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Will Ferrell wins Mark Twain Prize

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Anchorman Farrell
Frank Masi

Great Odin’s Raven! Over 15 years after first breaking out on the scene with a seven-year stint on Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell has finally been rewarded for his contribution to comedy. Last night, the television/film/web star accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the highest honor for comedic actors in the nation. Naturally, the ceremony appeared to be more fun than anything any of us did last night — after accepting his statue (a brown bust of Mark Twain), Ferrell dropped it, breaking it into pieces, then told the crowd he had chosen not to accept the award 13 times, but caved because he wanted to be seen on PBS “by hundreds of people across this country.”

Admittedly, it’s surprising that the Kennedy Center chose to honor the actor in his post-Land of the Lost and Semi-Pro days, rather than in his AnchormanTalladega Nights heyday (though, he’s definitely rebounded in the past year with The Other Guys). Either way, he’s still in good company: Previous winners are Tina Fey, George Carlin, Steve Martin, and Richard Pryor. And, in my Anchorman-loving eyes, the actor certainly deserves to be placed in in the ranks of some of the greatest. He certainly has hit lows in his career (the aforementioned Land of the Lost), but so did the likes of Pryor (1982’s The Toy). There’s something to be said about an actor who can almost always make you laugh — and, when he doesn’t, still impress you with his commitment to the craft. (Remember this?)

Ferrell has always been one of my favorite comedic actors purely because of that desire to make his audience chuckle. One of the most alluring things about the art is its ability to turn you around on a bad day, or provide you with relief during a tough period in your life. (There’s a reason people say laughter’s the best medicine.) When you have an actor like Ferrell begging you to laugh with a ridiculous character, great one-liner, or thong, you follow suit, no matter what your mood. It’s what makes Ferrell as important as leather-bound books and walls of rich mahogany.

Not surprisingly, my go-to feel-good movie from Ferrell is indeed Anchorman. There’s something about its utter ridiculata that separates you from a real life in which Sex Panther doesn’t exist. (Runner-up: If I’m feeling winter blues, I almost always turn to Elf.) But now it’s your turn, PopWatchers: When you’re down, which Ferrell flick do you turn to? And who is his most ridiculous character?

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