Will Ferrell is an actor and comedian best known for his roles in Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Saturday Night Live. He isn’t just a funny guy- there are many layers to the man, the myth, the legend.
“All you have in comedy, in general, is just going with your instincts. You can only hope that other people think that what you think is funny is funny. I don’t have an answer but I just try to plough straight ahead.” – Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell Facts
43. Hidden Talent
As a kid growing up in Irvine, California, no one would have guessed that Will Ferrell would grow up to be a comedian. He played football in High School, and was a typical guy. He was also on the school government, was outgoing and popular, but never tried too hard to be a class clown.
When he was 10 years old, Will Ferrell was asked to write an essay in school about what he wanted to be when he grew up. He wrote that he wanted to be a professional soccer player, and a comedian whenever soccer wasn’t in season.
41. A Morning Person
When he was a little boy, he would wake up very early. Instead of going back to sleep, he would do things by himself. He even played board games like Monopoly against himself.
40. Taking it Literally
Even though he wasn’t trying too hard, Will would still come up with hilarious lines as a teenager. One day, his math teacher told the class, “OK, we’re going to do some exercises.” Will stood up, and started doing jumping jacks right in the middle of class.
39. It Runs in the Family
Performing must run in the Ferrell family, because Will’s father, Lee, was in a band called the Righteous Brothers. He played saxophone and keyboard.
38. Breaking Up Is Hard
At 8 years old, Will’s parents got a divorce. When asked about his childhood, he explains that both of his parents did it very amicably, and he always tried to look on the bright side. However, as he got older, he saw how his father struggled financially as a musician, which made him want to attend college and focus on a more “realistic” career.
37. This Just In…
In High School, Will Ferrell did the morning announcements. He used this as an opportunity to try out different voices every day. This was great practice for his acting career.
36. Bright Future
Will Ferrell graduated High School in 1986, and attended the University of Southern California, where he studied sports journalism. This obviously came in handy later, when he starred in the movie Anchorman.
35. Party Hard
While in college, he joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. His days of partying on campus must have helped shape his iconic character Frank the Tank.
34. Growing Thick Skin
Part of the reason why Will Ferrell always held back on showing his funny side when he was a kid was because he was terrified of embarrassing himself in public. The prospect of bombing during standup comedy is, indeed, scary. So, in order to get over his fear, he would purposely put himself in humiliating situations. His first attempt was pushing a projector across his college campus, and allowing his pants to fall down to reveal his butt. He asked his friends to make fun of him loudly, point, and egg on other students to laugh at him. In this way, he got used to people laughing at him in a negative way, and he was able to build up his tolerance to it.
33. The Intern
After college, Will Ferrell scored an internship with NBC in the Sports Journalism department, but he ended up realizing it wasn’t the career path he actually wanted, so he quit. He moved back home with his parents, and started pursuing comedy.
32. The Struggle is Real
After college, Will worked various part-time jobs. He was a waiter, a valet, and bank teller. He says that he was “terrible” at all of these jobs. He lived with his parents until he was 24, when he could finally afford to move out.
31. Guest Spots
Will Ferrell didn’t make his TV debut until 1995, when he was 28 years old. Some of the first TV shows he showed up on were individual episodes of the sitcoms Living Single and Grace Under Fire. While it wasn’t an ongoing gig, it was enough to make Will feel comfortable on camera.
30. The Wound Smells Like Almonds
At 30 years old, he made it into his first feature film. He played Dr. Evil’s assassin, “Mustafa” in the 1997 movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
29. The Best of the Best
Before making it on TV, he was learning improvisation and comedy at The Groundlings, an acting school in Los Angeles. Other notable alumni from the school are Kristen Wiig, Kathy Griffin, and Lisa Kudrow.
28. Don’t Make Me Come Up There!
Will Ferrell’s first audition for Saturday Night Live, he said that roughly 75 people were trying out. He showed them a character he used when performing at The Groundlings, the “Get Off The Shed” guy, and he got the job.
Lorne Michaels is the producer of Saturday Night Live, and he is the main man to impress when it comes to getting on the show. One idea Will Ferrell had to make Lorne laugh was that he was going to walk into the room with a briefcase full of fake money, and open it on the audition table. He was going to begin taking out piles of the money and stacking it in front of Lorne as a “bribe” to get the job, saying, “We all know what really talks, here.” Leave the room, and not come back.
26. Smash Hit
The SNL crew loved his audition so much, that his very first skit on Saturday Night Live was the “Get Off The Shed” character that he created. The audience loved it, and he quickly became a fan favorite.
25. Over the top
Years later, in an interview with Esquire Magazine, Will Ferrell explained how he analyzes his own comedic technique. Rather than being quick-witted and clever, he takes a funny concept, and takes it one step further. For example, “instead of just yelling at someone in a scene, you’re yelling to the point where you’re losing your voice”.
24. Terminally Adolescent
Will Ferrell specializes in character-based comedy. The characters he plays are often over-the-top, and he gets laughs from their personalities. His true self is far less goofy, and it is obvious when he is in interviews that his actual personality isn’t anything like the characters he plays on TV and movies.
