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Will Ferrell Biography: From SNL to Anchorman 2

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Born July 16th, 1967, John William "Will" Ferrell first got noticed for his outrageous humor when he was a castmember on "Saturday Night Live." While there, he made a name for himself with his celebrity impersonations, wide-eyed craziness and enthusiasm for causing himself bodily harm. Since then, he’s made the move to the big screen, proving he can bring the funny in any medium by starring in such beloved comedies as "Old School" and "Anchorman." In this video, takes a look back at the comedy origins of Will Ferrell, from his days on "SNL" all the way to "Anchorman 2."

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Will Ferrell Biography: From SNL to Anchorman 2

He may be the most quoted man in Hollywood. Welcome to, and today we’ll be taking a look back at the comedy origins of Will Ferrell.

Early Days

John William Ferrell was born July 16th, 1967 in Irvine, California. Following university, he joined The Groundlings improv troupe in the early 1990s. After an audition where he parodied Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray, Senator Ted Kennedy and a cat, Ferrell joined the cast of the sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live” in 1995.


On “SNL,” Ferrell honed his comedy style and writing skills, and developed many original characters. Craig the overeager Spartan cheerleader and Steve Butabi both showcased his strengths as a physical comedian. Over the years, his characters stayed sharp, and Ferrell expanded on his talent for dead-pan deliveries, repressed rage and shouting, as well as his trademark vocal characteristics. One of his most famous sketches came in April 2000 when he was asked to give more cowbell.

During his seven seasons on the show, he also became famous for his celebrity impersonations. He starred as straight man Alex Trebek in the wildly popular “Celebrity Jeopardy” skits. He played a fawning James Lipton on “Inside the Actors Studio.” His Robert Goulet skits showcased his commitment to character. He also satirized George W. Bush during the 2000 elections, and this became one of his most beloved characters.

Early Movie Career

Ferrell appeared in a few films while still on “SNL.” He had a small role in the first two Austin Powers films. In 1998, he and Chris Kattan brought the Butabi brothers to the big screen in “A Night at the Roxbury.” Ferrell appeared in other SNL films, as well. He also portrayed the nemesis of his former castmate Ben Stiller in 2001’s “Zoolander.”

Ferrell’s film career really took off once he left “Saturday Night Live” in 2002. He also began a long-lasting collaborative relationship with former “SNL” writer Adam McKay around this time.

Big Screen Successes

In 2003, he showed his fearless side when he starred as Frank “The Tank” Ricard in the successful frat boy comedy “Old School.” That same year he also demonstrated his innocent, child-like traits in the holiday film, “Elf.”


In 2004, he co-wrote and starred as the confident, scotch-loving, jazz-flute playing title character in the popular film “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” This film showcased Ferrell’s skills as a writer as well as his rapports with fellow comedians, and is often named one of the funniest comedies of all time.

Keeping Busy

2005 was a busy year. Ferrell played a former Nazi in the remake of the comedy-musical “The Producers,” he had a brief but memorable cameo in “Wedding Crashers,” he was paired with Nicole Kidman in the flop “Bewitched,” and he turned into a crazy soccer dad in “Kicking & Screaming.”

The next few years included memorable characters for Ferrell. These films included “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” and “Step Brothers,” and both these films were also written by Ferrell. He showcased his love of sports in “Blades of Glory” and “Semi-Pro,” and lent his voice to a few animated children’s films. He reteamed with Adam McKay to write the ensemble comedy “The Other Guys.”

Funny or Die

During this period Ferrell also helped start the award-winning comedy website “Funny or Die” with McKay. The debut video on the site got widespread attention as it featured a drinking, swearing two-year-old landlord berating Ferrell.

You’re Welcome, America

In 2009, Ferrell took his Bush character to Broadway in the one-man show “You’re Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush.” Ferrell also took on a Spanish-speaking role in “Casa de Mi Padre” that year.

The Legend Continues

He wasn’t afraid to lend his talents to the small-screen: in 2011, he replaced longtime cast member Steve Carell for a few episodes after he left “The Office.” He kept busy with the comedy “The Campaign” the following year, in which he faced off against Zach Galifianakis for a seat in Congress.

But Ferrell fans were most eager to see him return as Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.”


Throughout his career, Ferrell has been nominated for Emmy’s, Golden Globes and even a Tony award. In 2011, he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which was the most prestigious comedy award in the country. And, while he has experimented successfully with drama, he became one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood due to his unparalleled comedic gifts.

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