Adam McKay Talks Evolving Comedy From Anchorman To Step Brothers

Adam McKay shifted his comedy over the years creating lovable buffoon characters to the point of caricatures in films like Anchorman (2004), Talladega Nights (2006), and Step Brothers (2008) (all films featuring Will Ferrell) to progressive, populist like The Big Short (2015) then Vice (2018). The director spoke to the New York Times about trying to figure out how to change with the times and evolving the dialogue. He admits finding himself more involved with articulating the current political spectrum.

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Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, David Koechner, and Steve Carell in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004). Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

When it comes to how some of McKay's characters would fare in 2021, the co-producer of HBO's Q: Into the Storm revealed the ones played by Ferrell (Dale) and John C. Reilly (Brennan) in Step Brothers would be fervent QAnon and Donald Trump supporters.

"No question about it," he said. "They'd be way into it, and they'd be torturing [Richard] Jenkins and [Mary] Steenburgen's characters with it, and they would eventually be having meetings at the house and somehow QAnon would drift into Jenkins's work life and the Q Shaman would show up at Jenkins's workplace. They also would have loved Trump. I don't want to speak for Ferrell and Reilly, but I think you could safely assume they would agree with that." Jenkins played Dr. Robert Doback, Dale's father and Steenburgen played Nancy Huff, Brennan's mother in the 2008 film.

Adam McKay Talks Evolving Comedy From Anchorman To Step Brothers
Filmmaker Adam McKay. Photo by Kathy Hutchins /

When it comes to explaining the timing of the 2000s comedies, McKay admitted they're a byproduct of their time, namely then sitting 43rd president. "I don't think there's any doubt that the comedies of the late '90s and the 2000s were of a moment," he said. "It's no mistake that a lot of those — and especially the ones that Will and I did — were about mediocre oafish white men who are entitled: news anchors who were giving us puff, racecar drivers who acted as if they were king of the world before getting their butts kicked, giant man-children consumers. It all can be summed up by George W. Bush. But comedy needs to have real teeth to work now. Comedy about relationships, careerism, your own self-image — it just doesn't work. Comedy is in a weird spot. There's no question about it."

Christian Bale as Michael Burry in The Big Short, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
Christian Bale as Michael Burry in The Big Short, courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

For more on McKay's other projects like Death at the Wing, Don't Look Up, how he defines the political parties today, Aaron Sorkin, Zack Snyder's attempt at adapting The Fountainhead, and creating more socially conscious content, you can read more at the NYT.

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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