It’s always a lovely treat when a Saturday Night Live alum returns to their old stomping grounds to try their hand at hosting. Last night, MacGruber, better known as actor and writer Will Forte, brought his sweet and quirky self back to Studio 8H for a night of weird voices, creepy characters, and overall excellence alongside Eurovision winner Måneskin. Though it might be hard to believe, Forte never thought he’d end up in the entertainment industry. The California native told The Hollywood Reporter on an episode of the Awards Chatter podcast that upon graduating from UCLA, he interned at a financial company and wrote scripts in his spare time with his friend. Forte dreamed of working in comedy, but, like most people trying to break into the industry, he had no idea where to begin. He found his footing at legendary improv hotspot The Groundlings, where he met like-minded people and gained the confidence to try out some of his wacky characters and ideas, including Tim Calhoun, an impression of singer Joni Mitchell, and a street performer who’s covered in gold face paint. (All of which he would later do in his SNL audition.)
In addition to performing, Forte is a skilled comedy writer. One of his first jobs in the industry was working for one of his heroes, David Letterman. Forte then bounced around different writers’ rooms of several short-lived shows before securing steady work writing for hit series 3rd Rock From the Sun and That ‘70s Show. During this time, Lorne Michaels asked him to audition for Saturday Night Live based on what he’s seen of him at The Groundlings. Forte flew to New York, auditioned, and quickly heard he got the job. But, he now had a major decision to make: keep his steady writing job on That ‘70s Show or move to New York for SNL? “The main thing was, I just was terrified,” Forte said, adding, “I don’t want to blow it, I don’t want to have this dream not be there [anymore].” After initially turning down SNL, he realized he made the wrong decision. After a second audition, Forte joined the cast in 2002, where he would stay for 8 splendid and zany years.
If you followed Forte’s SNL career, then you know it’s filled with absurd and odd characters that only he could bring to life. Among his roster of lovable oddballs are The Falconer, singer Clancy T. Bacherlatt, Tim Calhoun, and of course, MacGruber! This MacGyver parody character became such a cult favorite that it spun-off into its own movie in 2010. MacGruber was directed by The Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone and starred Forte in the titular role alongside his SNL castmate Kristen Wiig as Vicki St. Elmo. Though MacGruber didn’t perform well at the box office, it remains one of the most beloved movies for hardcore comedy fans. Its following is so intense, that it led to the development of the recent Peacock series of the same name that brings back Wiig, Forte, and several others from the movie. In addition to SNL and his MacGruber projects, Forte is also known for his whip-smart writing and acting in the apocalypse comedy series The Last Man on Earth, in which he was nominated for an Emmy, as well voicing Abraham Lincoln in The Lego Movie and acting alongside Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne’s Oscar-nominated drama Nebraska. This Forte fella is quite talented and busy!
Let’s revisit some of the best moments from the January 22 episode of Saturday Night Live. Live from New York, it’s Will Forte!
5. Cinema Classics: Gaslight
In the latest episode of the hit PBS series Cinema Classics, host Reese De’What (Kenan Thompson) takes us back to 1944 to revisit the iconic mystery movie Gaslight starring Ingrid Bergman (Kate McKinnon) and Charles Boyer (Will Forte). This film tells the story of the innocent Paula who is slowly going insane thanks to her husband Gregory’s continuous odd behavior and manipulations. Sure, it might be easy for him to get away with a few minor modifications, but does he really think his wife is dumb enough to believe that her book is actually a rat?
4. Kid Klash
Life isn’t covered in rose petals and candy. It’s filled with unexpected obstacles and hard truths! This colorful Nickelodeon game show parody Kid Klash is straight out of the ‘90s and hosted by the nasally and seemingly benign Mark Zazz (Forte). Mark welcomes the energetic youngster Tatum (Aidy Bryant) to the show to try to beat the clock to win a big prize in a number of messy activities. The first challenge is to find the white flag in the vat (and I mean a vat) of whipped cream. Unfortunately, Tatum is unable to find the flag and accepts the fact that she has to head back home. But wait one second… she’s not going anywhere until she looks her family in the eye and finds that flag!
3. Will Forte Monologue
He’s back! The Forte-meister returned to his comedy roots to make his hosting debut. The episode was one of the best of the season (if not the best). The Ingraham Angle Cold-Open spoof was sharp (“No thanks, Lin-Manuel.”), Weekend Update featured the return of newbie Sarah Sherman’s roast Jost segment, and above all, Forte crushed it. Come to think of it, isn’t it a little weird it took him this long to host? Forte was filled with bitter nostalgia as he mentioned all of his former castmates that hosted before him like Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, and Kristen Wiig. And speaking of Wiig, the SNL living legend snuck onto the stage to support her good friend and kick off the night. Let’s hope this is the first of many episodes hosted by Forte.
2. Jackie & Clancy
Feeling a bit bummed out at your boring playlist? It’s just the same songs over and over singing about the same old things. Well, fear not, friend! Everyone’s favorite country music duo Clancy T. Bacherlatt (Forte) and Jackie Snad (Wiig) are back with brand-new tunes about their four favorite song topics: Model T cars, toddlers, spaceships, and of course, jars of beer. After listening to this catchy album, your faith will be renewed and your hatred of toddlers will be restored!
1. MacGruber: Coronavirus
MacGruber! He’s got a lot on his plate and he’s gonna be late. MacGruber! Some time has passed and now he refuses to wear a mask. MacGruber! He’s looked at the news and now he’s got some alt-right views. He’s MacGruber! The return of Forte’s MacGruber character was expected and was further proof that his antics never get old. This time, what’s distracting him from diffusing the bomb is his growing fixation on the alt-right political agenda. His sidekicks Vicki St. Elmo (Wiig) and Piper (Ryan Phillippe) are understandably worried about their leader’s idea of safety during the pandemic.
Next week, Willem Dafoe heads to Studio 8H to make his hosting debut alongside musical guest Katy Perry.
They also talk about how they keep a straight face when filming, how Peacock let them make a brutally violent series, and more.
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