Last week we launched Pt. 1 of a conversation with Will Ferrell, which can be found below. Here is Pt. 2 of that conversation.
WF: Oh yeah! Umm, Superbus.
BH: Was it called Superbus [The Big Bus; 1976]?
WF: I think it was. It had a bowling alley and a pool.
BH: And somehow a washing machine went berserk and made soap bubbles, and it got flooded with the soap bubbles.
WF: It was a comedy right? I should look into the rights of remaking Superbus.
BH: I know. You might want to keep that one to yourself. How long was that bus?
WF: (laughing) I don’t know but it had so many cool things on it.
BH: I actually haven’t seen it since it originally aired. I might need to see it again, because it might have some other things to teach me now that I’ve lived and experienced life (laughs), all the subtext that was lost on an 8-year-old.
WF: Now you’ll be like “I was so foolish. Look at what they were trying to teach us.”
BH: What they were trying to say to me is…
WF: That all men are equal.
BH: And I didn’t realize that that was what they were trying to tell me until now when you said it! Who is the person who you looked up to at that age?
WF: In the Superbus era?
BH: Yeah. Six Million Dollar Man, maybe?
WF: Oh, I love Six Million Dollar Man. Yeah. Huge.
WF: Fonzie. He was pretty great. Even though it’s kind of insane that a character’s big move was to go “Eyyyyyyyyy.” And that that elicited shrieks from the studio audience, but I was right there with them. We keep talking a lot about TV, but that was my favorite night of TV right there because it was Tuesday nights: Happy Days/Laverne and Shirley. Followed by Saturday night which was…
BH&WF: Love Boat/Fantasy Island.
WF: And then Battle of the Network Stars whenever that was on. I almost got nervous watching it because it was so exciting.
WF: I mean, Lou Ferrigno on the CBS team and the tug-of-war?
BH: That was stressful.
WF: (laughing) Yeah! And I swear, I do have a memory of like David Letterman running the mile run. I swear. But I don’t know, I could be making that up.
BH: I remember going to my grandmother’s house in the summer at that time and David Letterman was on in the morning. I used to beg her to let me watch.
WF: Oh! He had the morning show. I was heavily influenced by the afternoon talk show as well: Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, all that stuff. And Merv Griffin. So, there. I’m not finding anything for Superbus.
BH: Was it a figment of our imaginations?
BH: Was it a mass hallucination?
WF: Was it a government conspiracy thing? Did they knock everyone out for a day and implant the memory of Superbus?
BH: It was a Fata Morgana of 70′s TV. So you grew up in Orange County for most of your childhood?
WF: Yeah, the whole enchilada. I was born in Newport Beach, and we lived in Corona del Mar until I think I was five. Then we moved inland to Irvine. The mean streets of Irvine. Which I don’t know if you’ve ever ventured down there…
BH: I have. I have played down there actually.
WF: Look out. Did you play at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre? I don’t think that’s what it’s called anymore. I think its called Verizon or something.
BH: Yeah, it’s called the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.
WF: Yeah, we snuck into a lot of concerts down there.
BH: Oh yeah? There’s access? We would sneak into concerts at the Greek Theater. We wouldn’t sneak in but you could hike up into the surrounding park and sort of watch from the bushes. Later when I got to play there I said “Hello” to the people in the bushes and you could hear them yelling back.
WF: You’re like, “People in the bushes, I know, I used to be one of you!.”
BH: I got the people to shout back things and suddenly you’d hear this massive response from the bushes.
WF: (laughing) Was there a scramble of security up there? To cuff ’em?
BH: I don’t think so cause I think they would need climbing equipment. I mean, it was a serious investment of time to get up there and once you got up there, there was some questionable activity happening. There was a whole other milieu of concert going tomfoolery happening. Security wasn’t getting paid enough to risk their necks.
WF: For Verizon Amphitheatre, previously Irvine Meadows, you had to go through what was the old shutdown Lion Country Safari [wild animal park]. You had to do commando style. They had teams of security on fire roads on ATVs patrolling with big flood lights, so it was like a real…
BH: And you have to watch out for that kind of security because they’re even more committed to their job than any border patrol.
