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 has a comedy partnership with Will Ferrell, with whom he co-wrote the films Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers; all of which he solely directed. Ferrell and McKay also founded their comedy website Funny or Die through their production company Gary Sanchez Productions and have produced films and television series together. The first film he directed without Will Ferrell as the lead, The Big Short, was released on December 11, 2015 and saw him venture into more dramatic territory.
McKay was born in 1968 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and attended Penn State and Temple University, though he dropped out with one semester to go before earning a B.A.
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 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.
He rewrote the script for the Marvel Studios feature film Ant-Man (2015), which Peyton Reed directed.
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 and made cameo appearances in as an actor. He also produced Talladega Nights, Step Brothers and The Other Guys. In 2007, Ferrell and McKay launched the user-submitted comedy video site Funny or Die. A video on the site, titled The Landlord 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.
McKay also is one of the writers (of the story) for the feature film, The Campaign (2012) and the film Daddy's Home (2015), which re-unites The Other Guys stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg and is being directed by Sean Anders and John Morris. He also wrote and directed the screenplay for the feature film adaptation of Michael Lewis's book on the 2006-2010 financial crisis and the build-up of the financial and credit bubble, The Big Short (2015), which starred Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, Byron Mann and others.
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 Michelle Darnell (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. He also directed and wrote the feature film adaptation of the Michael Lewis non-fiction book The Big Short, also named The Big Short, released in 2015, and starred Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, Byron Mann and others.
On May 30, 2014, he was reported to be in talks to direct Ant-Man, for Marvel Studios, after Edgar Wright left the film, but pulled out the next day. On June 7, 2014 it was announced by Marvel that he would re-write the script, with Peyton Reed directing.
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. 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 also 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 Will 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 Will Ferrell and has also directed an episode of ("Chapter 5", Season 1, Episode 5).
Since November 2015, McKay has hosted the science/comedy podcast Surprisingly Awesome with Adam Davidson, produced by Gimlet Media.
McKay has an essential tremor, a benign neurological disorder that sometimes causes shaking. He is also a supporter of the Democratic Party and other liberal causes.
He has been married to director and actress Shira Piven, who directed the 2014 feature film Welcome to Me starring Kristen Wiig, since 1996. His brother-in-law is actor Jeremy Piven.