Ferrell's "Anchorman" character trashes Shawn Mendes and more as he drops by to visit Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and James Corden all on the same night.
What a weird night of late-night television, with many fans speculating and gossiping about who the special secret guest being hyped across all the major shows would be. Did anyone expect this?!
It is something that certainly seems unprecedented, with "The Tonight Show," "The Late Show," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," "Late Night, "The Late Late Show" and "Conan" listing a "special guest" on the same night. Would it be the same person? How would this work? Who could possibly be big enough to warrant a virtually complete late-night takeover like this.
Names like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama got tossed around, as well as countless other guesses as to what this could mean. The name floated out there that ended up being the mystery guest: Ron Burgundy, making his stand-up debut ... across six shows and four networks.
It was essentially impossible to watch all of it live on television, making this a stunt built for the DVR age and the era of catching late-night clips online. There, Will Ferrel's "Anchorman" star absolutely dominated the airwaves. And all of this to promote Season 2 of his podcast "The Ron Burgundy Show."
This is not something that ever would have happened in the contentious days of late-night television with Leno, Letterman and O'Brien. It's a testament to the camaraderie of Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Conan O'Brien and James Corden that their teams were willing to coordinate all of this into one night of ridiculousness and ... not-that-great-comedy.
Don't get us wrong, Will Ferrell was hilarious and absolutely nailed the character of Ron Burgundy, but Ron Burgundy should probably stick to newscasting. The podcast game isn't really his, though he did admit he kind of stumbled into it accidentally.
By the time you made it through all five appearances, Burgundy had probably done a half hour or more of material; enough for a rather terrible comedy special of his own. It was as if he was working out his stand-up muscles throughout the night, such as it was, so that by the time he reached the end of it, he actually had real comedian-like content, including callbacks and actual wordplay.
Early on, though, it was just weird angry rants about things that made little sense. At one point he talked about the trade war with Canada, and jumped on some booing from the audience. "Yeah, boo, I'm with you," he shouted. "I hate Canadians. It's refreshing to speak your mind with an anti-Canada audience."
At another point he asked if the crowd was excited about the upcoming "Star Wars" movie. "Is there a new 'Star Wars'?" he asked as a follow-up. "I have no idea. I just say that and people go crazy."
It was a lot of crowd pandering and awkward to non-existent transitions. And yet, Colbert invited him to the couch, a classic late-night gesture dating back to Johnny Carson: if Johnny invited you to the couch, he really liked your set.
"How long has Ron Burgundy been doing stand-up?" Colbert asked him. "About 20 minutes, or how long was that set?" Burgundy replied.
Colbert then showed how the sausage was made just a bit, noting that Burgundy was appearing on all the late-night shows tonight at the exact same time. "All in one night, tonight," Burgundy said, adding pointedly, August 8."
Clearly, the episode wasn't being taped on August 8, and his jokes about wearing a scarf and turtleneck in August make us wonder just how long these shows have been putting this together. It's worth nothing, Burgundy wore the same outfit on every show, too, committed fully to the bit.
Probably the best interview segments of the night happened on "The Late Show" as Stephen Colbert really leaned into his own improv background to push and challenge Ferrell as Burgundy. When asked what the biggest story of the year was, Burgundy did not hesitate to name "The Bueller Report."
"Look, no collusion, definitely obstruction, but the fact that you select a fictional movie character to investigate the president is way beyond my pay grade," he continued. "I'm still curious, was it Matthew Broderick playing Ferris Bueller who conducted the investigation, or was it just someone who said his name was Ferris Bueller.
They also talked about Burgundy's most dangerous story, which he said was reporting on the Vietnam War from behind his news desk. "I turned in a lot of Vietnamese spies to the FBI," he revealed. "Later I was told that's what is called racial profiling and you're not supposed to do that."
They then took some time to talk about Burgundy's beloved dog from the first film, who was apparently still alive. After some quick math they determined he was "62 years young."
