LOS ANGELES — Actor Will Ferrell serenaded graduates of the University of Southern California with an inspirational rendition of the song “I Will Always Love You.”
Ferrell is a USC alumnus and university officials introduced him as a “comic genius” who “stands among our nation’s most cherished popular artists.”
“His fearless and inventive performances skillfully tap into the absurdities buried beneath the surface of everyday life,” said Elizabeth Daley, dean of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.
Ferrell was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of humane letters before giving the commencement address at the ceremony on Friday.
“I would like to say thank you, graduates, for that warm welcome,” Ferrell started. “I’d also like to apologize to all the parents who are sitting there saying ‘Will Ferrell? Why Will Ferrell?'”
In addition to plenty of laughs, Ferrell offered the new graduates lots of encouragement — especially when faced with criticism.
Ferrell said that after his first episode of “Saturday Night Live,” one critic called him “the most annoying newcomer of the new cast.”
“Someone showed this to me and I promptly put it on the wall of my office, reminding myself that, to some people, I will be annoying. Some people will not think I’m funny. And that’s OK,” Ferrell said.
“Trust your gut. Keep throwing darts at the dartboard. Don’t listen to the critics and you will figure it out.”
Then Ferrell took things to the next level.
“If you do have a moment where you feel a little down, just think of the support you have from this great Trojan family. And imagine me — literally picture my face — singing this song gently into your ear,” Ferrell said before belting out an a cappella version of the love song performed by Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard.”
Ferrell didn’t quite hit the high notes, but struck a chord with the graduates and staff, who clapped and cheered after his performance.