Among the 8 million people who watched Chris Parnell's debut as George W. Bush last weekend on Saturday Night Live was his wildly popular presidential predecessor, Will Ferrell. Now, for the first time, the 35-year-old funnyman — who left NBC's sketch comedy in May to focus on his film career — casts a vote of support for his replacement.

"I thought he was fantastic," Ferrell tells TV Guide Online, adding that he had no inkling exec producer Lorne Michaels was going to elect Parnell as the new commander in chief. "I was pleasantly surprised. I think Chris is kind of a surprising choice, but once I saw it, great choice."

After spending three years in the Oval Office, Ferrell knows a thing or two about the polysyllabically-challenged leader of the free world. So, does he have any pointers for Parnell? "Just have a lot of fun with it." Pausing, he adds: "And they might have gone a little too heavy on the make-up. That's the only thing I noticed." (An SNL rep declined to say whether Parnell will take one less powder next time around.)

Three weeks into SNL's 28th season, Ferrell — a grad of L.A.'s famed comedy troupe, the Groundlings — has no regrets about quitting the show he called home for seven seasons. "No, none whatsoever," he insists. "I left when I wanted to go, but I'm happy with the new show. I continue to watch."

In the meantime, there's good news for SNL fans wishing that a recount of some hanging chads would bring Ferrell back to the screen: Come January, the actor will appear opposite Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson in the Animal House-style comedy Old School. And later this year, he starts work on Elf — a Jon Favreau-directed holiday film in which Ferrell plays a human raised as an elf in Santa's workshop. And what about another TV gig? "I'm the new center square on Hollywood Squares," he deadpans. "Just kidding."

Somewhere, Alec Baldwin isn't laughing.