Will Ferrell Explains Why He Sang Whitney Houston at Commencement Speech

When comedian Will Ferrell delivered the commencement address for the University of Southern California 2017 class in May, he sang an unexpected rendition of the Dolly Parton-written Whitney Houston classic "I Will Always Love You." He's still being asked about that viral moment and explained the reason for his performance this week.

Ferrell's performance wasn't done for laughs. Plus, he sang most of the song.

"I hadn’t been put in that position before because usually I just make fun of things,” Ferrell said during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show. “I just told them to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and reach for the stars -- which I read on the back of a cereal box.”

Aa Ferrell was singing, he decided he couldn't just sing a few lines.

"I started thinking, ‘Do I sing a couple of lines or do I torture the students and their parents by singing the entire song?’ and I chose the latter," the Daddy's Home 2 star told Norton.

Farrell picked up an honorary doctorate in humane letters, which he takes very seriously. "They say it’s honorary, I think it’s for real," he joked.

Farrell really did graduate from USC, earning a degree in sports information in 1990 even though he always wanted to act.


"While I had an interest in pursuing sportscasting, my gut was telling me that I really wanted to pursue something else. And that something else was comedy," Ferrell said in his commencement address. "I was always trying to make my friends laugh whenever I could find a moment."

Ferrell decided he wanted to be a comedic actor during his senior year, when he was pulled up on stage to be part of a Groundlings sketch.

"I was so afraid and awestruck at what the actors were doing that I didn't utter a word," Ferrell told the students at USC. "And even in this moment of abject fear and total failure, I found it to be thrilling to be on that stage. I then knew I wanted to be a comedic actor."

Photo: Will Ferrell/Facebook