Before starting his speech in front of 15,000 graduating USC students on Friday, Will Ferrell shared a quick disclaimer.
“I would like to apologize to all the parents here who are sitting there saying, ‘Will Ferrell? Why Will Ferrell? I hate Will Ferrell. I hate him. I hate his movies. He’s gross,'” Ferrell said, smiling. "That discussion is definitely happening out there right now,” he added.
Ferrell’s wide-ranging 30-minute speech at the school’s 134th commencement tracked his personal story from a post-grad slump to famous comedic actor, with more than a hundred film and TV credits, including "Saturday Night Live," "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."
Watch Ferrell’s entire speech here, which includes stories from his time at USC and a grand finale, where he sings “I Will Always Love You” to the graduates:
In her introduction of Ferrell, USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley called him one of the nation's most cherished popular artists, presenting him with an honorary doctorate.
"I've already instructed my wife and children to refer to me from this point on as Dr. Ferrell," he joked. "There will be no exceptions."
After graduating from USC in 1990, Ferrell, 49, worked briefly as an intern in NBC’s sports department before deciding comedy was his true career path.
He moved back in with his parents in Irvine, where he lived for two years. From there, he started taking classes at the Groundlings Theatre in L.A. and performed stand-up gigs at restaurants and bars around Southern California, before auditioning for "SNL."
As a stand-up comedian, his signature opening joke was singing the "Star Trek" theme song in a high falsetto. Without missing a beat, Ferrell began singing for the USC audience, prompting more laughter.
Ferrell's latest movie, "House," comes out next month and has to do with attending and paying for college.