Adam McKay

Adam McKay (born April 17, 1968) is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, comedian, and actor. McKay served as head writer for the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live for two seasons. He directed Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Step Brothers (2008), The Other Guys (2010), and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), all of which he co-wrote with his creative partner Will Ferrell. Together McKay and Ferrell have co-written and produced numerous TV series and films, and produced their comedy website Funny or Die and HBO's Eastbound & Down through their company Gary Sanchez Productions.

Adam McKay
McKay in 2019
Born (1968-04-17) April 17, 1968
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
  • Film director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
  • comedian
EducationGreat Valley High School
Years active1986–present
Shira Piven (m. 1996)

McKay's The Big Short (2015) was the first film he directed without Ferrell in the cast. Venturing into more dramatic territory, he was nominated for several awards including the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and two British Academy Film Awards, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, with cowriter Charles Randolph winning Best Adapted Screenplay at each respective ceremony. In 2018, McKay wrote, directed, and produced Vice, a biographical comedy-drama about former US vice president Dick Cheney, which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Early life

McKay was born in 1968 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a cocktail waitress mother, Sarah, and a bassist father.[1][2] He graduated from Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and attended Penn State and Temple University. McKay dropped out from the university a semester-and-a-half before he was set to earn his bachelor's degree. He described it as "settling with an imaginary degree".[3]

He is one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy group and a former performer at Chicago's Improv Olympic, where he was a member of the improv group, The Family, whose members included Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Neil Flynn, Miles Stroth, and Ali Farahnakian, and Child's Play Touring Theatre. While a member of the mainstage cast at Second City, he wrote and performed in that company's landmark revue, Pinata Full of Bees. In several politically charged sketches, McKay played characters like Noam Chomsky as a substitute kindergarten teacher, and a hapless personnel manager trying to inform a corporate vice president (Scott Adsit) of some disastrous IQ test results without losing his own job. The latter performance was excerpted in Second City's 40th anniversary compilation.


Writing, acting, and producing

McKay originally auditioned for Saturday Night Live to be an onscreen performer, but did not make the cut. However, the scripts he submitted to the long-running sketch show earned him a job as writer from 1995 to 2001, including two seasons as head writer. He also directed a number of short films for the show, including the original SNL Digital Shorts. McKay encouraged his Second City friend Tina Fey to submit some of her scripts to Saturday Night Live, and she later succeeded him as head writer. Though McKay was never an actual SNL cast member, he did make several on-camera appearances over the years and had a recurring role as an obnoxious audience member "Keith" who would often shout insults at the celebrity hosts during their opening monologue.

Shortly after leaving SNL, McKay teamed up with comedian Will Ferrell to write the comedy films Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Step Brothers (2008), and The Other Guys (2010), all of which he also directed, produced and made cameo appearances in as an actor. In 2007, the duo launched the user-submitted comedy video site Funny or Die. A video on the site, titled The Landlord[4] features both him and his young daughter, Pearl, whom Ferrell and his wife bait to say curse words. Pearl also starred in a second video titled Good Cop, Baby Cop. Ferrell and McKay co-produce the HBO series Eastbound & Down.[5]

McKay was one of the writers for the film The Campaign (2012), and produced the film Daddy's Home (2015), the latter of which reunited The Other Guys stars Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and was directed by Sean Anders. McKay wrote the screenplay for and directed The Big Short (2015), the film adaptation of Michael Lewis's book about the 2006–10 financial crisis, and the build-up of the financial and credit bubble; the film starred Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, and Byron Mann. He rewrote the script for the Marvel Studios feature film Ant-Man, directed by Peyton Reed. McKay also worked with Reed, Paul Rudd, Gabriel Ferrari & Andrew Barrer on Ant-Man and the Wasp to flesh out the story.[6]

He produced the films Land of the Lost (2009), The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (2009), The Virginity Hit (2010), Casa de Mi Padre (2012), Bachelorette (2012), Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012), The Campaign (2012), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), Tammy (2014), Welcome to Me (2014), Get Hard (2015), Sleeping with Other People (2015), Daddy's Home (2015), and The Boss (2016).

In addition to Eastbound & Down, McKay has produced the TV series Big Lake, the miniseries The Spoils of Babylon, and The Chris Gethard Show.


McKay has directed, and co-written with Will Ferrell, the films Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Step Brothers (2008), The Other Guys (2010), and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013). He has directed an "alternate film" about Ron Burgundy that is considered a companion to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) entitled Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie (2004), which is made up mostly of alternative takes, deleted scenes, and scrapped sub-plots from the original film strung together with a narrative.

