Bringing 'The Greatest Fro on Earth' to the Big Screen

If you ever have the good fortune to meet Will Ferrell on the street, choose your shouted salutation wisely.

"Let's go streaking!" is an obvious choice, but one that lumps you in with several million like-minded collegians.

Scream "Stay classy, San Diego!" and he will nod and say, "Yes. San Diego should do that."

And no matter how much craftsmanship you put into your hand-sewn Buddy the Elf costume, know that he's seen several in recent weeks. It has gotten to the point where Will Ferrell has to leave the country to hear a fresh Will Ferrell line.

"I was in Ireland for two weeks in January," he says. "Just taking a trip with my dad and my brother and 'Anchorman' has achieved cult status in Ireland. Specifically in Ireland. So there were many comments to the effect of 'I wanna be on you,' or 'Milk is a bad choice.' Obscure ones that I didn't even remember from the film."

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Ferrell, 40, sits in a locker room normally reserved for the University of Rhode Island women's basketball team ("Nice," he says. "Musty.") In a few hours, 6,000 people will ignore a winter storm warning to watch him fight ninjas, sing serenades and take questions from the audience while circling the stage on a Jazzy; the sort of battery-powered scooter favored by retirees.

It is the final stretch of the "Funny Or Die" comedy tour, launched in conjunction with the release of "Semi-Pro," another film chock full of his favorite things: funny hair, tight shorts, sports and the 1970s.

"I mean there's something intrinsically hilarious about the '70s," Ferrell said. "It's hard to believe that, that was an era that people existed in. People got dressed in bell-bottoms and zipper boots and were like 'Honey I'm heading off to work and I look good.' 'Honey I'm thinking about growing out my sideburns and connecting them to my moustache.' 'Do it.' Just a weird, hilarious time."

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In the movie he plays Jackie Moon, a playing owner-coach for the Flint Tropics, a failing ABA team struggling to win enough games to earn a merger spot in the high-class NBA. It was a real league, remembered more for desperate, outlandish promotions, like "Gerbil Night" than for the quality of the basketball.

"At one of the all-star games, and I forget who was the MVP that year, he was given a thoroughbred," Ferrell recalls. "A quarter horse was his prize for being MVP of the ABA All-Star game. And the horse died like a month later."

Like Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights," and Ron Burgandy in "Anchorman," Jackie Moon is another character with an enormous ego and a tiny intellect. But by all accounts, Ferrell is exactly the opposite: a decent guy with a wife and two young kids who came into the world inherently funny, and somehow managed to remain demon-free.

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From Funny Voices to SNL

He grew up as a studious jock in Orange County, California. His father played keyboard and sax with the Righteous Brothers but Ferrell swore off showbiz — until he was asked to give morning announcements in high school.

"You knew you were hitting a chord when teachers were coming up to you at a rapid pace, normally you would think you were in trouble and they'd be like 'Hey, you keep doing that, that's hilarious,'" he says. "I took a whole evening — six hours — I wrote out my bit and it felt like a half-hour. I thought, 'Oh, I should remember this doesn't feel like work, this is just fun.'"

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