Will Ferrell delivered the keynote address at USC’s 134th commencement. (Photo/Mike Glier)

University

Wisdom from Will Ferrell: Gags and guidance from his USC commencement address

The comedian, a 1990 USC graduate, keeps the audience laughing but has some thoughtful observations, too

May 12, 2017 David Medzerian

Comedian Will Ferrell, a 1990 USC graduate, received an honorary doctorate and delivered the main address at today’s commencement ceremonies. As you’d expect, there were plenty of jokes but also some surprising insights. Some highlights:


“I would like to say ‘thank you, graduates’ for that warm welcome. I would also like to apologize to all the parents who are sitting there saying, ‘Will Ferrell? Why Will Ferrell? I hate Will Ferrell. I hate him. I hate his movies. He’s gross. Although he’s much better-looking in person. Has he lost weight?”


“I want the university to know that I do not take this prestigious honor lightly. I’ve already instructed my wife and children that, from this point on, they have to address me as Dr. Ferrell.”


“You are the graduating Class of 2017 and by every statistical analysis, you are collectively considered the strongest class ever to graduate from this university. All of you excelled in various courses of study — all of you, except for four students, and you know exactly who you are.”


“It is incredibly surreal, one might even say unbelievable, that I get to deliver this address to you. As a freshman in the fall of 1986, if you were to come up to me and say that in the year 2017 you will be delivering the commencement address for USC, I would have hugged you, with tears in my eyes. I then would have asked this future person, ‘Does that mean I graduated?’”


“After my first show [on Saturday Night Live], one review referred to me as ‘the most annoying newcomer of the new cast.’ Someone showed this to me and I promptly put it on the wall of my office, reminding myself that, to some people, I will be annoying. Some people will not think I’m funny. And that’s OK.”


“Even now I still lose out on parts that I want desperately. My most painful example was losing the role of Queen Elizabeth in the film The Queen. Apparently it came down to two actors, myself and Helen Mirren. The rest is history. Dame Helen Mirren, you stole my Oscar!”


“No matter how cliche this may sound, you will never truly be successful until you learn to give beyond yourself.”


“To those of you graduates sitting out there who have a pretty good idea of what you would like to do with your life, congratulations. For most of you who maybe don’t have it all figured out, that’s OK. That’s the same chair I sat in. Enjoy the process of your search without succumbing to the pressure of results. Trust your gut. Keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”