Adam McKay

Adam McKay

McKay in 2015
Born (1968-04-17) April 17, 1968
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Occupation Film director, producer, screenwriter, comedian, actor, podcaster
Years active 1986–present
Spouse Shira Piven (m. 1996)

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). McKay has a creative partnership with actor Will Ferrell, with whom he co-wrote all except one of these films.

The Big Short (2015) was the first film McKay 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 McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph winning Best Adapted Screenplay at each respective ceremony.

McKay and Ferrell produced their comedy website Funny or Die through their company Gary Sanchez Productions.

Personal life

McKay was born in 1968 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a cocktail waitress mother and a bassist father.[1] He was raised in Pennsylvania. 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. He described it as, "settling with an imaginary degree”.[2]

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.

Mckay serves on the Creative Council of Represent.Us, a nonpartisan anti-corruption organization.[3]

McKay has an essential tremor,[4] a benign neurological disorder that sometimes causes shaking.

He is also a supporter of the Democratic Party and other liberal causes. He endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States during the 2016 Presidential Election.[5][6]

In 1996, he married director and actress Shira Piven, who directed the 2014 feature film Welcome to Me starring Kristen Wiig. His brother-in-law is actor Jeremy Piven.[7]


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 three 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 on the show. 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 named "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 (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, Ferrell and McKay launched the user-submitted comedy video site Funny or Die. A video on the site, titled The Landlord[8] 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.[9]

McKay was also one of the writers (of the story) for the feature film, The Campaign (2012), and produced the film Daddy's Home (2015), the latter of which re-united The Other Guys stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg, and was directed by Sean Anders. He also wrote the screenplay for and directed The Big Short (2015), the feature film adaptation of Michael Lewis's book about the 2006–2010 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 (2015), which Peyton Reed directed.

He also 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, he has also 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 feature films Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Step Brothers (2008), The Other Guys (2010), Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013). He has also 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.[10] McKay is in talks to direct the remake of Uptown Saturday Night, with Denzel Washington and Will Smith.

McKay directed the TV movie documentary Lifecasters (2013).

He has directed a number of short films, including a good number of digital shots for Saturday Night Live, and the short videos The Landlord and Good Cop, Baby Cop for Funny or Die that star 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 feature 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.[11]

McKay will team-up with Jennifer Lawrence for a biographical film titled Bad Blood which tells the story of Entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes, it is currently in development and will produced by Legendary Pictures and released by Universal Pictures[12][13][14]


From November 2015 until October 2016, McKay hosted the science/comedy podcast Surprisingly Awesome with Adam Davidson, produced by Gimlet Media.[15]



Year Title Credit
Director Producer Writer Actor
1995–2001 Saturday Night Live Yes Yes Yes
2007 Human Giant Yes
2009–2013 Eastbound & Down Yes Yes
2010 Big Lake Yes
2010–2011 Funny or Die Presents Yes Yes Yes
2013–2015 Drunk History Yes
2014–2015 Bad Judge Yes
2015–2016 The Chris Gethard Show Yes


Year Title Credit Notes
Director Producer Writer Actor
2002 God Hates Cartoons Yes Role: Uncle Gabby
2003 Pushing Tom Yes Role: The Boss
2003 Felicia and the Great Quebec Yes Role: Big Dick Cash
2004 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Yes Yes Yes Role: Custodian
2004 Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie Yes Yes Yes Role: Custodian
2006 Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Terry Cheveaux
2008 Step Brothers Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Man without Glasses
2009 Land of the Lost Yes
2009 The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard Yes
2010 The Other Guys Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Dirty Mike
2010 The Virginity Hit Yes
2011 Casa de Mi Padre Yes
2012 Bachelorette[16] Yes
2012 Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie Yes
2012 The Campaign[17] Yes Yes Story writer
2013 Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Yes
2013 Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Yes Yes Yes
2014 The Spoils of Babylon Yes
2014 Tammy Yes
2014 Welcome to Me Yes
2015 Sleeping with Other People Yes
2015 Get Hard Yes Yes Story writer
2015 A Deadly Adoption Yes
2015 Ant-Man Yes
2015 The Big Short Yes Yes Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
USC Scripter Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Director
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Direction
Nominated—Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay
2015 Daddy's Home Yes
2016 The Boss Yes
2016 Grimsby Yes
2017 The House Yes

Video shorts

Year Title Credit Notes
Director Producer Writer Actor
2007 The Procedure Yes Yes Yes
2007 The Landlord Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Friend
2007 Good Cop, Baby Cop Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Policeman
2008 Green Team Yes Yes Yes Yes Role: Erin Gossamer
2008 Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad Yes
2008 Ron Howard's Call to Action Yes
2010 Presidential Reunion Yes
2010 Will Ferrell's NYPD Recruitment Video Yes
2011 A Public Statement from Anthony Weiner's Penis Yes
2014 COPS: Ferguson Yes
2015 Mexican Donald Trump Yes


  1. "Men in Blue, Under Arrested Adolescence". The New York Times. 1 August 2010. Retrieved 2016-09-14.
  2. Maehrer, Avery (12 December 2013). "Anchorman director Adam McKay reflects on Philly past". The Temple News. Retrieved 2014-03-18.
  3. "About | Represent. Us". Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  4. Goodyear, Dana. "Hollywood Shadows". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2014-04-15.
  5. "Will Ferrell Among Bernie Sanders Celeb Supporters". Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  6. "Artists for Bernie - Bernie Sanders". Retrieved 2016-03-24.
  7. "Shira Piven IMDB: Biography". Retrieved 2014-09-12.
  8. "Will Ferrell and Pearl in The Landlord".
  9. Hotz, Amy (2008-10-21). "". Retrieved 2013-05-16.
  10. "'Twilight' Stars Offered Roles in 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters',
  11. Jr, Mike Fleming (5 May 2016). "20th Century Fox Taps BOOM! Superhero Tale 'Irredeemable'; Adam McKay Helms, Tommy Wirkola Scripting". Retrieved 2016-09-14.
  12. 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.
  13. "Elizabeth Holmes Movie to Star Jennifer Lawrence". 9 June 2016. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  14. Jr, Ali Jaafar,Mike Fleming (June 23, 2016). "Legendary Wins Jennifer Lawrence-Adam McKay 'Bad Blood' Auction". Deadline. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  15. "New Podcast: Surprisingly Awesome". Gimlet Media. Gimlet Media. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  16. allenmck (6 September 2012). "Bachelorette (2012)". IMDb.
  17. nama chakravorty (10 August 2012). "The Campaign (2012)". IMDb.

External links

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