WF: Anyone! You put a yellow jacket on a part time police officer, look out! They’re ready to go. But here’s the irony, we used to sneak in and then I found myself years later during college being one of those yellow jacketed security people.
BH: Really? And did you feel a….
WF: I was not very effective.
BH: Did you feel empowered?
WF: I did a little bit because you just had the jacket and a little flashlight. They had no idea that I was a previous renegade. And I worked a Bon Jovi concert and my job was to keep like the center aisle of the orchestra clear of people just sitting or hanging out and it was pretty easy, you’d just flash your light and they’d get back in the row, until…Who’s the guitarist of Bon Jovi?
BH: Uh, Richie Sambora.
WF: Richie Sambora on that song Wanted Dead or Alive, he flew out on his guitar solo on a wire and everyone just ran into the center of my aisle. I was like “Back in your seats! Back in your…” and it was like 1,000 people and I just realized that I couldn’t do anything. So I just let â€˜em do that.
BH: Yeah, the flashlight was…
WF: The flashlight was NOT EFFECTIVE at that point, yeah, when they’re trying to reach for Sambora as he flies above them.
BH: (laughing) Some Peter Pan maneuver…
WF: (laughing) Even I got wrapped up in it! I didn’t realize it was going to happen, but…
BH: But it stirred something.
WF: It did!
BH: See that’s the thing when you’re playing a show. As a performer, if you connect with the security guards, you know you’re playing the show of your life, cause it’s very difficult to move the security guards.
WF: Yeah, they cut through that night. Bon Jovi cut through to me.
BH: And was that mid-80’s Bon Jovi period?
WF: That would have been late ’80s.
BH: Have you seen Heavy Metal Parking Lot?
WF: No, I didn’t see that.
BH: Oh, you haven’t seen that!?! It was a Judas Priest show somewhere on the east coast, I’m gonna say Maryland? Somebody went with a video camera and documented the people in the parking lot before the concert. It documents what they’re wearing, what they’re saying, what they’re doing, how they’re feeling…
WF: And does it follow one person’s journey?
BH: No, it just goes to a whole bunch of different people hanging out by their cars. It’s a document of a specific time, which, if you were in junior high at the time you appreciate because that was what most people looked like at school.
WF: I went to a Dead show in college in Carson once. That was kind of the closest thing to a festival type crowd and I remember I was just extremely hot and I had to kind of lie down near these tennis courts and I must have had 20 people come up and be like, “You okay man? You having a bad trip?” and I’m like “Oh, no no no! I’m just tired. And I think a little dehydrated.” “Alright.” Then, “You okay man? You’re gonna be okay. I’m right here.” I’m like, “Oh no no. I’m just…” Once again. And then I just anticipated people as I saw them come up.
BH: Yeah, I think it’s nice when there’s a support group built into a concert going experience. WF: (laughing) Remember Cal Jam?
BH: I didn’t go to Cal Jam.
WF: There was Cal Jam and then there was Cal Jam 2.
BH: (laughing) I know somebody that went to Cal Jam 2.
WF: (laughing) Let’s organize Cal Jam 3– 25 years in the making. And we announce all these acts and basically go on stage and say. “No one could make it. We’re sorry. But here’s, ladies and gentlemen, Kudos.”
BH: (laughing) “And special guest…” Wait, what was the name of your Cirque du Soleil act?
BH: Simpatico, yes!
WF: We were a performance art troupe from Winnipeg, Canada. So we would have people come up and go, “Alright! Winnipeg!”
BH: My dad’s family is all from Winnipeg.
WF: Well we kind of felt bad because we got people really excited to like “Great to see fellow Canadians!” and we’re like, “Oh, no no. We’re just kidding.” But what can you do?
BH: Yeah that’s why I think I was connecting with it on a certain level because I have that Winnipeg connection somewhere down the line.
WF: (laughing) Did you spend summers going to Winnipeg?
BH: No, I’ve never been there. What’s your background?
