Adam McKay

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Adam McKay
Adam McKay-7784.jpg
McKay in 2019
Born (1968-04-17) April 17, 1968 (age 53)
Alma materPennsylvania State University
Temple University
  • Film director
  • film producer
  • screenwriter
  • comedian
Years active1986–present
Notable work
(m. 1999)
RelativesJeremy Piven (brother-in-law)

Adam McKay (born April 17, 1968) is an American film and television director, producer, screenwriter, and comedian. McKay began his career in the 1990s as a head writer for the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live for two seasons and is the co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade. He rose to prominence in the 2000s for his collaborations with comedian Will Ferrell and co-wrote his comedy films Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and The Other Guys. Ferrell and McKay later co-wrote and co-produced numerous television series and films, and produced their comedy website Funny or Die through their company Gary Sanchez Productions. In October 2019, McKay founded Hyperobject Industries.

Venturing into more dramatic territory in the 2010s, McKay's The Big Short was the first film he directed without Ferrell in the cast. For this film, he was nominated for several awards including two Academy Awards, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (with co-writer Charles Randolph), and two British Academy Film Awards, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. He and Randolph won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards, the BAFTA Film Awards, and the WGA Awards.[1][2][3] For his work on the Dick Cheney biographical film Vice, McKay received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Early life[edit]

McKay was born in 1968 in Denver, Colorado and was raised in Worcester, Massachusetts[4] and then Malvern, Pennsylvania[5] by a waitress mother, Sarah, and a musician father.[6][7] When McKay was seven, his parents divorced.[6] He attended Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1986. He then attended Pennsylvania State University for a year before transferring to Temple University, where he majored in English. McKay dropped out of Temple a semester-and-a-half before he was set to earn his bachelor's degree. He described it as "settling with an imaginary degree".[8]

He is one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy group and a former performer at Chicago's ImprovOlympic, 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, as well as Child's Play Touring Theatre.[6] 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.[citation needed]


Writing, acting, and producing[edit]

McKay originally auditioned for Saturday Night Live to be an onscreen performer, but did not make the cut. However, the scripts he submitted earned him a job as a writer from 1995, and within a year McKay became head writer at age 27, a position he held until 2001.[9] He also directed a number of short films for the show, including the original SNL Digital Shorts.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12]

Shortly after leaving SNL, McKay teamed up with comedian Will Ferrell to form Gary Sanchez Productions and 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. Ferrell and McKay co-produce the HBO series Eastbound & Down.[13]

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' book of the same name about the financial and subprime mortgage crisis of 2007-2008,[14] 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. McKay rewrote the script for the Marvel Studios feature film Ant-Man, directed by Peyton Reed.[15] McKay also worked with Reed, Paul Rudd, Gabriel Ferrari & Andrew Barrer on Ant-Man and the Wasp to flesh out the story.[16] He has also expressed interest in helming a Silver Surfer movie for Marvel Studios.[17]

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 and Succession, whose pilot he directed, and the miniseries The Spoils of Babylon, and The Chris Gethard Show.

In April 2019, McKay and Ferrell announced that they were separating as producing partners but would continue producing all projects currently in development or in production at Gary Sanchez Productions.[18]

In 2019, McKay launched a new production company, Hyperobject Industries, which has a first look overall TV deal with HBO and a first look feature deal at Paramount Pictures. Hyperobject Industries’ first TV project was an HBO pilot based on Jeff Pearlman's non-fiction book ‘Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.’ McKay directed the pilot.[19][20] More recently, McKay's Hyperobject Industries has a first look deal with Apple.[21]


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 & Gretel: Witch Hunters.[22]

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.

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 in the latter category. In 2016, he and co-writer Charles Randolph received the USC Scripter Award for their screenplay.

In 2016, he became attached to the superhero film Irredeemable based on the comic of the same name by Mark Waid.[23]

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.[24][25][26] Vanessa Taylor is writing the script.[27]

In February 2021, it was announced that McKay's next film would be a comedy, entitled Don't Look Up, about two low level scientists trying to convince the world that a meteor is incoming. McKay wrote the script and will produce the film for Netflix. Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett are set to star.[28][29]

Funny or Die[edit]

In 2007, McKay and Ferrell launched the user-submitted comedy video site Funny or Die. A video on the site, titled The Landlord,[30] 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.


From November 2015 until October 2016, McKay hosted the science/comedy podcast Surprisingly Awesome with Adam Davidson, produced by Gimlet Media.[31] McKay additionally produced “Broken: Jeffrey Epstein” and “Broken: Seeking Justice,” a podcast series that explored the Jeffrey Epstein case. His next podcast project, Death at the Wing, investigated a series of deaths among high-profile young basketball players in the 1980s and 1990s.[32][33] [34]

Personal life[edit]

In 1999, he married Shira Piven, a film and television director.[35] They have two daughters, Lili Rose and Pearl.[2] His brother-in-law is actor Jeremy Piven.

