Will Ferrell Recalls How His Real Name Was 'So Embarrassing' to Him Growing Up

Ferrell said that people would find his embarrassment 'the lamest thing ever.'

Who knew the man behind Ron Burgundy had a secret identity crisis? Will Ferrell recently opened up about an unexpected childhood insecurity: his legal name. The revelation came during a candid conversation on Christina Applegate's MeSsy podcast, where the two former Anchorman co-stars reminisced about their early years.

Ferrell, now 56, confessed that his given name, John William Ferrell, was a source of considerable embarrassment during his school days. "This is a minor thing in terms of — it's not really even trauma — but I remember feeling so embarrassed because my real name is John, John William Ferrell," he explained about an hour and 18 minutes into the episode.

The Saturday Night Live alum went on to describe the awkward ritual he endured at the start of each school year. "So, first day of school, I'd be John. The teacher would be like 'John Ferrell?' and it was so embarrassing to me to have to say 'Here, but I go by Will, I don't go by John.'"

This seemingly small issue became a recurring source of discomfort for young Ferrell. He recalled the "excruciating" wait for teachers to remember his preferred name, a process that could take up to a week. The actor struggled to pinpoint the exact reason for his strong aversion to being called John, stating, "It wasn't my choice. My parents named [me] John but they called me Will. I grew up as Will, but on a roll sheet, my legal name is John Ferrell." The actor jokingly added, "People are probably going to be listening to this going, 'That is the lamest thing ever.'"

Despite this early naming predicament, Ferrell went on to develop the comedic persona that would make him a household name. He described his younger self as a "conscientious class clown," balancing his academic responsibilities with his budding talent for making others laugh. "Ten-year-old Will, fourth grade Will, would have been like, really into sports, very conscientious student, but at an early age, trying to make my friends laugh," Ferrell said. "I was like a conscientious class clown. I would goof around to a point if the teacher said, 'Please stop,' I'm like, 'You got it!'"

Ferrell's career has since skyrocketed, with starring roles in cult classic comedies such as Zoolander, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and, of course, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. His ability to fully embody outrageous characters stands in stark contrast to the self-conscious child who dreaded roll call.

The comedian's personal life has also thrived. In 2000, he married fellow actor Viveca Paulin, whom he met in an acting class in 1995. The couple now has three sons: Magnus, Mattias, and Axel.