Will Fer­rell keeps USC laugh­ing with light­hearted speech

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - JOHN ROGERS

LOS AN­GE­LES — He’s been a race­car driver, a Santa’s elf, a TV an­chor­man and now that he leaves the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia with an hon­orary doc­tor­ate in hand, Will Fer­rell told fel­low grad­u­ates Fri­day that he’s ready to de­liver a baby on an air­liner.

“Hope­fully it will be on United Air­lines, from which I will be im­me­di­ately sub­dued and dragged off the air­craft,” Fer­rell added to roars of laugh­ter as he de­liv­ered the com­mence­ment ad­dress to USC’s 134th grad­u­at­ing class.

The Emmy- and Golden Globenom­i­nated ac­tor-writer-pro­ducer ar­rived at the podium on the univer­sity’s cam­pus near down­town in full grad­u­a­tion re­galia.

For the most part, he shyly ig­nored a huge ova­tion as he walked in with other dis­tin­guished guests, in­clud­ing ac­tress He­len Mir­ren, in­stead wav­ing quickly to fam­ily and friends that in­cluded his mother, his wife and their three chil­dren.

At the podium he took a mo­ment to apol­o­gize “to all the par­ents who are sit­ting there say­ing, ‘Will Fer­rell? Why Will Fer­rell? I hate Will Fer­rell.’”

Then he took the Class of 2017 through a laugh-filled, self-dep­re­cat­ing 30-minute ride through his ca­reer since the day in 1990 he re­ceived a de­gree in sports in­for­ma­tion jour­nal­ism from USC. “A pro­gram so dif­fi­cult, so ar­du­ous, that they dis­con­tin­ued the ma­jor eight years af­ter I left,” Fer­rell said.

No mat­ter, by his se­nior year Fer­rell was be­gin­ning to re­al­ize his true call­ing.

Sev­eral times, he re­called, he’d in­ter­rupt friends’ classes by play­ing pranks on their pro­fes­sors.

One of the pro­fes­sors, the late, her­alded Ron­ald Gottes­man, ed­i­tor of “The Nor­ton An­thol­ogy of Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture,” was de­liv­er­ing a lec­ture when Fer­rell showed up dressed as a jan­i­tor, in­sist­ing he’d been sent to clean up vomit.

When he learned whose class he had dis­rupted, he was cer­tain he’d be or­dered to never do it again. In­stead, Gosse­man in­vited him back, earn­ing Fer­rell a class­room ova­tion when he ar­rived .

“Mo­ments like these made me be­lieve that maybe I was funny to whole groups of peo­ple,” he said.

He has starred in such films as “Get Hard,” “Elf,” “Old School,” “Blades of Glory” and “An­chor­man: The Leg­end of Ron Bur­gundy.” He was nom­i­nated for Golden Globes for his roles in “The Pro­duc­ers” and “Stranger Than Fic­tion” and Em­mys for his work as a pro­ducer on tele­vi­sion’s “Drunk His­tory.” He re­ceived the pres­ti­gious Mark Twain Prize for Amer­i­can Hu­mor in 2011.

But none of it came quickly or eas­ily, Fer­rell told the grad­u­ates, re­mind­ing them that crit­ics called him the most an­noy­ing new cast mem­ber when he joined “Satur­day Night Live” in 1995.

In a rare mo­ment of se­ri­ous­ness he ex­horted his au­di­ence not to be afraid to pur­sue their dreams, adding ev­ery­body at some point is cer­tain they’ll fail. But in his case he said, “My fear of fail­ure never ap­proached my fear of what if. What if I’d never tried.”

RICHARD VO­GEL, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ac­tor Will Fer­rell, left greets ac­tress He­len Mir­ren af­ter both re­ceived hon­orary de­grees from the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Fri­day.

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