You can tell Will Ferrell has a new movie coming out because he’s doing the darndest things.
On March 12 he played for ten Major League Baseball teams in five spring training games in one day. Since then he’s roasted Justin Bieber, walked red carpets at South By Southwest, dressed as a leprechaun with David Letterman, appeared in snack cake queen Little Debbie drag on The Tonight Show and traded barbs with Jon Stewart while wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with dozens of pictures of Zack Galifianakis.
He’s pulling out all the stops to make sure everyone knows Get Hard, his comedy about a rich man who hires a coach (Kevin Hart) to prep him for prison, opens this weekend.
A few years ago I landed in the middle of one of Ferrell’s outlandish publicity stunts.
In July 2012 he was stumping for The Campaign, a political satire co-starring Zack Galifianakis. The hot-and-steamy Toronto summer afternoon began with the actors riding down Yonge Street, throwing out campaign buttons to passers-by until they arrived at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Inside I hosted a press conference with them and Mayor Rob Ford. On stage actors posing as Mounties guarded the Stanley Cup as Ford, then most famous—and controversial—politician in Canada, gave the guys advice on how to campaign. Nothing was rehearsed and everyone was a bit nervous as I brought the three to dais.
Ferrell talked about what happened next on the Late Show with David Letterman.
“We step up to the mic. We’re supposed to say a few words, and I say, ‘How about a big round of applause for your mayor, Rob Ford.’ It was literally… not even a smattering of applause, just two people.”
“It was just so silent, that I actually had to comment on it. So I said, ‘Mr. Mayor, that’s a horrible ovation,’ and the press core burst out laughing. And he was just laughing. He didn’t care. Just sweaty.”
Ford was a good sport and played along. He gave them each a miniature Stanley Cup, pinned “Rob Ford for Mayor” buttons on their chests and handed out his famous business cards, fridge magnets and bumper stickers before imparting some sage advice.
“It’s very simple. Every person you meet hand out a magnet and business card and return people’s phone calls. Customer service is number one.” With a laugh he added, “and don’t talk to the Toronto Star,” the newspaper that had been dogging him of late.
It may not have been the smoothest promotional stunt of all time, but it certainly was a memorable one.
The next year Ferrell worked Ford into the promotion for Anchorman 2. By this time Ford’s scandal-ridden term in office, fuelled by admissions of drug use, had rocketed him into the international spotlight.
Ferrell, in character as ridiculous San Diego newscaster Ron Burgundy, came out in support of Ford’s re-election. “Ron doesn’t realize how much trouble Rob Ford is in,” said Ferrell. “He just thinks he’s a great guy. Gregarious. Fun. Life of the party. Ron’s advice would just be ‘keep doing what you’re doing, it’s obviously working.” He even wrote a campaign song to the tune of Loverboy’s Working for the Weekend.
As usual, Ford took it all in stride, tweeting, “I had to laugh at my friend Ron Burgundy & his take on my 2014 re-election campaign song.”
There’s been no mention of Rob Ford in the promotion for Get Hard, but if Ferrell ever makes The Campaign 2: The Re-Election perhaps he’ll give the former mayor a call.