'Anchorman' live reading, on the scene: Ron Burgundy, philanthropist?

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Even when he’s stripped of the polyester suit, bushy mustache, and ’70s news desk, it’s always hilarious to hear Will Ferrell shout, “Great Odin’s raven!” Ferrell and the rest of the Anchorman cast gathered at Santa Monica, California’s Broad Stage on Thursday night for a live reading of the 2004 comedy’s script, a benefit for the nonprofit writing and tutoring center 826LA.

Ferrell’s Ron Burgundy was joined by the rest of his Channel 4 News Team — Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), Champ Kind (David Koechner), and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) — along with lady love Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Jack Black, Chris Parnell, Danny Trejo, Fred Willard, and Fred Armisen even showed up for their minor roles, with Maya Rudolph voicing any non-Veronica ladies (including the role of the Mama Bear in her captioned conversation with Baxter the dog). Director/writer Adam McKay read all the stage cues aloud, while narrator Bill Kurtis lent his golden pipes to the event.

Conan O’Brien hosted the festivities and filled in for Vince Vaughn’s rival newsman during the live reading. “Only in L.A. do they do charity readings of screenplays,” O’Brien said, joking that the next benefit would be a script reading of Bio-Dome 2. As the night’s MC, he laid out some ground rules for the evening: “If you have hard candy, unwrap it now — and stick it up your ass.” When the crowd reacted to his profanity, O’Brien said, “There are no kids here. Who would bring children to a benefit for children?”

Black was asked by producer Judd Apatow — in the audience with his family — to perform a song from the Anchorman soundtrack. Instead, he penned an original tune about what happened to the motorcycle man from the first movie (you know, Black’s character, who punts poor Baxter off the bridge). “Spoiler alert,” Black sings about Anchorman 2. “I’m not in the f—in’ movie.” As he cautions in the song’s hilarious lyrics: “Don’t ask me to sing a song at your sh–ty event if you don’t even put me in the film.”

Armisen sang a pair of songs: On Eddie Money’s “Baby Hold On,” O’Brien played guitar, and on Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town,” Black and Rudolph teamed up for the epic bass solo — using only their amazing voices.

Then the whole team filled the stage for the script reading. You know how the legend goes, but a major highlight was the News Team’s rendition of Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight.” While I assumed some movie magic played a part in the quartet’s perfect harmonies in the film, I learned Thursday that not only can they handle it, they can perfectly re-create it nearly a decade later.

When Entertainment Weekly caught up with Apatow before the reading, we asked if Ron Burgundy would support a cause like 826LA. “I think he would be very charitable,” Apatow said. “I think he would do the Jerry Lewis telethon — a local version and he would host.” Apatow has supported the L.A. tutoring center for years, and he helped mastermind the night’s events. “When we were in pre-production on Anchorman 2, it occurred to us that if we just read Anchorman out loud, maybe people would show up and it would be a fun, easy way to raise money for the tutoring center, and everyone was nice enough to agree to do it.”

And when Judd came calling, Christina Applegate was quick to sign on. “Judd is a special person in my life, and I love what he’s doing for these kids,” she told EW. “And I think that creative writing and expository writing is part of expanding your brain. And even if that’s not going to be your career, they’re taking it out of schools and they’re not really supporting it like they used to. It is an art form, and we need more of that. The arts is something that has so suffered, and yet people who’ve excelled in the arts have gone on to do great things.”

Thursday’s event raised nearly $350,000 for the nonprofit. For more information on 826LA, head to their website.

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