Ferrell clearly did his research, or just knew the random trivia, to share the last time he was in Colbert's studio space in the Ed Sullivan theater. He actually correctly identified the performer who was booked to share the night during the most famous rock-and-roll appearance in the history of the theater.
"I was here in 1964 to see my favorite magician Fred Kaps and we were so excited," Burgundy shared. "We had to listen through this incessantly screeching band called The Beatles. And they were just carrying on and on. It was like, 'Get off the stage! You're never gonna make it anywhere! You're bums!'"
Another great line came when talking about what a great businessman Trump was, with Burgundy quipping, "I invested in Trump University. And what was great, I wrote the check and I got three degrees."
Colbert definitely kept Burgundy on the show longer than most, and by the end of their interview it was all either man could to to keep from laughing. Colbert was pushing Ferrell's improv brain as hard as he could to try and stump him, even poking at the fact that Burgundy said he "reveals recipes" on his new podcast.
"You reveal recipes?" Colbert probed. "Are they secrets?"
Finally, he asked how legendary newsman Ron Burgundy came to be doing a podcast in the first place. "To tell you the truth, Stephen, I didn't know what a podcast was," Burgundy said. "I got kind of sold a bill of goods so now I'm stuck in an airless, windowless room in a basement with a smelly microphone and some zit-faced teenager on the board trying to fill 40 minutes of my day."
And his fans can listen to how that turns out once a week on "The Ron Burgundy Podcast" -- they also go into the names that were rejected to come up with this one -- on iHeartRadio.
Burgundy's comedy set on "The Tonight Show" leaned heavily into Fallon's New York roots, with him doing some more pandering by saying, "New York City in the house. But the he thought about it.
"New York City in the house? How could 17 million people fit in a house anyway? That's a lot of toilet paper, if you ask me."
The response was as tepid and confused as on Colbert, which left us wondering how many people in those studio audiences have no idea it's Will Ferrell under that mustache and wig. Did anyone actually think this was some newscaster they don't know telling terrible jokes?
If they did, they had to be wondering why Jimmy Fallon was laughing so hard he had to get up and walk it off in the background. Sure, Fallon laughs at everything, but this?
And then, looking for material, Burgundy went in on Shawn Mendes for no apparent reason. "Have we got any Shawn Mendes fans here tonight? Don't like him, never have," he said before jumping into a baseless accusation. "He stole some of my songs and my singing style. When he goes to that falsetto."
He then sang a few words of Mendes' "If I Can't Have You," telling the audience, "I wrote that song about Camilla Cabello because she broke my heart but now all the fans think that he wrote it about her, but he didn't. I did. I wrote the damned song! I swear to you I wrote the song. And now I'm the laughing stock of the pop music world. And I want to tell you, Shawn, one thing. I don't like it. It's bush league."
Okay, so a lot of Ron Burgundy's stand-up material is Ron Burgundy shouting and getting angry ... so at least he's staying on brand.
When Fallon marveled that Burgundy even did stand-up, the newsman said, "Oh yeah, it's been a lifelong passion of mine for about a week now."
He also proved himself an incredible storyteller, not just in his stand-up routine but in painting pictures to answer Fallon's questions. For example, Fallon asked him at one point where he records his podcast.
"A room," Burgundy said quickly. And then after a pause, he expanded to add, "A room with a microphone and chairs."
Just like Colbert, Fallon let Will Ferrell go down the rabbit hole of his own twisted mind, which somehow led into a discussion about how inconvenient that he carries his money around in the form of "Grover Clevelands," or thousand-dollar bills.
And apparently, Shawn Mendes isn't the only artist he had beef with. When asked what his most difficult interview was, Burgundy said, "Two words. Kylie Minogue."
"You never want to meet your heroes," he continued. "Boy, Kylie and I, from the moment she came into the studio, we just looked at each other and it was on. She just bit me right in the ass. And then when she was done, she bit me in the c--k and balls."
And with that, Ferrell was off to the races. It escalated into a knife fight until both were laid up in the emergency. But it's all good today. "We're good friends now."
