Picking the best Anchorman joke is tougher than you would think. There’s a lot of Anchorman out here.
What’s that you say? Aren’t there just two movies, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues?
Nope. There are 4 movies. The first movie had so much unused material, including an entire scrapped plot about bank robbers, that the direct-to-DVD Wake Up, Ron Burgundy was released. This is completely worth watching, and it features many gems, including potential news-team cannibalism, Ron’s nude mentor Jess Moondragon, and some classic Anchorman exclamations such as “Son of a man-nipple!” and “Spider-Man’s balls!”
The fourth movie, which has been discussed in interviews with McKay and Ferrell, is an alternate version of Anchorman 2 with all different jokes and possibly some musical numbers. If you’re a fan of the smart, absurd writing of McKay and Ferrell, you should be drooling at the prospect of this DVD release. I liked the sequel, but I bet some of the alternate jokes are even weirder and better.
Then there’s the book Let Me Off at the Top, a biography “by” Ron Burgundy. Books written solely to promote a movie or TV show are almost universally terrible, but this book is so batcrap insane (and well-written) that it might be my favorite Anchorman product of all. Ron’s observations on women, America, prison riots, sex with Bruce Lee, and myths about his own hair are downright inspiring. He makes honest admissions such as “I once ate a ham dinner and then realized it was not ham,” “I am a sensitive man. I’m not afraid to pick a flower or delight in a butterfly or go for a skip,” and “One thing I’ve always stayed true to even if it meant never compromising is that Ron Burgundy is for sale.” I never hyperbolize or shout, but BUY THIS BOOK.
And how could I forget the seemingly infinite promotional appearances on talk shows, commercials, etc. Some of these are just as funny as anything else in the Anchorman canon, like a magazine ad for people who “think the Dodge Durango is more powerful than a man-eating Sasquatch.” TV ads for the same car show Ron pelting the car with eggs, then saying, “It’s just a good-looking machine, even when it’s thoroughly saturated with egg yolk.” Non-movie Anchorman humor didn’t start with the ad blitz for the sequel: to promote the first movie, Ferrell interviewed Burt Reynolds, mustache on mustache. (Spoiler alert: Reynolds ended up throwing Burgundy off a cliff.) My favorite promotional bit was when the legendary newscaster told legendary (yet somehow mustache-less, much to Ron’s amazement) quarterback Peyton Manning: “You look like a succulent baby lamb.”
Anyway, I don’t know if what follows is really the Best Anchorman Joke, but I nominate it for Most Unjustly Overlooked Anchorman Joke, because it always makes me laugh, and it hasn’t been beaten to death like “I love lamp” and “Milk was a bad choice.” It’s also a perfect expression of Anchorman’s premise.
Early in Anchorman, Brian Fantana is broadcasting from the zoo, where he reports he is unable to interview the panda Ling Wong. Frustrated, Fantana turns away from the camera to rant: “Hey, you’re making me look stupid. Get out here, panda jerk!” Back in the studio, Burgundy offers this summation: “Great story. Compelling and rich.”
For me, this quiet, idiotic response to a man calling a panda a jerk on live TV does a better job of showing Ron’s idiocy than out-there jokes like exclaiming “By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!” I don’t think anything could be less “compelling and rich,” or less of a story, than a man insulting a zoo animal. This joke cuts right to the empty core of (forgive the redundancy) crappy TV news: a blow-dried moron saying that insubstantial, meaningless hokum is actually real news.
In fact, this little scene is frightfully relevant to today’s journalists, who often make Ron Burgundy look like Edward R. Murrow. For example, on one of the days I was writing this column, I checked out the homepage of CNN, stupidly expecting to see news. For half a day, the top story was the Duck Dynasty guy’s comments on underage girls and how they are, whee doggies, the best type of female to marry. That was the top news story on Planet Earth. “Spider-Man’s Balls!” indeed.
I’m sure CNN does equally dumb things daily, along with every other news source, but this felt like a particularly ominous sign of the journalism apocalypse. I’m not that clear on who the Duck Dynasty guy is, and I refuse to look up his name, but I’m fairly certain his backwards views on women were not, are not, and never will be the top story, much less a story, in any world that exists. By comparison, Fantana’s frustrated cry of “Panda jerk!” is Pulitzer-worthy.
All CNN needed was Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper summing up the Duck Guy story like so: “Great story. Compelling and rich.”
Stay classy, journalism.