Washington, D.C. — This October, The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize salutes Will Ferrell. The program airs Monday, October 31 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. Taped at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on October 23, the 90-minute special features a star-studded cast of Ferrell’s friends and colleagues including top entertainers Billie Joe Armstrong of the band Green Day, Ed Asner, Jack Black, Matthew Broderick, Gwen Ifill, Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Conan O’Brien, John C. Reilly, Paul Rudd, Andy Samberg, Molly Shannon and Ben Stiller. The evening pays tribute to the humor and accomplishments of the television icon and motion picture star.
Raised in Irvine, California, Ferrell attended USC and graduated with a degree in sports information. Upon graduation, he worked as a sportscaster on a weekly show broadcast over a local cable channel. Soon after, he enrolled in acting classes and stand-up comedy workshops at a nearby community college and was eventually asked to join the esteemed comedy/improv group The Groundlings after just one year of training. It was at The Groundlings that Ferrell was discovered for Saturday Night Live.
Ferrell starred for seven seasons on Saturday Night Live. Some of his most memorable SNL characters include Craig the Spartan Cheerleader, musical middle school teacher Marty Culp, and President George W. Bush. Among his many impressions are Janet Reno, Alex Trebek, Neil Diamond and the late, great Chicago Cubs sportscaster Harry Caray. His work on SNL earned two Emmy nominations in 2001 (Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program).
Ferrell’s film credits include The Other Guys, Megamind, Stranger Than Fiction (Golden Globe nomination), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Zoolander, Elf, the Woody Allen feature Melinda and Melinda, Old School, and the screen adaptation of The Producers, which earned Ferrell his first Golden Globe nomination in 2006 for Best Supporting Actor. Ferrell’s latest project is set to star in the independent feature Everything Must Go, directed by Dan Rush. Based on a Raymond Carver short story, Ferrell portrays an alcoholic who has relapsed and in turn loses his wife and job.
In 2009, Ferrell debuted on Broadway by headlining the sold out, one-man comedy show You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush. Nominated for a Tony Award® in the “Best Special Event” category and directed by longtime collaborator, Adam McKay, Ferrell perfected his infamous Saturday Night Live character “President George W. Bush.” At the end of its Broadway run, Ferrell performed the show in its entirety live on HBO.
In 2007, Ferrell and McKay founded the overwhelmingly popular and award-winning video website Funnyordie.com. With hundreds of exclusive celebrity videos and a steady stream of huge viral hits, Funny Or Die has become the “place to be seen” for comedic celebrities, and the obvious destination for a daily comedy fix. The site’s first video, “The Landlord,” has received over 73 million views and features Ferrell confronted by a swearing, beer-drinking two-year-old landlord. The site averages over 7 million unique viewers and over 24 million video views per month.
Will Ferrell is the 14th recipient of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Past recipients of the prize have been Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009) and Tina Fey (2010).
Will Ferrell: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize is a production of WETA Washington, D.C.; CoMedia; Mark Krantz Productions; Cappy Productions and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Executive producers are Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, Cappy McGarr and Michael Kaiser. WETA executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson.
Major funding for Will Ferrell: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Air travel is generously provided by American Airlines.
The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was created in 1998 by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mark Krantz, Peter Kaminsky and Bob Kaminsky and Cappy McGarr to recognize the art of humorists who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain*. As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Will Ferrell will be presented a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain, sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853-1940). The bust and its images are courtesy of the Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut.
The Kennedy Center, as the nation’s center for the performing arts, recognizes and presents all of the performing arts including opera, jazz, musical theater, drama, ballet and dance, as well as symphony and all kinds of smaller musical ensembles performing every imaginable kind of music.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal, In Performance at the White House, The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War, THE WAR, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, The Tenth Inning and Prohibition. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.
*"Mark Twain Prize" TM/© Chase Manhattan Bank and Richard A. Watson as trustees of The Mark Twain Foundation Trust under license authorized by CMG Worldwide Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, 46256 USA.