Starring in such "Frat Pack" films as Old School and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has immortalized Will Ferrell's name on campuses across the country, and on Friday, Feb. 22, the actor and comedian proved he knows his audience well. In the next-to-last show of a seven-week tour promoting his new film Semi-Pro and his FunnyorDie.com Web site, Ferrell regaled the packed house at the Dean Smith Center with UNC/ Duke jokes, including a show-stopping bit with UNC men's basketball coach Roy Williams.
Ferrell has been a visible presence in North Carolina recently, whether it's filming 2006's Talladega Nights in Charlotte or playing golf at Sanford's Tobacco Road course while visiting his sister-in-law and her husband, who live in Cary. During an "Ask Will Anything" segment moderated by actress Andrea Savage, Ferrell responded to an audience question about whether he liked Charlotte by responding that he did, but that he preferred Sanford, and joked that he was getting a condo there, along with a Bojangles.
In person, Ferrell comes across as calm and focused, like someone who's carefully working out a joke in his head. During a press conference before the show, his posture was relaxed—no doubt his bright blue ABA jumpsuit helped.
Despite Semi-Pro's basketball-themed premise, Ferrell said that the tour's itinerary "really had nothing to do with whether they were prominent basketball schools or not." He also said it was a coincidence that he'd had three sports comedies in the last few years: "They're fun to do, but I don't really have this list of 80 movies I want to do that are all sports-related."
Despite complaints about the $45 ticket price, the show still sold tickets for about 12,500 of the 13,000 available seats, according to UNC Associate Athletic Director Clint Gwaltney, who added that the majority of the tickets were sold to individuals between the ages of 20 and 30.
Those who coughed up the $45 seemed to enjoy the show. Ferrell made his entrance wearing a Duke sweat that he quickly whipped off to reveal Tar Heel blue. The comic high point of the evening involved him taking the stage as his Ron Burgundy character from Anchorman. After a monologue about his time as "dean" of UNC's journalism school, he brought on Coach Williams, prompting many of those in the audience to ignore the prohibitions on flash photography or video phones. Williams proved surprisingly adept at keeping up with Ferrell, riffing on Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough ("We keep him on medication 24 hours a day") and on his own history with UNC.
Ferrell, who has a degree in sports information from the University of Southern California, got the biggest laugh of the night by asking Williams about his recent media dispute with Duke, inquiring if Williams would agree that Coach K had been acting "like a little bitch." Williams responded that he would never disagree with Ferrell's journalism, prompting the crowd to explode.
The evening climaxed with a spandex-clad Ferrell serenading audience member and former UNC basketball star Eric Montross with Alicia Keys' "No One" in front of a giant rainbow prop as individuals dressed as Duke and UNC mascots hugged each other on stage.
Perhaps the last laugh belonged to Ferrell: The scene then cut to black as the rival mascots began pantomiming sex with each other.
Video of the show will be available at www.funnyordie.com/promos/college_comedy_tour.