WF: I don’t really know, we’re kind of all over the place. Ferrell’s an Irish last name so we’ve been to Ireland a fair amount of time. I think we like to pretend we’re more Irish than we are, so there’s some Irish in there. We were there a year ago. Me, my dad, and my brother. And my dad had researched, I think its County Longford ,where the Ferrell’s are supposed to be from even though almost every Irish Farrell is spelled F-A and we’re F-E. So we pulled into this town and we were gonna, I forget, he had a name of someone that we were gonna try to find, I forget the guy’s name, John Ferrell’s Pub or something. And we almost didn’t go. We were like, “Yeah maybe we’ll stop by there tonight, go for a beer” and by the time we got there, there was over 1,000 people waiting to meet us.
BH: (laughing) Really? Your family tree to welcome you back!
WF: (laughing) Yeah. So we just sat there and never bought a beer the entire night. It was kind of fun though. And then we ended up in some people’s houses that we barely knew who invited us for a nightcap. Which was, uh, we should’ve shut it down at that point.
BH: Anything happen?
WF: No, it was just, we were REALLY hung over the next day. But everyone had a good time! I couldn’t find my brother for a second when we got back to the hotel and the night porter was like, “Is he a big guy?” and I go, “Yeah, yeah! About 6’5.” And he goes, “Yeah, you might wanna keep an eye on him.” And I looked across the street there and there was a 24 hour burger joint with all these college kids in it and I just see my brother sitting there talking to strangers, but wildly gesticulating with his hands. And I’m like “Ah, he’s fine!” (laughing) So, he was just holding court with the youth of County Longford.
BH: I was thinking about Ferrell’s, the children’s theme restaurant.
WF: Oh the ice cream! Yeah…
BH: Was that a favorite place? Did it have any feeling of pride?
WF: No, I should’ve probably had more. I only went to it a couple of times. But it was pretty magical. And when you had your birthday there they would hang this drum. I actually went there for the, I think it was homecoming dance, my sophomore year of high school, with my date and the other couple we were going with. We went to Ferrell’s all dressed up. It was a little bizarre.
BH: It had old time décor.
WF: Yeah, old timey, right.
BH: Old time America.
WF: Did they wear boater hats? Straw boater hats? Like a barber shop quartet type look?
BH: Yeah, I remember amusement parks during that time had a lot of that going on. There was this real fascination with the early 1900’s. There was a real nostalgia during that period for that time. I remember, what was the amusement park? Magic Mountain? They had an area called Spillikin Corners which is where you could go to make your own candles and learn the ways of our American Heritage.
WF: You could actually shear sheep there, I believe.
BH: Really, you could shear live game?
WF: And do animal husbandry. I remember helping to give birth at Spillikin Corners.
BH: Really? To a sheep? Or to a horse?
WF: I think it was both. Yeah. You really got your money’s worth. “I gave birth to a horse! Can we go back again? I love it!”
BH: Spillikin Corners.
WF: Great name!
BH: Yeah, like “What should we call it?”
WF: Yeah, in the marketing meeting, “How about Spillikin Corners?”
BH: “How about Dangleberrys…”
WF: “No, our market research has shown that the name Spillikin people like. It feels down home.”
BH: Yeah, it evokes that era. And I remember also Disneyland was running rife with old time brass bands and that kind of old timey thing.
WF: A lot of Americana.
BH: Hey, when we did that benefit for the Tsunami Relief, I saw you and Sacha Baron Cohen doing a secret hand shake which I always wondered about.
WF: Was it our thing? No, obviously not. I don’t even remember what it was.
BH: I remember there was a lot of hand interaction. And then elbows. And then I think shoulders got into it. And at one point I believe he tried to bring the pelvis’s into it. Or is it pelvi for the plural? Anyway it was a sort of a pelvis to pelvis move. And I think you blocked that. You were saying you don’t do that.
WF: Obviously it was never to be repeated again.
