From there, the show becomes a mishmash of inside jokes, which net huge laughs, and are virtually impenetrable to a Tipton outsider. He throws out Champ Kind's catchphrase, "WHAAAMY!" to thunderous applause. Then he dives into some character work: "Roy," a lisping, overweight gay man whose boyfriend is also named Roy, and has two cats named Siegfried and Roy. ("I know, it's confusing.") Then Gerald "T-Bones" Tibbons makes his much anticipated appearance. Koechner pulls the trigger on "River."

"Sometimes a river, it'll talk back to ya. You know what they say, 'Old man river he don't say nothing'? Well, Missouri rivers is straight up loquacious. Won't shut up, and a horrible gossip, that river, talking about every inlet stream that feeds it. Dirtiest joke I ever heard was told to me by a Missouri river. Can't repeat it. So dirty it would make a hobo blush. Speaking of hobos, one time I was at the Missouri State Fair..."

The word "cunt" is notably absent.

A school gym in Tipton became 
David Koechner’s comedy club for 
his homecoming in August.
Danny Wicentowski
A school gym in Tipton became David Koechner’s comedy club for his homecoming in August.

When the show concludes the crowd doesn't leave. They drink the rest of the beer. Koechner spends two hours taking pictures, signing autographs and slapping the backs of old high school friends.

Finally, the stragglers begin caravanning out, taking the party to Aces, one of the town's two bars. Koechner lags behind them, staying at the gym to mingle.

Inside Aces, brother-in-law Morgan, who's been drinking since early in the evening, is holding court.

"A small-town boy," Morgan says of Koechner. "This is just the natural matriculation of the fucking work he put in, of the steps he took, how much he fought. Dave is just growing into his own age, because he's looked 50 since he was 30, so now that he's 50, he's going to be gigantic."

Morgan may be right. It's still late summer, but the hotly anticipated sequel to Anchorman is due out in a few short months. Koechner is preparing for a flurry of promotional touring, appearances and interviews leading up to the December 18 release, which is sure to elevate his profile higher than ever.

"That's all I've heard for ten years: 'When's the next one?'" says Koechner. "I've never seen such anticipation for a project."

There are seven pieces of metal hanging from a makeshift shed outside Koechner's childhood home, a neat, white-paneled structure with a jungle gym in front. The metal pieces are oblong and twisted objects — hooks and squared-off bars of irregular lengths.

"My dad once bought a bunch of scrap iron, a big box of bolts and other things," Koechner explains. "He had each of the kids pick out something that represented them."

He points at the center, two cylindrical pieces locked together as a T. "That's mom and dad. That's the union."

The comedian's light brown eyes tear up slightly when he talks about his father, Cecil, who died in 2011 at the age of 80. Then he points at a small, curved piece, farthest to the left.

"I think that one's me. The screwy one."

Koechner was born in 1962 and grew up a middle child among two brothers and three sisters. His older brother, Mark, now runs the family business, Koechner Manufacturing Company Inc., which has sold turkey coops since 1960.

"David had an aura about him," Mark says. "When he walked in the room, people drew to him, stopped to look at him."

Nana Dueber, now in her sixties, babysat for Keochner and recalls him as trouble early on.

"David and Mark wanted to play cowboys and Indians, and I said sure," she says. "They tied me up to a dining room chair. Seriously, tied to the dining room chair. They were running around the table 'shooting' guns, and I'm yelling at them, and they're just laughing. It's something I have never forgotten, and I never babysat for them again. Oh my Lord, that was horrible."

In 1985, Koechner, then a junior-year political-science major at the University of Missouri in Columbia, took a trip up to Chicago with some friends for a show at the improvisational comedy mecca Second City.

"Being from small town, I had never met an actor. I didn't know how you become one," recalls Koechner. "So I saw the show, and as I was going down the stairs I saw they offered classes, and I was like, 'Oh! Of course! That's how you learn. Classes!'"

Koechner promptly dropped out of college and moved up to Chicago. He eventually studied with Del Close, a pioneer of improvisational theater who molded a generation of comedians in the '70s, '80s and '90s. During those years, Koechner performed regularly with a bunch of struggling nobodies: Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and future Anchorman director Adam McKay, among others.

Koechner also met Dwyer, a comedian who's now based in LA, and both men formally joined the Second City troupe in 1994.

"He taught me to commit even if you're doing something that's not going well," recalls Dwyer. "You just fucking plow through it and give it your all. You make it work. It's a very Chicago attitude."

In 1995, after nearly ten years honing his craft, Koechner was spotted by a casting director for MADtv. She tipped off Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, who invited Koechner to New York City for auditions. On his third round, Koechner found himself sitting in an office with Michaels and writer Steve Higgins. At the end of the meeting, Koechner says, Higgins leaned over and whispered in his ear: "Congratulations, you're hired!"

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