McKay serves on the Creative Council of RepresentUs, a nonpartisan anti-corruption organization.[36] He is a supporter of the Democratic Party and endorsed Bernie Sanders for President of the United States in 2016 and again in 2020.[37][38][39] He identifies as a democratic socialist.[40]



Year Title Credit
Director Writer Producer
2004 Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy Yes Yes No
Wake Up, Ron Burgundy: The Lost Movie Yes 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 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
2018 Vice Yes Yes Yes
2021 Don't Look Up Yes Yes Yes
TBA Bad Blood[41] Yes No No

Producer only

Executive producer only

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 Directed episode: "Chapter 5"
2010–2011 Funny or Die Presents Yes Yes Yes No
2013 Lifecasters Yes No No No Television documentary
2018–present Succession Yes Yes No No Directed episode: "Celebration"
2021 Q: Into the Storm No Yes No No Television documentary

Executive producer only

Year Title Notes
2010 Big Lake
2013–2019 Drunk History
2014 The Spoils of Babylon
2014–2015 Bad Judge
2015 The Spoils Before Dying
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[edit]


  1. ^ "WGA Awards: Adam McKay to Receive Paul Selvin Award". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  2. ^ a b McNary, Dave (February 29, 2016). "Oscars: 'The Big Short's' Adam McKay Blasts Candidates Taking Money From Banks". Variety. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  3. ^ "Adapted Screenplay - The Big Short". January 6, 2016. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  4. ^ Semon, Craig (December 2, 2020). "Welcome home: Adam McKay, director of Netflix's 'Don't Look Up,' grew up in Worcester". Worcester Telegram. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  5. ^ Santoliquito, Joseph (February 26, 2016). "How Adam McKay went from Temple dropout to Oscar nominee". PhillyVoice. Retrieved September 17, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Men in Blue, Under Arrested Adolescence". The New York Times. August 1, 2010. Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  7. ^ "'The Other Guys' mothers take over in special Mom-entary".
  8. ^ Maehrer, Avery (December 12, 2013). "Anchorman director Adam McKay reflects on Philly past". The Temple News. Retrieved March 18, 2014.
  9. ^ Weiner, Jonah (November 29, 2018). "Why the Director of 'Anchorman' Decided to Take On Dick Cheney". The NY Times. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  10. ^ Hutton, Ryan (April 24, 2015). "Chapter 9: I'm Kinda a Big Deal". Will Ferrell - Staying Classy: The Biography. Kings Road Publishing. ISBN 978-1784180362.
  11. ^ Schofner, Melissa Rae; Friedman, Lauri S. (2016). Tina Fey: Queen of Comedy. Greenhaven Publishing, LLC. p. 26. ISBN 978-1534560345.
  12. ^ "Adam McKay". IMDB. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  13. ^ Hotz, Amy (October 21, 2008). "". Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  14. ^ Lam, Bourree; White, Gillian B. (December 17, 2015). "Learning Finance via The Big Short". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  15. ^ Gajewski, Ryan (October 19, 2014). "Adam McKay Reveals the Changes He Made to 'Ant-Man' Script". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Davids, Brian (December 20, 2018). "'Vice' Director Adam McKay Is Interested in a 'Silver Surfer' Movie".
  18. ^ McNary, Dave (April 6, 2019). "Will Ferrell, Adam McKay to End Production Partnership". Variety. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  19. ^ Petski, Denise (December 6, 2019). "Adam McKay's L.A. Lakers Project Gets Series Order At HBO". Deadline. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  20. ^ Welk, Brian (November 8, 2019). "Adam McKay and Hyperobject Industries Sign First Look Deal With Paramount". The Wrap. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  21. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (July 15, 2021). "Apple Sets Adam McKay's Hyperobject Industries In Multi-Year First Look Movie Deal". Deadline. Retrieved July 18, 2021.
  22. ^ "'Twilight' Stars Offered Roles in 'Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters',
  23. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (May 5, 2016). "20th Century Fox Taps BOOM! Superhero Tale 'Irredeemable'; Adam McKay Helms, Tommy Wirkola Scripting". Retrieved September 14, 2016.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ "Elizabeth Holmes Movie to Star Jennifer Lawrence". June 9, 2016. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  26. ^ Jr, Ali Jaafar, Mike Fleming (June 23, 2016). "Legendary Wins Jennifer Lawrence-Adam McKay 'Bad Blood' Auction". Deadline. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  27. ^ Nicolaou, Elena. "Everything We Know About The Bad Blood Movie".
  28. ^ "Jennifer Lawrence to Star in Adam McKay Comedy 'Don't Look Up'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  29. ^ "Cate Blanchett Joins James Gray, Adam McKay's Next Films (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  30. ^ "Will Ferrell and Pearl in The Landlord". Archived from the original on August 10, 2007. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
  31. ^ "New Podcast: Surprisingly Awesome". Gimlet Media. Gimlet Media. Archived from the original on November 19, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  32. ^ Sisario, Ben (September 4, 2019). "A Podcast From Adam McKay Examines Jeffrey Epstein and His World". The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  33. ^ Holmes, Dave (September 16, 2020). "What We're Going Through Is Incomprehensible. That's Never Stopped Adam McKay". Esquire. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  34. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (March 31, 2021). "Adam McKay Hosts Docu Podcast Series 'Death At The Wing,' On Deaths Of Rising Hoop Stars Intertwined With Reagan Era Policies".
  35. ^ "Adam McKay". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved May 11, 2020.
  36. ^ "About | Represent. Us". Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  37. ^ Johnson, Ted (September 18, 2015). "Will Ferrell Among Bernie Sanders Celeb Supporters". Variety. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  38. ^ "Artists for Bernie – Bernie Sanders". Archived from the original on January 4, 2016. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ McKay, Adam (November 3, 2017). "I consider myself a Democratic socialist. Always have". @ghostpanther.
  41. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (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.

External links[edit]