The Kennedy Center announced Thursday that Ferrell, 43, had been picked as its 14th recipient.
More than anything, said center chairman David M. Rubenstein, Ferrell represents his generation’s embrace of comedy’s broad range. “Will Ferrell is clearly one of his generation’s finest comedic performers,” said Rubenstein in a statement.
In acknowledging the honor and the legacy of its namesake, Ferrell also issued a statement. “I am truly honored to receive this distinction. I will now begin cultivating a Mark Twain-esque mustache in anticipation of the event.”
The award will be given October 23 at the center’s Concert Hall.
Ferrell’s career started with a group called The Groundlings, a Los Angeles improv group, the same home that groomed Maya Rudolph, Laraine Newman, Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman.
In 1995 Ferrell joined “Saturday Night Live” and over seven seasons built a storehouse of characters.
“Certainly he is known for those sketches,” said Cappy McGarr, one of the show’s long-time executive producers. “The Cheerleader, yes, Craig the Spartan Cheerleader, his impression of George W. Bush. This prize is about funny and Will is funny. He’s both a physical and intellectual comedian.”
After leaving SNL in 2002, Ferrell built a movie resume that includes “Zoolander,” “Wedding Crashers” “Stranger than Fiction,” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” This week Ferrell is taking a dramatic turn in “Everything Must Go.”
McGarr also salutes him as a founder of Funnyordie. com, a website started in 2007.
“I think it has 24 million video views a month. It has been a very effective way of making the world laugh,” said McGarr.