Will Ferrell likes to do wacky stuff, and often, that wacky stuff involves a sports element. Like doing interviews on Spanish-speaking soccer telecasts despite having no command of the Spanish language. Or maybe it’s announcing the starting lineups at an NBA game. Or making the weirdest Super Bowl ads in the history of Super Bowl ads. And now, in his latest turn, serving as a fake security guard at a Lakers game wearing a nametag reading “Ted Vagina” and removing Shaq from the premises:
These antics can vary in how amusing they are, but this morning, as I tried to properly take stock of them all, something dawned on me – something that made me think Ferrell might be on to something bigger with all these stunts. A well-known comic actor showing up at various sporting events with seeming free rein to amuse himself and/or get a rise out of the crowd isn’t unprecedented: Bill Murray does this sort of thing all the time.
The “Ferrell sort of = Murray?” speculation isn’t new – here’s a Slate piece from a couple years ago positing that Ferrell’s film career may eventually mirror his SNL forebear’s – but Ferrell’s setting the stage to build his legend in a similar way off the screen, too. And if that’s what Ferrell’s trying to do, I’m all for it. I said “build his legend” for a reason – Murray is a larger-than-life figure to the point that stories about him famously blur the lines between reality and fantasy. And Murray stories are endlessly entertaining, from him maybe covering that one stranger’s eyes and uttering his now-famous line to him definitely crashing that karaoke party.
But there’s something Ferrell has to do if he wants to get on Murray’s level: get weirder. He’s made some progress in this area on the movie front – as the above-linked Slate piece noted, he pumped up his capital-A Actor credentials with a few comedy-dramas, one of them even an indie release, and upped the weirdness quotient (if not the goodness quotient) with the Spanish-language Casa de mi Padre last year.
But he’s gotta go smaller-scale on his public stunts to truly reach Murray’s level. Mix in some high-profile bits at major sporting events too, but also pretend to, say, throw random people out of bars. Walk down the street in full Ron Burgundy costume even while not filming Anchorman 2. Be a man of the people, but show yourself rarely enough that seeing you in public is an event. Ferrell’s got Bill Murray potential down the line, and plenty of time to get there – he’s 45, and Murray’s 62. He’s off to a good start. But until his public performance art includes everyday fans as often as it does the likes of Shaq, as a Bill Murray successor, no one will ever believe him.