After months of speculation, competitive jabs and mistaken identities, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Will Ferrell have agreed to participate in a drum battle on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Thursday, May 22nd. Fallon announced the battle on his show Thursday night “to settle who’s the better drummer once and for all.”
“We’re going to have a drum-off to see who the real Chad Smith is,” the real Chad Smith tells Rolling Stone. “I’m all for it. But unless Will’s been practicing or is secretly a crazy, wild drummer, I think it’ll be evident right off the bat who the real Chad Smith is. I’m ready to take him down.”
Asked how he would rate Ferrell’s skills, Smith immediately replied, “Terrible. I hope he’s practicing.”
“I have not been practicing,” Ferrell tells Rolling Stone. “There’s no amount of practice that would help me become a good drummer.”
The drum-off will be the first time the two will appear in public together, three months after Ferrell admitted that “a lot of people think that it’s me playing for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But that would be an insult to Chad Smith. There is no Will Ferrell. Only Chad Smith.”
“Ever since the Super Bowl, this delusional imposter claiming to be me has forced me to defend my identity,” says Smith. “What’s up with that? I don’t understand why he, all of a sudden, decided he wants to be me. It’s not enough to be one of the biggest movie stars in the world? It is going to be complete public humiliation on the part of Will Ferrell.”
For Ferrell, the battle is more a charitable service to humanity than attempt to settle who the best drummer is. “Chad apparently has a lot of anger and issues,” says Ferrell. “I don’t quite come from the same place. I don’t get nearly as many references to being Chad Smith as he does Will Ferrell. I’m not looking at this as much as a competition so much as a public service to the world.”
Smith says the winner of the battle will receive a giant golden cowbell, with the two celebrities raising money for Cancer for College and Little Kids Rock. The pair had previously raised more than $300,000 for the battle to occur.
Ferrell has been involved with Cancer for College, which has donated more than $2 million to college scholarships for cancer survivors, for 17 years. “It’s a small, grassroots charity that doesn’t really have a big platform in a way,” says Ferrell. “So to get to do something like this on The Tonight Show is fantastic.”
While prizes will be offered at a later date to raise money for the two charities, including a specially designed T-shirt and custom-designed cowbells, Smith also revealed a personal side bet. “If I win, he has to wash my car for a month and give me pedicures,” says the drummer. “If I lose, I have to be his stand-in for his next film.”
The similarities between the two have been noticed by fans of the band and comedian for years, but reached a fever pitch after Ferrell and Smith’s Reddit AMAs in February. The duo continued the bit with competing Instagram videos before Ferrell accepted Smith’s drum challenge later that week. Smith tweeted a picture of himself giving blood with the caption, “Gettin juiced for the drum battle.” In 2011, Smith told Rolling Stone that the two have only met once, when Ferrell approached him in 2000 after a showing of The Ladies Man and said, “You’re very handsome,” before walking away.
Ferrell’s extensive percussion career is well-documented, most notably from the 2000 Saturday Night Live skit “More Cowbell” — which featured Fallon as the drummer to Ferrell’s cowbell player — and a scene in 2008’s Step Brothers where he rubs his testicles on his stepbrother’s drum kit. (Christopher Walken was asked to participate in next week’s drum battle, but was unavailable.)
“I believe they’ll be some cowbell involved,” revealed Smith. “And that’s what worries me. He might try to win everybody over with his whole cowbell thing. I might have to wrestle and tackle him.”
Smith said that he has learned from his more outlandish bandmates on how to command attention against the charismatic Ferrell. “I’ve had the best seat in the house for 25 years, so I’ve seen how it goes,” says the drummer. “But I might have to go to Anthony [Kiedis] or Flea to see if there’s a specific go-to thing that works every time.”
The two combatants were cagey on specific details, but Ferrell admitted, “It’s going to end in a way that will be extremely surprising to the audience.”
Asked if this will be the end of the battle or just the beginning, Ferrell is circumspect. “It may be something too powerful for the audience to even handle, so it may just be an one-time event,” says the comedian. “Man only went to the moon once, right? But it could become the beginning of a rivalry that will go on until the end of time.”