Biography

If I had to bet, I’d say the caption under Will Ferrell’s high school yearbook photo says “Class Clown”. As one of the members of the “Frat Pack”, Ferrell has starred in some of the highest-grossing comedies in the ’90s and 2000’s.

Born John William Ferrell in Irvine California in 1967, the future actor got his start in high school, when he read the morning announcements in a variety of voices. He studied sports broadcasting at the University of Southern California, graduating with a degree (and membership in Delta Tau Delta) in 1990.

After a stint with the improv troupe the Groundlings and some TV parts, Ferrell joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1995. During his seven-year tenure on the show, he became famous for his impressions of George W. Bush, Cubs announcer Harry Caray, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, and Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, among others, and was nominated for an Emmy in 2001. He also took supporting roles in several comedies, including the Austin Powers movies with SNL cohort Mike Myers.

Ferrell left SNL in 2002. A year later, Elf and Old School established him as a box office draw, and steady work has followed, mostly in broad comedies such as Anchorman, Talladega Nights (both of which he co-wrote with director Adam McKay) and Wedding Crashers. In 2006, though, he took a leaf out of Jim Carrey’s book with a more serious role in Stranger Than Fiction, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

In 2006, Ferrell and McKay’s production company, Gary Sanchez Productions, launched a comedy video website called Funny or Die, which allows users to upload and vote on videos; celebrity contributors include Ferrell, Judd Apatow, Aimee Mann, Fergie, Jack Black, Kanye West, Owen Wilson, and Vince Vaughn. In June 2008, HBO announced it had bought a small stake in the website, commissioning 10 half-hours of programming as part of the deal.

— A. Wu