23. The Brotherhood
After starring in “Old School”, Will Ferrell ended up in a team of comedians referred to as the “frat pack”. The other members of the “frat pack” include Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Vince Vaughn, Owen and Luke Wilson, and Steve Carell. They all ended up playing in comedies where their characters often needed to do raunchy things. They all eventually broke away from the frat boy reputation with more serious acting roles.
22. Background Comedy
In 1996, Will Ferrell was in the movie Kingpin as an extra, but he was never given credit. During a scene where Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson were bowling towards the end of the movie, a voice shouts, “Ernie, you’re the man!”…That’s Will Ferrell.
Will met his wife Vivica Paulin at an acting class in Los Angeles. She has a degree in Art History, and became a professional auctioneer. She is originally from Sweden. They visit Sweden at least once a year.
20. The Friend Zone
When they first met, Will and Vivica were just friends. Will even began dating another woman, because he didn’t think Vivica wanted to date him. One night, they had a few drinks, and Vivica admitted that she had feelings for him. Will was elated, and immediately began gushing about how he had feelings for her, too. The rest is history.
19. The Happy Couple
In 2000, Vivica and Will Ferrell were married. They created a happy family together with three dogs, and three kids.
18. We’ve Got a Good One
In 2001, he became the highest paid Saturday Night Live cast member with a $350,000 per season salary. They knew just how funny he was, and they were desperate to keep him on the show, since they knew he helped the ratings.
17. Runner’s High
Vivica and Will ran and completed the Boston Marathon in both 2001 and 2003.
16. Bigger and Better Things
In 2002, he began focusing on acting in movies, and stopped appearing on SNL on a regular basis. He still made multiple cameos up until 2008.
15. I KNOW HIM!
In 2003, Will Ferrell starred in the Christmas movie “Elf”. When recalling making the film he said that he was a grown man running around New York City in tights, and seriously questioned if he made a mistake agreeing to the movie. He even became worried it may end his career. However, it did the exact opposite and “Elf” became a holiday classic.
14. Never Again!
In 2013, he was offered $28 million to make Elf 2. He turned it down. That was probably a good choice, because it’s perfect as-is.
13. I Must Be Traveling On, Now
On Conan O’Brian’s last episode of The Tonight Show, Will Ferrell and his wife Vivica performed a funny cover of the song “Free Bird”. Vivica was 9 months pregnant at the time, and she went into labor hours after the episode finished filming. They gave birth to their third son, Axel that same night.
12. Comedy Castle
The Ferrell family lives in a house that was once owned by Ellen Degeneres. Although Ellen is known for owning multiple homes and selling them at a profit, the Ferrells live in an actual house that she once lived in.
11. The Big Apple
Aside from living in LA, Will Ferrell also owns a loft in New York City. It is a former printing factory from the Victorian Era. They purchased the home in 2010, and had to majorly renovate it.
Will Ferrell co-founded the website FunnyorDie.com with Adam McKay and Chris Henchy. The website has a number of popular series including Zach Galifianakis’s “Between two Ferns”, a mock interview show where Zach asks celebrities uncomfortable questions. The company became so successful, that they began producing TV shows like @midnight.
9. The Theater
Will won a Tony Award for a play he wrote and starred in called Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush. In an interview on the Nerdist Podcast, he told Chris Hardwick that he was worried that Bush supporters would give him a lot of hate for the parody. However, people universally seemed to love it.
8. Feelin’ the Bern
During the 2016 Us Presidential Election Primaries, he publicly endorsed Bernie Sanders.
7. A Day At the Beach
In 2009, he decided to help raise awareness for skin cancer research. He sold bottles of sunscreen with images of himself nearly naked. Their “brand” names were “Sexy Hot Tan”, “Sun Stroke”, and “Forbidden Fruit”. The proceeds of selling the lotion went to Cancer for College’s College Willpowered Scholarship Fund, which helps childhood cancer survivors get a college degree.
6. Take Me Out to the Ball Game
In 2015, he participated in major league baseball games during spring training. Some of the money from ticket sales also went to Cancer for College.
5. Getting Serious
Will Ferrell doesn’t just act in comedies. He has starred in a handful of dramatic films, including Everything Must Go in 2010. The story is about a man who is getting a divorce. His wife locks him out of the house, and leaves all of his belongings on the front lawn. When asked about the role in the movie, he responded, “I’ve never had a yard sale, ever, in my life. I don’t know if I ever thought about stuff I would get rid of.”
Comedy acting is extremely hard, and yet it is often not awarded with Oscars. Will Ferrell has won MTV movie awards, a Kid’s Choice Award, and the British Comedy Academy Award.
Will loves to cook at home for his family. He days his favorite type to cook is Thai.
2. Well-Deserved Recognition
In 2015, will was immortalized on with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
1. American Idol
When asked about his dream role, Will Ferrell answered that he would love to play Simon Cowell. This makes sense, since he is so good at impressions, and Simon is such an iconic figure in entertainment with a ton of potential for humor.