Over on Kimmel, Burgundy was still clearly working out the kinks of his routine, though he absolutely loved the audience reception. "A standing ovation? Get out of town," he marveled. "Much deserved, much deserved."
It was here that he mastered the art of the effective transition. As a quick example, he did a joke about California and then shifted gears with this beautiful gem: "No but I love southern California. Transition. Transition. How many of you out there have watched pornography; show of hands? No joke here, just was checking."
No other late-night show got treated to Burgundy's celebrity impressions, either, and he absolutely did not do two of the laziest and most overdone impressions of all time. No, he did Jack Nicholson and Jimmy Stewart and it went about as well as you'd think.
And it looks like Burgundy is committed to making this new career avenue work for him, as he wrapped his set by telling the crowd, "Next week you can catch me at the San Antonio Pizza Hut. Not sure they do comedy there, but I'm gonna give it a try."
In a brief interview segment with Kimmel, he admitted that "It's the first time I've done standup." He further admitted, "I steal a lot of the jokes. But that's what's great, you can cherry pick. And the other comics, they don't care."
And by first, he of course means it's one of the first three times he's done stand-up as Colbert, Fallon and Kimmel all air at the same time. So in a way, it was the first time on all three shows!
Meyers got a special treat on his show, as Burgundy tried yet another angle on his burgeoning stand-up routine. He decided to give ventriloquism a try, bringing out J.J. Hipster as his plucky sidekick.
Unfortnately, J.J. quickly morphed into Burgundy's own inner voice of self-loathing and hatred that he tries to bury under alcohol. "J.J. and I went to the Empire State Building today--" Burgundy tried, but interrupted himself with J.J.
"No we didn't, you're such a hack," the puppet said. "J.J. you better be quiet or I'll put you back in your box," Burgundy joked with a smile.
"Oh please do. Put me in that box. Duct tape it shut and drop it in the river. Because this-- this right now-- what we're doing in front of these people is a nightmare."
It went from bad to worse to Burgundy physically assaulting J.J. and to this point we're still not sure if J.J. survived the encounter. It didn't look good there at the end
"I think we'll edit out, uh, parts of it," Meyers said of the routine.
When they finally got to talk about Burgundy's show, Meyers asked if him if he listened to a lot of podcasts. "I enjoy them," Ron said. "I love '60 Minutes' and 'The Voice,' 'The Bachelor.'"
It might just be that he still doesn't know what a podcast is.
By the time he made his way to Corden, Burgundy almost knew how to construct a comedy set. He had jokes about PayPal and how if he has to pay you're not his pal. He played with the words mini-bar, wondering then why the corner bar isn't called a giant refrigerator.
But then he tried his hand at a callback after clearly having no punchline for his Trump joke. "President Trump says he wants to build a wall and that Mexico is going to pay for it," he said, setting up a joke at least two years too late. "Mexico? Are you kidding me? Mexico? They're going to pay for it? Mexico? Mexico?! Mexico?!? Mexico?!?! Let me ask you this, Mr. President. How do you expect Mexico to pay for this wall? Oh let me guess, Paypal?"
When asked how long he'd been doing stand-up, Burgundy let us know that this must have been the last stop on his takeover tour. "I've only done stand-up five times," he said. And all of that in less than two hours!
Corden then kept Burgundy out there for a segment from the San Diego Zoo that brought out alligators a skunk and a cougar. Ferrell was in fine form, with some great jokes about the animals, but even that wasn't as funny as watching just how squeamish Corden was around the animals.
"He is literally looking at me like he wants to eat me," Corden said of the alligator taking over his desk.
"He wants you to lick his snout," Burgundy said. "I can read his body language."
When the cougar came out, Burgundy jumped up and headed behind the couch before settling down at the end of it. "What's the problem, Ron?" Corden asked him.
"I'm just gonna take a knee down over here," he joked.
Animal bits are a staple of late-night talk shows, and with Ron Burgundy on hand for this one it had twice as many laughs as usual.
Over on Conan's TBS show, Burgundy tried his hand at prop comedy and, well, it could have gone better. And, yes, his set included a farting Vladimir Putin doll.