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Will Ferrell is Broadway box-office champ as George W. Bush — a Tony (and Emmy) ahead?

February 24, 2009 |  2:34 pm

Will Ferrell continues to set Broadway box-office records as former president George W. Bush in the satire "You're Welcome America." Last week the laffer — which opened to mixed reviews Feb. 5 — made serious money, raking in $871,127 and setting a new house record at the Cort Theatre. The limited run is set to end March 15, with HBO airing the show live the night before.

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That double whammy means Will Ferrell could well be competing at both the Tony Awards and Emmy Awards this year. At the Broadway kudos, Will Ferrell would contend in the catch-all category of special theatrical events. This race has been won by star turns from the likes of Elaine Stritch and Billy Crystal since it was created in 2001.

That was the year Will Ferrell competed in the individual performance category at the Emmy Awards for his work on "Saturday Night Live" — he lost to Barbra Streisand for the second of her series of comeback concerts. But he could well be back in that race for the HBO edition of this hit show.

HBO has had great success at the Emmy Awards with their comedy, music and variety specials over the years. Last September, Don Rickles' retrospective of his 50-plus years as a comedian won both individual achievement and the program award. Among the shows he beat were those from a trio of other stand-ups: two HBO specials featuring perennial Emmy loser Bill Maher and the late great George Carlin as well as one by Bravo's Emmy bad girl Kathy Griffin.

In 2007, HBO had two stand-up specials contending but both Lewis Black and Wanda Sykes lost to "Tony Bennett: An American Classic" with the singer also taking the individual prize. In 2006, HBO's Maher and Carlin specials lost to the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics. HBO did not compete in 2005 though Showtime's Dave Chappelle lost to the Tony Awards (kudos now compete in a separate special class). In 2004, Elaine Stritch took both show and individual achievement for recreating her 2002 Tony winning show on HBO, edging out among others Chris Rock and Ellen DeGeneres for their HBO stand-up specials. In 2003, Robin Williams' HBO comeback comedy concert lost to Cher and her never-ending farewell tour.

HBO had no stand-up comedy specials in the running in 2002 and the previous year only had Ellen DeGeneres in contention who lost to Cirque du Soleil. While stand-up shows by Chris Rock and Eddie Izzard lost to the "SNL" 25th anniversary in 2000, Izzard did win individual achievement. And while Carlin and John Leguizamo lost to the Tony Awards in 1999, Leguizamo too won the individual prize. In 1998, it seems there was nothing especially funny on TV. However, in 1997, Chris Rock won HBO its first Emmy in this category for a comedy special (Streisand's first comeback concert had won the paycaster the award two years before as had Cirque du Soleil in 1992.)

Photo: Playbill

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