Will Ferrell Explains Why His Real Name Made Him 'So Embarrassed'

Will Ferrell recalls the 'excruciating' first week of school having to correct his teachers.

What's in a name? For Will Ferrell, a lot of embarrassment. 

During a new appearance on his Anchorman co-star, Christina Applegate, and Jamie Lynn Sigler's podcast, MeSsy, the famed Hollywood funnyman revealed his legal name was no laughing matter to him during his school days. 

"This is, like, 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, so first day of school, it'd be John," the actor recalled. "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.'"

Will said it was "excruciating" to him during the first week of school as it took time for the teacher to remember his name change. 

As for why he went by his middle name instead, Will chalked it up to his parents' preference. 

"My parents named [me] John, but they called me Will," he said. "I grew up as Will, but on a rule sheet, my legal name -- John Ferrell."

To this day, the 56-year-old Elf and Anchorman alum is still unsure why it was a source of such embarrassment. "I don't know why that was so embarrassing to me to have to explain, 'I'm actually Will,'" he said. 

The Saturday Night Live alum added, "People are probably going to be listening to this going, 'That is the lamest thing ever.'"

Fortunately for the star, he's now widely known by his preferred name, and as one of Hollywood's most recognizable comedians. As a dad of three, he now embarrasses his sons instead. 

Will Ferrell poses with wife Viveca Paulin and their sons at the European premiere of 'Barbie' in London in July 2023. - Karwai Tang/WireImage

In June, his firstborn son, Magnus, 20, went viral on TikTok after posting a video "rating things my dad has done." The TikTok trend involved users sharing wild stories of their fathers and giving their actions a rating. 

For Magnus, it was how his celebrity dad dressed up as a medieval lord "to embarrass me at prom," he wrote. His rating? "10000/10." If there were any doubters, Magnus included a photo of Will in the costume.

During a podcast appearance in 2023, Magnus discussed having Will as a father, recalling the comedian dressing up as the Easter Bunny during the coronavirus pandemic and DJing at his frat party during parents weekend at the University of Southern California. 

"He's someone who has no shame," he said of the SNL alum on the Lightweights Podcast With Joe Vulpis. "Feels like social anxiety is, like, afraid of him."