Will Ferrell Puts the Funk in the Dunk

For Will Ferrell, sports comedies mean big bucks at the box office and a string of new quotes for the international lexicon.

After he raced cars in Talladega, Ferrell had millions yelling "Shake and bake!" He donned a spandex one-piece suit to "kick some ice" in "Blades of Glory." And he took lumps from father Robert Duvall in the kids soccer movie "Kicking and Screaming."

With his latest comedy, the basketball saga "Semi-Pro," Ferrell promises new laughs when he puts the funk in the dunk.

In an interview with Peter Travers for ABC News Now's "Popcorn," the funnyman admits he has a propensity for sports comedies, but explains: "It is the third-slash-fourth sports comedy I've done. But this one's special because I love basketball."

The star, a lifelong jock and sports broadcasting major, describes "Semi-Pro" as a passion project.

"I love the story of the ABA [American Basketball Association] that a lot of people don't know, which was this alternate universe to the NBA, and had all these insane characters," he said.

Foremost among that cast of insane characters is Ferrell's Afro-sporting, bear-wrestling on-screen persona Jackie Moon. Like Ferrell's past characters, Moon is more talk than talent. Ferrell explains that Moon, owner-coach-player for the Flint Tropics, "was the heart and soul of the team, but not the best player necessarily. … He'd make a key shot every now and then."

"Semi-Pro" follows fledgling ABA teams, like Moon's Flint Tropics, through a merger with the more lucrative NBA. At the fore of the film is the rowdiness of the psychedelic 1970s. Ferrell said jokingly, "The '70s were insane, I think, intrinsically a funny period of time."

To read Peter Travers' Rolling Stone Review of "Semi-Pro," please click here.

An element of that intrinsic hilarity was the American Basketball Association and its notorious antics: "The things we do in the movie, as over the top as they might seem, were kind of what was going on in this basketball league at the time. Guys were playing for $12,000 a year and a new refrigerator."

With second-tier players in lesser markets, teams like the Flint Tropics reverted to over-the-top spectacles and wild promotions, including one event dubbed "Free Gerbil Night."

"We try to capture all that zaniness in the movie," Ferrell said.

Off camera, Ferrell has yet another way to capture his "zaniness" with the video-sharing Web site FunnyOrDie.com.

Ferrell calls the site "an outlet" for himself and frequent comedic partner Adam McKay. He joked, "My wife wants me to get out of the house so I can shoot short videos."

The site made its now-infamous debut with "The Landlord," a video in which McKay's 2-year-old daughter, Pearl, plays a potty-mouthed, beer-swilling landlady.

Ferrell was pleasantly surprised by the success of the raucous debut.

"Who knew that it was going to be this much-talked-about video that launched this whole thing? It took about an hour to shoot one day after my son's 3-year-old birthday." That hour of filming has subsequently led to more than 50 million hits, placing "The Landlord" as the third most-viewed Web video ever.

In spite of her popularity, Pearl has retired early. Ferrell explained, "She did her work and she's done with it, she's over it. She wanted too much."

Other than Pearl, Ferrell finds much to laugh at among his colleagues. When asked whom he enjoys watching, Ferrell replied, "So many people. Steve Carell is making me laugh, Seth Rogen is making me laugh, Jonah [Hill]. This whole new gang of young men and women coming around the corner are making me laugh."

As for his prospects in this "cruel industry," Ferrell is not so sure. He muses how "one minute you're up, one minute you're down. So I've got a back-up."

Ferrell explains that a soulful ditty he debuts in "Semi-Pro" gives him an idea for a future career. "I know my future holds for me a lot of wedding performances. I'll come sing 'Love Me Sexy,' at your wedding."