Theories may fly as to why Will Ferrell chose tiny Bismarck, North Dakota to have his character Ron Burgundy deliver the early evening news, and management at KXMB, happy host to Ferrell/Burgundy, doesn’t have the answer.
“We’re not sure why he chose us,” says Tammy Blumhagen, corporate sales manager at station parent Reiten Television and point person for Ferrell’s visit to KX News. “But we’re happy he did.”
The ball got rolling on Ferrell’s visit back in May, when one of the actor’s reps—Blumhagen would not give a name—contacted the station about having Ferrell show up to anchor the news as Ron Burgundy, as part of a promotion for the film Anchorman 2. Staffers outside of the management team were kept in the dark until this past week; anchors, including Burgundy’s partner for the night, Amber Schatz, were told three days before his Nov. 30 cameo.
Ferrell flew into Bismarck that day, and was in character for the entire 1 ½ hours at the station, which included a rehearsal of the 30-minute newscast. “We wanted to get everybody more comfortable,” says Blumhagen. “We wanted to work out a few jitters.”
He flew out the same day.
Part of Ferrell’s reason for showing up in Bismarck is that he was en route to Winnipeg to guest announce a curling championship as Burgundy. The film comes out Dec. 18.
Blumhagen says there was “constant contact” over the months with Ferrell’s management, and the station pushed for assurances that the integrity of the newscast would not be diminished by the funnyman. While he cracks several jokes between stories, Ferrell/Burgundy plays the news parts fairly straight. “We did not want to devalue the product or the brand,” she says. “Will was very open to us making sure he was careful.”
The newscast video and script are en route to Washington, Blumhagen says, where they will reside at a Burgundy exhibit at the Newseum.
There are around 158,000 TV homes in Minot-Bismarck-Dickinson (DMA No. 145); Blumhagen says around 99.8% of audience comments on Ferrell’s guest spot have been exceedingly favorable. Many more have viewed the 30-minute clip on station site KXNet.com—it had been viewed 400,000 times as of the morning of Dec. 2—before much of the country had returned to work after the holiday. A typical newscast’s traffic is around 10,000, says Blumhagen.
Blumhagen, anchor Schatz, and several other staffers came out of the weekend with a career highlight and lifelong memory. “He was fantastic to work with,” says Blumhagen. “He’s a super-nice guy.”
A Ferrell rep did not return a request for comment at presstime.