McKay directed and co-wrote with Ferrell the George W. Bush Broadway show You're Welcome America. He produced the horror-action film Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.[7]

McKay directed the TV movie documentary Lifecasters (2013). He has directed a number of short films, including digital shorts for Saturday Night Live, and the short video Good Cop, Baby Cop for Funny or Die that stars his daughter Pearl. Among the other short films he has directed include The Procedure (2007) starring Will Ferrell, Willem Dafoe, and Andy Richter, Green Team (2008) starring Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and himself, and the K-Swiss commercial, Kenny Powers: The K-Swiss MFCEO (2011), starring Danny McBride as Kenny Powers from Eastbound & Down, which he co-produces with Ferrell and has also directed an episode of ("Chapter 5", Season 1, Episode 5).

He directed and wrote the film adaptation of the Michael Lewis non-fiction book The Big Short, released in 2015. He received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work in the film, winning his first Academy Award following his victory in the latter category. In 2016, he and co-writer Charles Randolph received the USC Scripter Award.

In 2016, he became attached to the superhero film Irredeemable based on the comic of the same name by Mark Waid.[8]

McKay will work with Jennifer Lawrence for a biographical film titled Bad Blood which tells the story of entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes, based on the book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. It is in development and will be produced by Legendary Pictures and released by Universal Pictures.[9][10][11] Vanessa Taylor is writing the script.[12] McKay has also expressed interest in making a film about global warming.[13]


From November 2015 until October 2016, McKay hosted the science/comedy podcast Surprisingly Awesome with Adam Davidson, produced by Gimlet Media.[14]

Personal life

In 1996, he married Shira Piven, who directed the 2014 feature film Welcome to Me starring Kristen Wiig. They have two children. His brother-in-law is actor Jeremy Piven.[15] McKay has an essential tremor,[16] a benign neurological disorder that sometimes causes shaking.

McKay serves on the Creative Council of Represent.Us, a nonpartisan anti-corruption organization.[17] He is a supporter of the Democratic Party and endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in 2016 and again in 2020.[18][19][20] He identifies as a democratic socialist.[21]



Year Title Credit Notes
Director Writer Producer
2004 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Yes Yes No Directorial Debut
Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie Yes Yes No
2005 Bewitched No Yes No
2006 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Yes Yes executive
2008 Step Brothers Yes Yes executive
2010 The Other Guys Yes Yes Yes
2012 The Campaign[22] No Story Yes
2013 Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Yes Yes Yes
2015 Get Hard No Story Yes
Ant-Man No Yes No
The Big Short Yes Yes No Co-written with Charles Randolph
2018 Vice Yes Yes Yes
TBA Bad Blood[23] Yes No No Pre-production
Producer only
Year Title Director Notes
2009 Land of the Lost Brad Silberling Executive producer
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard Neal Brennan
2010 The Virginity Hit Huck Botko
Andrew Gurland
2011 Casa de Mi Padre Matt Piedmont
2012 Bachelorette[24] Leslye Headland
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie Tim Heidecker
Eric Wareheim
The Dictator Larry Charles Executive producer
2013 Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Tommy Wirkola
2014 Tammy Ben Falcone
The Yes Men Are Revolting Laura Nix
Jacques Servin
Igor Vamos
Welcome to Me Shira Piven
2015 Sleeping with Other People Leslye Headland
Daddy's Home Sean Anders
2016 The Boss Ben Falcone
Grimsby Louis Leterrier Executive producer
2017 Oh Lucy! Atsuko Hirayanagi
The House Andrew J. Cohen
Daddy's Home 2 Sean Anders
2018 Ibiza Alex Richanbach
Holmes & Watson Etan Cohen
2019 Booksmart Olivia Wilde Executive producer
Hustlers Lorene Scafaria
2020 Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar Josh Greenbaum Filming
Acting roles
Year Title Role
2002 God Hates Cartoons Uncle Gabby
2003 Pushing Tom The Boss
Felicia and the Great Quebec Big Dick Cash
2004 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Custodian
Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie
2006 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Terry Cheveaux
2008 Step Brothers Man without Glasses
2010 The Other Guys Dirty Mike


