There’s a great debate among my generation about the funniest “Saturday Night Live” cast member of all time.
The names that typically pop up are Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Will Ferrell. For some reason, while Amy Poehler and Tina Fey certainly held their own, women don’t often come up in the conversation. And we weren’t around for the Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner years so while their talent is appreciated, it’s not what we grew up on.
First of all, not to be a jerk but somehow Chris Farley and Phil Hartman became comedic geniuses after they died. They had some good sketches – I mean who can forget Farley yelling about living in a van down by the river? But a lot of his sketches centered around his weight and substance abuse – neither of which is particularly funny.
I’m a huge fan of Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Will Forte and Jason Sudeikis, but they fall into a category of entertainers that came along in my adulthood. This is a conversation about the mid-to-late 1990s comedians.
I think Chris Rock’s standup is among the best ever, and Adam Sandler has a few good movies, but I’m here to make a case for Will Ferrell being the funniest funnyman. I once heard someone say that no one really talks about what a great actor Sean Penn is because we’ve come to expect it. No one says, “That Meryl Streep, she’s pretty solid.” No kidding. It’s a given. Same with Ferrell. We would be shocked if he had a movie that flopped but we’re not typically surprised when he makes us laugh out loud. We count on it.
Exhibit A: We need more cowbell. The sketch with Christopher Walken had everyone cracking up, and it’s impossible to listen to that Blue Oyster Cult song without laughing your face off. When Ferrell’s shirt started riding up exposing his hairy belly, I thought Jimmy Fallon was going to fall over. I think what I like about Ferrell is just that deadpan humor. Like, “What? What’s the big deal? I’ll give you cowbell.” Genius. Add to that his impersonations of James Lipton and Alex Trebec and you have comedic sketch comedy gold.
But really his career broke out on the big screen after he left the SNL cast.
Exhibit B: “Talladega Nights.” If you’re not quoting this movie in your daily life you probably need to watch it again. I literally said, “If you’re not first, you’re last” about two days ago. I have a friend who I call Ricky Bobby. I sometimes pray to “little tiny baby Jesus” and say that I like to picture my Jesus in a tuxedo T-shirt because it’s like “He’s the Lord, but he also came to party.” I bought my fiancé and his son Crystal Gayle T-shirts that are duplicates of the one Ferrell wore in this movie.
Exhibit C: “Blades of Glory.” Another of my overused quotes: “I will skate to one song and one song only: ‘My Humps.’” Add Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Jon Heder and the fabulous Nick Swardson to the mix and that’s a movie I’m going to watch and purchase and watch again. I mean, who thinks of this stuff? A male figure-skating duo make good with a cameo by the real Nancy Kerrigan? Hilarious. Way better than “I, Tonya,” for the record.
Exhibit D: “The Other Guys.” This is a buddy cop movie with Mark Wahlberg preceding “Daddy’s Home,” also with Wahlberg. “The Other Guys” taps into Ferrell’s genius as a naïve unsuspecting adult who functions as a bit of a pushover for the cooler, better-looking guys. It’s a great shtick for Ferrell and he picks it up again playing a stepdad with Wahlberg as the dad in “Daddy’s Home.”
Exhibit E: “Stepbrothers.” This movie is pretty much my generation’s “Animal House” or “The Jerk.” While I don’t think it was a box office hit, it gets better every time you watch it, and the quotes are priceless. I really can’t quote any of them here because my mother reads this paper.
Exhibit F: “Elf.” This has become such a classic that it really doesn’t need highlights. It’s on TV every year; pretty much everyone has a copy on DVD and it’s just solid. It has some lulls where it tries to tell the story of Christmas and beckons the viewer to hate James Caan, but Ferrell as Buddy the Elf is one of his best, most memorable performances ever.
I didn’t mention “Anchorman” for a reason. It didn’t really do anything for me. I’m sort of a picky eater when it comes to comedy. I like to laugh out loud and pick up little snippets that I can quote later with my friends. “Anchorman” kind of bored me, but I realize I’m in the minority on that. To each his own.
Until next time, laugh a lot and share your favorite comedies and comedians with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.