BH: Oh, okay. I thought that that was maybe the way it goes on a regular basis and I wanted to be privy to the inner workings– And then later I think Chris Rock and Jack Black were huddled with you both and there was a quadruple force there. I wasn’t sure if that was a formation you guys were making that was sort of a “Wonder Twins activate” formation. Maybe you could form into animals or something? Like a giant ice porpoise?
WF: No, the only thing I remember was Rock was like, “Look, you’re famous. People like you. You don’t have to work this hard.” Pertaining to my full body unitard. He was like, “You can just go out there and say a few things, you don’t have to work this hard.” And I was like, “It’s the only way I know.” (laughing)
BH: It’s the Simpatico way. Yeah that was a good night.
WF: I was about to say I hope another Tsunami happens where we could do that again, but that’s a terrible joke, yeah.
BH: I wanted to talk to you about SNL a little bit because I did SNL a number of times when you were on there.
WF: I remember when you came on. Didn’t we do a sketch together in a medical room? Examining room?
BH: Oh yeah, right! It was for medical marijuana and I was a delivery boy or something. I was very nervous. It was the first time I had been on the show and I was already trying to deal with the fact of…
WF: (laughing) Of performing on the show, mixed with, now you’re on a sketch…
BH: I enjoyed it though.
WF: And I remember we did the “Bobby and Marty” sketch where one of our songs was “Devil’s Haircut.”
BH: That’s right! That was a good night. The host was Kevin Spacey.
WF: Oh! That was a really good one!
BH: It’s funny. When I first went there I was struck by how small it was: the studio and the dressing rooms in comparison to the amount of activity that was happening. It’s heightened that way.
WF: It’s a tight little fit. You get in there and its less than 300 people in the audience.
BH: I didn’t even think it was that many. It felt like 75. It was surreal. I got the feeling that I was inside the TV. You know, when you’re a kid you have this weird concept of the people that are inside the TV, they’re in a different world from the rest of us? That was the closest that I’ve ever had to experiencing actually being in the TV, because it was so enclosed and hermetic.
WF: Yeah, it’s pretty intimate.
BH: I think one of my favorite things on the show was where you play this family man and you’re yelling at your daughter during dinner, you’re trying to reprimand her in some way. But you’re also trying to illustrate your altitude by yelling that you drive a Dodge Stratus.
WF: A Dodge Stratus, yes.
BH: How did you come up with, of all car makes, a Dodge Stratus? Its a small detail but it made the whole scene.
WF: (laughing) I just stumbled across that somewhere. In like an ad, like a really puffed up ad for a car dealership and they were just really trumpeting the new Dodge Stratus and when I was writing that sketch it was just an ultimate symbol of, “Listen to me! Do you know I drive…” It was just a perfect symbol of the lamest kind of car you could think of and that this guy just struggling for control, tries to throw that out and its like, “What are you talking about?” And it sounded funny. Dodge Stratus.
BH: It almost sounds like Status.
WF: I wish I could say that I thought of that as well. I did not even think of that. It was just one of the lamest car names. Plus a Dodge is just a completely unsexy car make. They I’m glad you like that one! That was one of my favorite ones because I kept drawing out the moments of silence with the silverware clanging against the plates. I just kept drawing it out because there was always such a kneejerk reaction on that show to make sketches louder and fast and just energy driven. I think a lot of people in comedy are afraid of the silence. I kind of love it because it puts the audience on the hook and creates kind of a tension. When we did the actual live show I’d drag it on as long as I could (laughs). But yeah, Dodge Stratus.
BH: Dodge Stratus, it’s from the same era as the Aspire. They were these cars that weren’t quite the real status cars. They were the step along the way up the ladder of success, you know? “You don’t have to wait. You can have it now. You can have what you want now.” It’s not quite the apex, but it’s something in the meantime.
WF: Dodge has another one out on the road now called the Dodge Magnum, which is pretty good, too.
BH: (laughing) There’s a lot of masculine power in that name.
WF: A lot of stuff going on with that one.
BH: A lot of undercurrents. Because it’s a gun, right? But its also…
WF: It’s a magnum of champagne. It’s excellence.
BH: Its protein and indefatigable.