One of the funniest films of the new century is Adam McKay’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. While it didn’t necessarily launch Will Ferrell’s lucrative film career, it definitely put him on the map as a comedy A-lister. However, it did help Steve Carell go from a somewhat obscure TV and movie bit player to a funny man in movies.
While Anchorman was still in release, Ferrell and McKay sat down to record an unconventional commentary, which includes mostly random (and often facetious) discussions with no relevance to the film. There are also surprise guests who drop by, including call-ins from Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate, as well as an in-person visit from David Koechner. In line with the film’s absurdity, some people who have nothing to do with the film whatsoever (including Andy Richter, Tenacious D’s Kyle Gass, and even legendary musician Lou Rawls) join in.
This commentary is not to be taken seriously, and quite possibly the same can be said for this article. Still, who knows? There might be some nuggets of truth in here as well.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Commentators: Adam McKay (writer and director), Will Ferrell (writer and star), Lou Rawls (famous musician), Andy Richter (comedian), Kyle Gass (comedian and musician), Paul Rudd (actor), David Koechner (actor), and Christina Applegate (actress)
1. The first ten minutes of the commentary features Ferrell and McKay contemplating what would be bleeped out in what Ferrell describes as a “post-Janet Jackson era.” Words that were not bleeped include “bitch,” “whore,” and “shit.” Words bleeped out include some instances of “fuck,” all instances of “cock,” and any reference to animal or human semen. “Dick salad” was okay to say, but “fuckstick” was bleeped” (oddly enough, only bleeping out the middle of the word so it sounds like “fuckisk.”
2. Although Ferrell and McKay aren’t allowed to say “dog cock” in the commentary, an actual one is seen on Baxter during multiple scenes. In fact, McKay had to trim several of the shots revealing Baxter’s genitals in order to secure a PG-13 rating for theaters.
3. According to McKay, the concept of “contextual uncertainty” allows for up to five seconds of a close-up of a man’s penis, or any sexual act with only animals, to be used in a movie to retain a PG-13 rating.
4. McKay advises Ferrell to take a nap when he is given a concussion by Kyle Gass. He quotes a so-called well-known saying: “If you have a head wound, right to bed, sleep tight. Everything will be all right.” Other well-known sayings that McKay quotes includes “Less than eight drinks, don’t drive your car; more than eight drinks, drive so far” to determine if you can drink and drive, and “If you have a handgun and children in the house, keep the handgun quiet as a mouse and underneath the coffee table for everyone to see” for safe firearms practice.
5. Ferrell claims to have a helicopter on stand-by, hovering only a few feet off the ground, for personal transportation. He also inexplicably claims to have only made between $9,000 and $10,000 per month in 2003.
6. Lou Rawls had no idea why he was invited to be on the commentary. Ferrell claims he invited him because he wanted it “to sound professional and right.”
7. Rawls owned a piano, but he could not play it well. He believed the human voice is the most beautiful instrument. McKay thinks it is the wah-wah pedal, or the CB radio.
8. Even in his later years, Rawls did up to 200 show dates annually.
9. Some of the clubs Rawls performed at in his early years had no dressing rooms. He often had to change in the men’s room, and the clubs were so small, his band often had to play on the side of the stage.
10. After an impromptu scat battle, it is revealed that Ferrell’s most common scat word is “boop.”
11. Ferrell wanted to grow a mustache for the part, and it fit the character. Rawls suggests it would have looked better if he had more sideburns. He describes Ferrell as “Chevy Chase with a mustache,” which is similar to some bad reviews that suggested Ferrell looked like “Ted Baxter with a mustache.”
12. At the time of recording, David Koechner claimed to make money by selling shoes on the street after buying them cheap at thrift stores. He brought his dog and kids with him, and he always made enough money to feed his kids (though not always the dog). He later predicts that the standard for exhibiting movies in ten years (which would be 2014) will be as alternative cuts shown to people on the street by used shoe vendors.
13. Rawls is not a doctor, a surgeon, or a general.
14. During the anchorman rumble, the Spanish-language news team starts out with seven guys on the stairs, but only six enter the rumble circle.
15. Though shot as a joke, according to McKay, there were several bloody anchorman rumbles in the 70s. Coincidence?
16. The Channel 4 news team drinks Miller High Life beer (with obscured labels) after the anchorman rumble. Rawls does not approve of Miller High Life as an acceptable beer.
17. Adam McKay claims his favorite commentary is for Men at Work, starring Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez. (Spoiler alert: there is no commentary on the Men at Work DVD.).
18. The woman and little girl who shame Ron Burgundy on the streets is McKay’s wife and daughter.
19. McKay thinks the funniest scene in the film is when Ron Burgundy gets a pep talk from Danny Trejo in the bar. He says it always makes him laugh because people took it seriously and didn’t laugh during screenings.
20. Both Paul Rudd and Christina Applegate call in during the commentary. Both phone calls end in tears.
Best in Commentary
- McKay: “The only thing more pathetic than us sitting around talking dirty like this is me cracking up laughing at that 36-year-old man. That does sound appetizing, though, a pepperoni pizza sprinkled with pubic hair.”
- McKay: “There’s nothing more beautiful to me than a woman in a black evening gown and a ski mask with only her breasts and crotch exposed.”
- Richter: “Paul Rudd? He’s about as fucking funny as All My Children.’”
As much as I dearly love Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, I’ve never been a fan of off-beat commentary tracks. This is possibly the most off-beat one I’ve heard. If you’re looking for general trivia from the film or a look behind the veil of the production, you won’t get it here.
In fact, the absurdist nature of the commentary track gets wearing after a while. Jokes are played too long, which is not uncommon with unedited, unbridled comedic performances. There are many ridiculous things said during the event (some noted above, and yes, I realize many of these “facts” are hogwash), but too much time is spent dragging the jokes out.
Oddly enough, the most interesting moments in the commentary come when Lou Rawls shows up. The man is clearly flattered by being included, but he is also befuddled as to why he is there. This plays up some innocent comedy and shows some heart behind both Ferrell and McKay, especially in the light of Rawls passing away not too many years after this commentary was recorded.