I like Will Ferrell. I think he’s funny. Big deal, right? I mean, liking Will Ferrell is like liking peanut butter. Yeah, I like peanut butter. Who doesn’t like peanut butter. Everybody in the U.S. likes peanut butter and then some.
But I was watching an old SNL episode (yes, my husband and I are the only two left in America still watching ER and and SNL, even when it’s not funny, on a regular basis), where there was an Oracle conference skit and Ferrell plays a motivational speaker. The premise is simply he’s supposed to kick off the conference, has some equipment failure, gets mad, and falls off the stage, and you know what? None of the lines, as written, were particularly funny or witty. It’s just him. He is just a funny guy. He’s just so committed to the moment without any irony, so just when he goes “Welcome to Oracle 2008! Who’s ready to get this conference started?” with whole-hearted enthusiasm, you can hear everyone in the studio audience peeing in their pants.
Mini Ferrell Career Review
I loved “Talledega Nights” (the hits that followed a little less so, b/c the screenplays weren’t as jam-packed with ridiculousness), again, the way he commits to the kiss with Ali G was one hundred percent. (My favorite scene is when he’s with Michael Duncan and he stabs himself in the leg — and he curses Michael Duncan’s son, and Michael Duncan says his next line with such believeable anguish and heat, I fell out of my chair. It’s so intense, I couldn’t stop laughing.) When he ventures into more serious material — not so good.
Remember “Stranger with Fiction”? There’s a scene where he cries, which is supposed to be some kind of turning point for the character, but I could have given a rat’s arse. It didn’t work. There’s something that’s not expressive enough in his face and doesn’t work for the intimate moments. He’s not Steve Carell, who really knows how to act, but can also be big and small. Will Ferrell just knows how to be…which is a.o.k. He’s excellent at ridiculous and big.
My friend Becca heard an interview with him on NPR how he was temping at a bank when he first got started and his “Stranger Than Fiction” character is actually closest to his real personality and the life he could have led. Terri Gross also asked about his body, how his flabbiness is key to his comedy. And he gently responded that, “You know, reviewers keep making that comment, but the truth is I jog all the time.”