Ethnicity: Son of Lee and Kay Ferrell; Married Viveca Paulin, August 12, 2000; children: Magnus Paulin, Mattias, Axel.
Ferrell was born in Irvine, California, the son of Betty Kay (née Overman), a teacher who taught at Old Mill School elementary school and Santa Ana College, and Roy Lee Ferrell, Jr., a musician with The Righteous Brothers. His parents were both natives of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and moved to California in 1964; Ferrell has Irish ancestry. Ferrell has a younger brother, Patrick. When he was 8, his parents divorced. Ferrell said of the divorce, "I was the type of kid who would say, 'Hey Look at the bright side! We'll have two Christmases.'" The divorce was amicable and both parents were committed to their children. The biggest problem was Lee's line of work. As a person in show business, his paychecks were never steady and he was gone from home months at a time. Growing up in the environment made Ferrell not want to go into show business, but get a steady job.
Will first attended school at Turtle Rock Elementary and later attended Rancho San Joaquin Middle School, both in Irvine. He attended University High School in Irvine, and was a kicker for the school's varsity football team. He was also on the soccer team and captain of the basketball team, and served on student council. As a joke, he started the reptile club (even though he didn't know anyone who owned one), but the club only lasted for two meetings.
Ferrell called third grade "a pivotal year". He realized he could make his classmates laugh if he pretended to smash his head against the wall, or if he tripped and fell on purpose, and said it was a great way to make friends. He told the Orange County Register that the dullness of Irvine contributed to the growth of his humor:
Growing up in suburbia, in safe, master-planned Irvine, there was no drama so we had to create it in our heads. My main form of entertainment was cracking my friends up and exploring new ways of being funny. I didn't have to have the survival mode instinct like other comics, who grew up in tough neighborhoods. I had the opposite. For me, I grew up in Mayberry, and the humor broke the boredom. And there was a lot to make fun of.