Hearing Michelle Obama compliment his work is among the highest praise Will Ferrell says he has ever received.
It happened while attending a White House Christmas party, Ferrell told an audience at the Newseum on Tuesday.
“We got to sit next to the first lady, and she said, 'I just have to tell you … This 'Landlord' video, oh my gosh. I love that thing,’ ” he said, referring to an Internet video called “The Landlord” that Ferrell shot with director and screenwriter Adam McKay.
“So, she's sitting with her staff, watching 'The Landlord,' and I think she literally said, 'Bitch, where's my money?' ” — a line in the video from the potty-mouthed toddler. “Michelle Obama quoting my movie,” Ferrell recalled.
Ferrell visited Washington again Tuesday to promote an exhibit at the Newseum in honor of his 2004 movie, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” while previewing the film’s sequel, set to hit theaters Dec. 18.
Obama is not Ferrell's only high-powered fan. The event turned out a slew of lawmakers, lobbyists and journalists who showed up to toast the outlandish fictional newsman.
Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) were some of the policymakers in attendance.
Other notable names checked off the guest list include journalists Luke Russert and Chuck Todd, and Bill Cheney, the head of the Credit Union National Association, and his wife, Crissy Cheney.
Though Ferrell has an actual background in journalism — he studied sports information (a now-defunct major) at the University of Southern California — it is his political impersonations that helped put him on the map.
Ferrell says that poking fun at political leaders is a “healthy part of the democratic process.”
He reflected on his iconic impersonations of former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and, more memorably, former President George W. Bush. He says he never expected those characters to blow up like they did.
“I just sort of stumbled into doing those [impressions]. I just had weird, eccentric ideas of impersonating people that no one would necessarily think about,” he said, referring to Reno and the creation of a sketch called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party.”
“She could not have been more lovely and more supportive,” Ferrell recalled. “And she felt like what we did on [Saturday Night Live] the show is such a healthy part of the democratic process — you have to be able to make fun of your leaders.”
Bush, the most mainstream of his impersonations, came about only because SNL needed someone to play opposite veteran cast member Darrell Hammond’s Al Gore character during the 2000 presidential elections.
Asked to play the role, Ferrell remembers saying, “Yeah, why not? He's not gonna win. It'll be a fun thing to do for a couple months.”
Eight years later, Ferrell’s caricature had become a hit with audiences, and in 2009, inspired a one-man Broadway play.
“I just knew he squinted his eyes a lot. Once I kinda planned that,” Ferrell said, narrowing his eyes, “then I got a little more comfortable with the voice and built it up from there.”