The “Saturday Night Live” alum and movie star was born in Irvine, California. He attended the University of Southern California and worked a series of odd jobs before ending up in the famed Los Angeles comedy troupe The Groundlings, which launched him onto “SNL.”
After Ferrell moved on from “SNL,” he appeared in a diverse array of movies, ranging from the slapstick “Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby” to the existential comedy “Stranger Than Fiction.”
Will Ferrell on ‘SNL’
Ferrell joined “SNL” in 1995 and stayed for seven years. During his tenure on the show, Ferrell developed impersonations of public figures ranging from “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek to “Inside the Actors Studio” host James Lipton to then-Attorney General Janet Reno. He also honed some recurring fictional acts, such as nightclubber Steve Butabi, who he would go on to play in the movie “A Night at the Roxbury.”
On “SNL,” Ferrell became known for his goofy if sometimes biting sense of humor and his physical comedy. He also began appearing in comedic feature films during that era, from the “Austin Powers” movies to “Zoolander.”
Watch Ferrell in a classic “SNL” skit here:
Ferrell Took His George W. Bush Impression to Broadway
Will Ferrell is one of “SNL”’s great impersonators, and perhaps his most famous performance in that regard was his George W. Bush impression. Ferrell even performed the impression on Broadway in 2009, in a one-man show titled, “You’re Welcome, America,” according to the New York Times.
Ferrell apparently never visited the White House, as his predecessor Dana Carvey did. But in a 2012 appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show “Conan,” Ferrell recounted his one meeting with Bush, back at “SNL” in 2000, where Bush visited when he was hitting the campaign trail.
“I got to meet him once,” Ferrell told O’Brien. “He was then still governor. He was running for president. And they made a big deal about, ‘Would you come down? He’s a huge fan, he really wants to meet you.’ And I thought, okay, okay. You get down to the studio, and there’s tons of, the White House press is all around him—the campaign press, I mean. And they just [said], ‘Go up and say hello!’ And so I’m like, ‘Hi, Mr. Governor. Thanks so much.’ He’s like, ‘Pleased to meet you.’ And I can tell he has no idea who I am.”
“He’s looking at me,” Ferrell went on. “And he’s like, ‘Is this a long week for ya? The show’s hard work.’ I think he thought I was like a crew member or something, I don’t know. So I just said, ‘Anyway, nice to meet you.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah.’ And I walked away. And then I think he added it up later.”
Watch Ferrell reenact the meeting here:
Will Ferrell, Movie Star
Since “SNL,” Ferrell has appeared in a string of hit comedies. In “Talladega Nights,” Ferrell parodied NASCAR racing, laughing with racecar drivers rather than at them. (Since that 2006 film came out, NASCAR has embraced it, with Kurt Busch even including Ferrell’s character’s “Me” livery on his car during a race.) In “Elf,” he played an accident-prone elf, Buddy, who is returned from the North Pole to his biological father in New York City, where Buddy wreaks havoc with his father’s life.
Ferrell has also starred in “Anchorman,” “Old School,” “Semi-Pro” and “Step Brothers” and appeared in “Zoolander 2,” among many others.
In 2007, Ferrell co-created “Funny or Die,” a streaming website for comedy shorts that users can vote on. He also branched out into producing (HBO’s “Eastbound & Down”) and executive producing (“The Chris Gethard Show”).
Watch Ferrell portray racecar driver Ricky Bobby in “Talladega Nights” here: