WILL Ferrell is hilarious. Moviegoers have known that for years, making his films such as Elf and Talladega Nights major box-office smashes, but the comic still as sharp performing live on stage, as his appearance at University College Dublin last week attested to.
Ferrell spent the guts of two weeks in Ireland north and south this month with his brother Patrick and dad Roylee, with the centerpiece of the visit a trip to UCD to accept a literary award named after James Joyce - or Jimmy, as Ferrell likes to call him.
More than 1,000 UCD students packed the event to hear Ferrell speak, and they went bananas when he bounded on stage, complete with his latest version of a tuxedo - an Irish rugby shirt, snug white shorts, knee-high green socks and a pair of shoes.
"I'm so committed to my Irish roots that I intend to continue wearing this outfit upon my return to the United States," Ferrell said. "I will also continue to drive on the left-hand side of the road. Will it be dangerous? Yes. Is it illegal? Highly. But that's just how committed I am."
He had observations on just about everything Irish, including the people - "I love sitting in a cozy pub talking with a local, whose accent is so thick it sounds like he's gargling phlegm" - the favored beverage - "I love the taste of Guinness on the back of your throat, when it repeats on you the next morning" - and the language, with several "pog mo thoins" sprinkled throughout his remarks. (For the uninitiated, that means kiss my you know what in Gaelic.)
Ferrell undertook the male bonding trip with his family to learn more about his Irish roots, which apparently originate in the wee county of Longford. The Ferrells also made it up to the North for a visit to Co. Derry.
"The trip has been a good bit of craic and I'm not talking about talk and laughter, I'm actually talking about crack cocaine," he joked.
The Joyce award was conferred on Ferrell by UCD's Literary and Historical Society. Ferrell, said the society's president, was named for "excelling in his field." Given that he commands in the region of $20 million per film, excelled is an understatement.
"As I perused my leather-bound volumes of Ulysses, Finnegan's Wake, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, standing in my mahogany library, a lot of feelings ran across my mind. Like, 'Damn, I should have read these books,'" the 40-year-old comic joked.
Past recipients of the Joyce award include former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, Reverend Jesse Jackson and former South African President F.W. de Klerk. Pretty lofty company, and Ferrell said he planned to live his life in the Joycean tradition.
"As I look out at this crowd I see the future of Ireland. And let's face it, the future looks pretty bleak."
Ferrell's UCD appearance, and other bits from his visit to Ireland, can be viewed on YouTube, if you're looking for a good laugh.