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Will Ferrell ’s Best Night Of Your Life At The Greek Theatre, Saturday, October 21, 2023

Will Ferrell
Jack Black, Beck, Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell is an American icon and a hater of cancer (this is what was written on the program of last night’s show) but he is especially a funnyman with a great heart. Being a famous and very popular comedian and being on the board of directors of Cancer for College – whose mission is to help cancer survivors overcome the financial impact of the disease – can give you great possibilities. On Saturday night, the Greek Theatre was hosting Will Ferrell’s Best Night of Your Life (second edition), and it was undoubtedly the place to be!

The event, dedicated to palliating the aftermath of a terrible disease, had gathered a long list of funny and very entertaining people and the night was filled with surprises going from stand-up comedians to impromptu mini-concerts. Where else could you have seen Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, and Snoop Dogg rapping together? Wearing immaculate white suits, the two “step brothers” had visibly a lot of fun while performing “Boats ‘n Hoes” from the 2008 beloved comedy, plus Snoop’s “Gin and Juice.” And since it was the rapper’s birthday, they brought up a big birthday cake on stage while the entire theater sang “Happy Birthday.” That was not a bad way to start a 3-hour show. “If you were late taking your seat, nothing happened!” Ferrell joked.

“As you can tell by now, I like to move my body, and we can do this for three hours,” he also told us. There was a lot of body movement indeed. The night was presented by Ferrell but also the omnipresent Fred Armisen who introduced a series of stand-up comedians: Jo Koy, Patti Harrison, Hasan Minhaj, Rory Scovel, John Mulaney, Jon Stewart…

Humor can be very subjective, and if I wasn’t even familiar with a lot of those who took the stage for 10-15 minutes, each of them came up with more or less controversial subjects, and told jokes about current themes such as generation gap, LGBTQ, AI, religion, politics… It isn’t easy to review a comedian who does a 10-minute sketch because it works, or it doesn’t. And if some of them tried to impress and be provocative very quickly, it could have been a hit or a miss. Trans-comedian Patti Harrison did a sort of cringy impression of Joanna Newsom, and I am not completely sure the public liked it. “TikTok is destroying 15-year-old girls, but Zillow.com is destroying 30-year-old men” joked Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj. “AI will destroy us when it finds out how we treat Wikipedia and Chat GPT,” he continued. Rory Scovel concentrated his act on Christianity and infidelity: “Do you imagine still going to church? … I had the feeling that could be the question that will divide the crowd.” John Mulaney had a serious dilemma explaining dinosaurs to his kid “Were these real? And they all died at the same time? There are still members of Lynyrd Skynyrd left and no dinosaurs left? What about the bones John? ok, I have seen the bones, but there’s no fucking way those are put together correctly. You found a pile of bones with no direction and you put them together? The museum opens in an hour, there are two bones left, OK, the T-Rex had little arms, little arms!” John Stewart unsurprisingly had a few things to say about aging and politics, pointing to the obvious: “Even at my advanced age, I still believe I could kick the living fuck out of 90% of the United States Senate. The US Senate is an assisted living facility. What are we doing?”

 If the jokes are not always hilarious, everything can be in the delivery. I find Ferrell naturally funny for example, and it’s often not what he says but how he tells the jokes. “What does the janitor say when he opens the closet…. “Supplies!” “I don’t care if you don’t like it, I write my material!” His delivery is a strange combination of childish naivety mixed with an incredibly strong self-esteem; an act difficult to pull out but that he masters to perfection. He often screams and kicks like a giant toddler (he is quite tall), and it shouldn’t work but it does. At one point, he showed up only wearing a bathing suit, “This is why we live in California, it’s October and we can wear whatever we want.” And he got a good laugh from this simple childish stunt. His Ron Burgundy character was the perfect act to interview the trio Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett, the hosts of the SmartLess podcast. He kept thanking Tempe, Arizona, and the Hollywood Bowl crowd while the conversation went in every possible direction, incongruous, incoherent, and unexpected at the image of egomaniac Burgundy, including a crazy meltdown mid-conversation.

After so much comedy, it was time for music, and we all could agree with Burgundy for once: what followed was a special treat: Princess featuring Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum did some sexy-funky Prince covers (“Let’s Go Crazy,” “Red Corvette,” “Delirious,” “1999”). Fred Armisen was on drums and the house band featured Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Cindy Blackman Santana, and Stefan Lessard (Dave Matthews Band). Soon, Beck and Jack Black, who was looking like a chubby superhero with his purple cape, took part in this extravaganza, and this was only the beginning.

After a derogatory intervention from John Hamm, who was standing in the crowd: “It was supposed to be the best night of my life?” Jack Black rocked the house with an intense AC/DC cover (“It’s a Long Way to The Top If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll”). He breathlessly ran all over the theater with his usual Tenacious D antics. Will’s son, Magnus Ferrell, did his version of “Creep,” Dog Star (Keanu Reeve’s band also featuring Bret Domrose, and Robert Mailhouse) who were introduced as the “opposite of John Hamm,” did a Cure cover (“Just Like Heaven”) and Badfinger’s “No Matter What.” St Vincent did two Bowie covers, “Modern Love,” and “Ashes to Ashes,” and Beck broke this cover mania with his own “Where it’s At,” but followed with another cover “Under Pressure,” a memorable duo with Jack Black. The big surprise was Lindsey Buckingham, who did two Fleetwood Mac songs solo: “Never Going Back Again” and “Big Love,” and, at 74, he still can push the notes to amazing heights above a crystalline guitar picking or a loud strumming.

The grand final brought back almost everyone on stage for the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” under a multicolor rain of confetti. Take that, John Hamm! The best night of your life? Well, it will be difficult to top such a celebrity gathering. What a night!

 

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