Will Ferrell recently received the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Award for American Humor. His is only the fourteenth award of its kind. He joins luminaries like Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and Tina Fey. A full list of award winners may be found here: http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/specialevents/marktwain/. (Only living comics can receive the award. George Carlin died before the ceremony, but after being notified of his win, so he still got it.)
In terms of popularity, Ferrell is certainly a force. Some viewers, however, don't find him as impressive as other comic icons who have been granted the award (or who are waiting to be so honored).
The problem is that so many of his characters are stupid and that so many of his films are relatively lowbrow. However, it takes a really smart man to play stupid so consistently well. And while many of his movies don't appeal to everyone, he has actually demonstrated great depth in his abilities.
Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm not overly fond of all of his movies. I didn't like STEP BROTHERS or BLADES OF GLORY. There were parts of ANCHORMAN and TALLEDEGA NIGHTS that I enjoyed, although none of them involved the spectacle of Ferrell in his underwear.
Ferrell has had some winning roles, however. His performance in ELF is touching, combining an innocence and sweetness that many of us can only imagine conjuring in ourselves, even at Christmas.
I very much enjoyed STRANGER THAN FICTION, where Ferrell actually gave us a different side of himself, showing his humanity and his range. This was the first movie in which I considered him as a realistic romantic lead, where I found myself really rooting for him. It's also the only movie of his I can see myself rewatching regularly.
Of course, I can watch him on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE reruns forever. Ferrell quickly and decisively became the driving force in show, giving us memorable characters, timeless scenes, and plenty of cowbell. Here's Will as Alex Trebek:
Part of what made his tenure on the show magical was his impersonation of George W. Bush. I can picture him now, stumbling over his words as deftly as Chevy Chase's Ford used to stumble over furniture. I wonder, since I can remember Chase's Ford better than real Ford (I am still young, after all), how many kids will know Ferrell's Bush better than the real thing. To watch one of the impressions, go to http://youtu.be/EkqrI3IibYI.
Ferrell's role in his one-man play about Bush, YOU'RE WELCOME AMERICA, was an astounding performance, one that captured Bush in a more fully developed way, giving us not just a caricature, but a character.
Ferrell is also notable for his many enjoyable TV guest shots (30 ROCK, THE OFFICE, etc.) and for his work with FUNNY OR DIE.
Congratulations to Ferrell for a well-deserved win. We look forward to many more years of laughter.
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