where he first met his directing partner Mr. Rodriguez. Last year, the two finished filming their first feature, "Brother in Laws," starring "SNL" regulars Taran Killem and Bobby Moynigan, which is currently in post-production.
Mr. Villines is survived by wife Linda, his parents and his sister.
See more of Mr. Villines' work below.