Will Ferrell wins nation’s top humor prize

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“It’s a rare friend who’s going to stick with you for five-and-a-half months,” he said.

Miss Shannon, who met Mr. Ferrell while she was a waitress in Los Angeles, said that contrary to his TV persona, Mr. Ferrell is very serious and sweet to work with. As for the award, she joked “Will’s agents and manager clearly bought this for him.”

Some of Mr. Ferrell’s famous sketches from “SNL” were played on the big screen, including his “Cow Bell” routine and “Craig the Spartan Cheerleader.”

When he was finally awarded the prize, a bronze bust of Twain, Mr. Ferrell promptly dropped it onstage and tried to pick up the broken pieces. He joked that he had turned the prize down 13 times before but decided to accept this time because of the prize money (there isn’t any) and to be watched on PBS “by hundreds of people across this country.”

He thanked the Kennedy Center as “one of the few places that uphold comedy as what it truly is, an art form.”

Mr. Ferrell is the son of a teacher and Roy Lee Ferrell, a guitarist for the Righteous Brothers. He grew up in Irvine, Calif., went to college at the University of Southern California and got his start in comedy with the Los Angeles improv group the Groundlings.

That’s where he was discovered by “SNL.”

Mr. Ferrell went on to make some outlandish movies including “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” ”Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “Old School.” He has also tried his hand at drama, including this year’s independent film “Everything Must Go.” One of his upcoming projects is a Spanish-language comedy, “Casa de Mi Padre.”

Mr. Ferrell told the Associated Press he has tried different avenues as movie studio budgets tightened. He opted for projects with smaller budgets but more creative freedom.

Longtime collaborator Adam McKay and Mr. Ferrell also took their comedy to the Internet with the 2007 creation of the popular video website FunnyorDie.com. Since then, it has drawn an audience of millions for its original Web programming.

Mr. McKay, a former head writer on “SNL,” said it was Mr. Ferrell’s “Cow Bell” sketch that always has made him laugh the hardest.

Before the show, Mr. Ferrell said that playing the Bush character is one of his favorite memories for its political laughs, especially when he took the character to Broadway.

“We hit it at the perfect time, when people wanted some sort of comedy after the eight years we just went through,” he said.

Thirteen other people have won the Mark Twain Prize since 1998, including Tina Fey, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg. It recognizes people who have followed the tradition of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the writer known as Mark Twain, who used social commentary and satire to have an impact on society.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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