Saturday Night Live Recap: Will Forte Returns With Some Old SNL


At times, news about Saturday Night Live can be as funny as the show, and this week Pete Davidson and Colin Jost bought a Staten Island ferry with a man named Paul Italia. I’m starting to think Pete is a genius. He’s barely on the show, but he is front-page news from Sunday to Friday by just living his best life. That’s comedy gold.

This week Will Forte hosts for the first time with musical guest Måneskin. Will comes from SNL’s last very successful era, so this will be a welcome return. It’s hard to believe we once had a season where the main cast was just Will Forte, Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, and Kenan Thompson.

Now the show has 21 cast members, many of whom get about a line of dialogue a month. While Will is best known for his impossibly dumb sketch-turned-movie-turned–TV show “MacGruber,” he has so many hilarious characters. One of my personal favorites is his “distant cousin” character. (“I am loathe to say his name, so I shall say it backward: Amabo. Barack Hussein Amabo.”) Nobody plays a creep better than Will, so I hope we get a lot of that.

Kate opens the show as Laura Ingraham, letting us know that “Gas is now $19 a gallon, and the green M&M was canceled for being a whore.” She brings on Aidy as Ted Cruz, whose beard is like January 6. (“Shocking at first, but sadly it’s been normalized.”) Pete stops by as Novak Djokovic to talk about his recent deportation from Australia. Laura lets him know she loves his sport “because in tennis, love is bad.” Ego stops by as Candace Owens, who quotes MLK’s tombstone. (“Great job gang, racism over.”) Finally, James stops by as Trump. Instead of his usual PTI rundown, Trump puts up a Wordle. (“Folks, the only Hillary we like is Duff from How I Met Your Father.”)

It’s an okay start. They’ve basically done this style of cold open a couple of times this season, except with Cecily as Jeanine Pirro. However, this time it feels like the characters are in and out a little too fast and don’t hit any strong jokes.

Will Forte steps out for his monologue looking a little like Mitt Romney. He bitterly comments he is one of the last major cast members from his era to host the show. (“It was really fun to see Kristen host, then Bill, then Andy, then Fred, then Kristen again, then Bill again …”) He’s interrupted by Kristen Wiig, who, after getting a raucous applause, is asked by Will to leave. (“I flew in for this.” “Oh great, so you know where the airport is.”) His monologue is interrupted again by Lorne Michaels, who lets him know that tonight’s host is actually supposed to be Willem Dafoe. (“Do you think I’d book someone named Will, then someone named Willem?”) A fine monologue, and it’s great that SNL is having more fun at the top of the show.

MacGruber returns in a three-part series about coronavirus conspiracy theories, alongside Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillippe. MacGruber reveals he is against masks and that he got the “Fizer” vaccine at a Sizzler. (“I think there’s a P in front of Pfizer.” “If there was a P in front of Pfizer, it would be pronounced Puh-fizer.”)

MacGruber returns later in the episode to take ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for his “covi-phyllis”. The series ends with MacGruber dressed as the Q Shaman. While it’s a treat to see Will in one of his most popular sketches, I think we only needed one of these. And at this point, what comedian hasn’t dressed up as the Q Shaman?

Will Forte is host Mark Zazz for a Double Dare–type show called Kid Klash. He brings on Aidy as teen Tatum, who desperately looks for a flag in a giant pie. (“The whipped cream is adversity, and the flag is your unfulfilled potential.”) I could watch Aidy struggle inside a giant spinning pie for hours, and Will’s cruel weirdness as he watches pushes this sketch over the top. She eventually finds the flag, which is impossibly small and white like the cream.

A butcher knife on a silver chain. Will is an experienced third for Heidi’s birthday threesome with her husband, Mikey. Will checks the bed by slamming it for almost a minute, takes three Cialis pills, and then runs a mock threesome to show Mikey when to jump in. (“Remember it’s a threeway, not a me-way.”) This sketch has all the ingredients of a banger, but they get way too caught up in the negotiation of what’s going to happen. We want Mikey’s character to keep stopping the threesome, not to be mildly annoyed at what’s going to happen.

In an episode where Will Forte reprises MacGruber and Clancy T, the best return goes to Bowen as the hilarious Chen Biao on “Weekend Update.” Going at China is gutsy, especially with NBC broadcasting the Winter Olympics. Yet SNL doesn’t hold back here even when making fun of NBC. (“Are you guys okay? NBC is announcing the games from their studios in Connecticut. You know what else films in Connecticut? Maury.”) This is my highlight of the entire episode.

“And now they’ll meet the wrath of God and burn in toddler hell. Unless they call their friends, the aliens to spend a spaceship down. But God will find them there; he’s everywhere, he’s well-connected.”

Clancy T. Bachleratt and Jackie Snad return to sing their demented country songs. Kristen is one of the best cast members of all time, and the commitment and weirdness she and Will bring to their characters feel very out of place in this era of SNL. I can’t imagine any current cast member being allowed to do characters like these now.

This episode felt light. Usually, it’s a good thing when SNL flies by, but this time it felt like many of the sketches never really moved past their first joke. The MVP goes to Will Forte, and it’s really just for being there. As a beloved former cast member, he is a welcome presence. Even though the sketches weren’t fully fleshed out, Will was able to earn laughs with his signature bizarreness.

Something is frankly weird about cast members having a hilarious episode, as Chris Redd did last week, and then being completely gone the next. It would help if SNL allowed the audience to build a rapport with the cast to eventually do weirder and more memorable stuff. How can we find the next Kristen and Will if the only people allowed to do really fun stuff this episode are … Kristen and Will?

There’s also a weird energy around Kate. I personally think she still elevates SNL, but it’s almost like when she’s in a sketch, everybody else has to clear out of the way. And that “Gaslight” sketch was rough. Seeing Will and Jason this season has been a reminder of what worked in the past: a tight cast that grows together. I hope we get to see that again.

Saturday Night Live Recap: Will Forte Returns