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Roll out the Will Ferrell

Promo standup tour expanding to more cities

It began last summer as a “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if …” brainstorm to promote Will Ferrell‘s movie “Semi-Pro” and to spread the word about the comedian’s FunnyOrDie.com comedy vid website.

But as “Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die Comedy Tour Presented by ‘Semi-Pro'” winds up its eight-city tour Feb. 24 at Radio City Music Hall, that brainstorm appears to be evolving into a very real business opportunity for Ferrell and Funny or Die.

The standup tour featuring Ferrell and simpatico younger comics Zach Galifianakis, Demetri Martin and Nick Swardson has been wildly successful, so much so that CAA, which reps the four comics and packaged the tour, has been inundated with offers to book the “Funny or Die” express in other cities.

The fist-pumping response from the tour’s college crowds suggests there’s more gold to mined on the road — not just from ticket sales but from spreading the word about upcoming films and bringing more eyeballs to FunnyOrDie.com.

There’s talk of assembling a similar tour (albeit sans Ferrell) to tubthump the upcoming Jeremy Piven pic “The Goods: The Don Ready Story,” from Paramount Vantage and Ferrell’s Gary Sanchez Prods.

A homevid release or TV special of the original tour are also possibilities, if Ferrell and his Gary Sanchez/Funny or Die compadres Adam McKay and Chris Henchy like what they see when they review footage shot during the past month.

The tour, which opened Feb. 4 at Kansas State U.’s Bramlage Coliseum, was carefully targeted to college towns to hit the sweet spot of the Ferrell demographic.

The show blends standup perfs from each of the comics with generous helpings of Ferrell, including an “Ask Will Anything” audience Q&A and a segment devoted to interviews of college officials conducted by Ferrell in the arrogant-anchorman guise of Ron Burgundy.

“It’s been a bigger and more rewarding experience than any of us thought,” Henchy says. “The response from the kids has been totally insane. … When Ron Burgundy comes out you just feel a wall of sound and laughing hitting you.”

The showstopper has been the big finale featuring the four stars belting the Alicia Keys‘ hit “No One”: “They could close the Olympics with this one,” Henchy assures.

Henchy fell into the role (“by default,” he says) of directing the shows, which were only “loosely” conceived before the tour began.

The haul from ticket sales (from total attendance of about 75,000) could have been greater if they hadn’t focused worked with the schools to keep ticket prices college-aud affordable, in the $30-$45 range, at venues ranging from 6,000- to 15,000-seaters.

The shows have provided ample clip material for FunnyOrDie (the “Ask Will Anything” segs have been particularly popular), and some of FunnyOrDie’s greatest hits have been screened as interstitial fare at the shows.

It’s above and beyond the call of duty for Ferrell, who’s known for tirelessly promoting his movies. Not surprisingly, “Semi-Pro” is getting the kind of buzz-building push that movie marketers dream of.

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