Year Title Credit Notes
Director Executive
Writer Actor
1995–2001 Saturday Night Live Yes No Yes Yes
2007 Human Giant No No No Yes Role: Alan Harkett (voice)
Episode: "24 Hour Marathon"
2009–2013 Eastbound & Down Yes Yes No No
2010–2011 Funny or Die Presents Yes Yes Yes No
2013 Lifecasters Yes No No No Television film
2018 Succession Yes Yes No No

Executive Producer Only

Year Title Notes
2010 Big Lake
2013–2017 Drunk History
2014 The Spoils of Babylon Miniseries
2014–2015 Bad Judge
2015 A Deadly Adoption Television film
2015–2017 The Chris Gethard Show
2017 No Activity
I'm Sorry
I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman
2018 LA to Vegas
2019 Dead to Me
Live in Front of a Studio Audience Television specials


Year Title Credit Notes
Director Producer Writer Actor
2007 The Procedure Yes Yes Yes No
The Landlord No Yes Yes Yes Role: Friend
Good Cop, Baby Cop Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Policeman
2008 Green Team Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Erin Gossamer
Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad No Yes Yes No
Ron Howard's Call to Action No Yes Yes No
2008–2016 Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis No No Yes No
2010 Presidential Reunion No No Yes No
Will Ferrell's NYPD Recruitment Video No No Yes No
2011 A Public Statement from Anthony Weiner's Penis No No Yes No
2014 COPS: Ferguson No No Yes No
2015 Mexican Donald Trump No No Yes No
2017 The President's Sun No No Yes No

Awards and nominations


  1. "Men in Blue, Under Arrested Adolescence". The New York Times. August 1, 2010. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  2. "'The Other Guys' mothers take over in special Mom-entary".
  3. Maehrer, Avery (December 12, 2013). "Anchorman director Adam McKay reflects on Philly past". The Temple News. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  4. "Will Ferrell and Pearl in The Landlord". Archived from the original on August 10, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  5. Hotz, Amy (October 21, 2008). "". Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  6. Perry, Spencer (April 12, 2016). "Peyton Reed: Ant-Man and the Wasp Will Feature Things 'Never Seen in a Movie Before'". ComingSoon. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  7. "'Twilight' Stars Offered Roles in 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters',
  8. Jr, Mike Fleming (May 5, 2016). "20th Century Fox Taps BOOM! Superhero Tale 'Irredeemable'; Adam McKay Helms, Tommy Wirkola Scripting". Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  9. Jr, Ali Jaafar, Mike Fleming (June 21, 2016). "'Bad Blood' Bids Mobilize for Jennifer Lawrence-Adam McKay Package: 9 Offers". Deadline. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  10. "Elizabeth Holmes Movie to Star Jennifer Lawrence". June 9, 2016. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  11. Jr, Ali Jaafar, Mike Fleming (June 23, 2016). "Legendary Wins Jennifer Lawrence-Adam McKay 'Bad Blood' Auction". Deadline. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  12. Nicolaou, Elena. "Everything We Know About The Bad Blood Movie".
  13. Allen, Ben (February 11, 2019). "Vice director Adam Mckay has his sights set on global warming for next film". Radio Times. Retrieved September 28, 2019.
  14. "New Podcast: Surprisingly Awesome". Gimlet Media. Gimlet Media. Archived from the original on November 19, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  15. "Shira Piven IMDB: Biography". Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  16. Goodyear, Dana (March 14, 2011). "Hollywood Shadows". The New Yorker. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
  17. "About | Represent. Us". Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  18. Johnson, Ted (September 18, 2015). "Will Ferrell Among Bernie Sanders Celeb Supporters". Variety. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  19. "Artists for Bernie - Bernie Sanders". Archived from the original on January 4, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  20. McKay, Adam [@GhostPanther] (February 19, 2019). "Join me in volunteering to help @BernieSanders secure the democratic nomination & become president. You don't have to give $, sweat is worth more. You'll have fun winning #MedicareForAll & stopping capitalist wars. Sign up:" (Tweet). Retrieved February 21, 2019 via Twitter.
  21. McKay, Adam (November 3, 2017). "I consider myself a Democratic socialist. Always have". @ghostpanther.
  22. nama chakravorty (August 10, 2012). "The Campaign (2012)". IMDb.
  23. Jr, Mike Fleming; Jr, Mike Fleming (May 14, 2018). "'Shape Of Water's Vanessa Taylor To Script Theranos Scandal Pic 'Bad Blood' For Adam McKay & Jennifer Lawrence". Deadline. Retrieved February 27, 2019.
  24. allenmck (September 6, 2012). "Bachelorette (2012)". IMDb.
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