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‘Saturday Night Live’ Review: The Best and Worst of Will Forte’s Hosting Debut

Much like with Jason Sudeikis earlier this season, it’s surprising to realize that Will Forte had not hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live” until now.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- “Will Forte, Måneskin” Episode 1816 -- Pictured: Host Will Forte during the monologue on Saturday, January 22, 2022 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Will Forte, Måneskin” Episode 1816 — Pictured: Host Will Forte during the monologue on Saturday, January 22, 2022 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

Will Heath/NBC

Much like with Jason Sudeikis earlier this season — and even a non-former “Saturday Night Live” cast member, like Owen Wilson — it’s surprising to realize that Will Forte had not hosted an episode of “Saturday Night Live” until this season. Not even during his “The Last Man on Earth” days. But this weekend, he returned to 8H to make said hosting debut and promote Peacock’s “MacGruber” series, mixing nostalgia with some standard Forte weirdness in the process.

Host: Will Forte

As Forte noted in his opening monologue, every former “SNL” cast member who was a repertory player at the time of his final season, Season 35 (12 years ago), managed to host before he ever did. Sometimes multiple times — and that even counted for John Mulaney, who was “just” a writer for the show, never a cast member. When you really consider who that entails, you have to think about just how stacked a cast — though also lacking in women — it was. Fred Armisen, Forte, Bill Hader, Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson (the one who hasn’t hosted simply because he’s not a former cast member), and Kristen Wiig. (The featured players at the time did the making up for the male-heavy cast, as they were Abby Elliott, Bobby Moynihan, Nasim Pedrad, and Jenny Slate.)

And because of how stacked that cast (and writers’ room) was, Forte was always somewhat on an unsung and underrated member, though he was definitely appreciated. Just not as appreciated, as he noted in his opening monologue, with Kristen Wiig’s much louder reception as just a guest.

Again, much like with Jason Sudeikis (and previous cast members turned hosts), there was an expectation that Forte would bring back some beloved characters. (Though, in the case of both Sudeikis and Wiig, their combined hosting efforts still have yet to bring back the “Two A-Holes” bit, unfortunately.) In this case, that meant MacGruber — also providing synergy with the Peacock series — a sketch that’s premise is always technically one bit (with the same conclusion), yet also manages to have a well-plotted arc stretched out among the whole episode.

In this case, the arc was that MacGruber had been Q-pilled, going down internet spirals that only put him and his partners — Wiig’s Vicki and Ryan Phillippe’s Piper — at even more risk before, you guessed it, getting blown up. It’s a road the Peacock series didn’t go down, but it shows the difference between doing the character and bit for an actual show (or movie) and doing it for sketch comedy. As a few quick bits sprinkled throughout the show, as easy as the joke was, it works.

The return of “Cinema Classics” (in the form of “Cinema Classics: Gaslight”) was honestly more of a feature for Thompson’s Reece De’What — a character name Thompson has officially gone full hog on — as the bit about his anecdotes about his wife finally came back to bite him. In terms of the interpretation of 1944’s “Gaslight,” the goofiness of the bit itself was one that was completely propped up by Forte and Kate McKinnon’s performances, as there was no real angle to make this sketch hit any harder than usual this week. (After all, Chloe Fineman’s Elmo went on about being gaslit just last week on Weekend Update, which was at least part of the goings on in pop culture.)

Best Sketches of The Night: “Kid Klash” & “Jackie & Clancy”

Couldn’t tell you why in 2022 “SNL” decided to do a riff on “Double Dare” (then revealing it’s a riff on “Family Double Dare”) — right down to the font — but “Kid Klash” worked, in all of its strange choices. Despite the Aidy Bryant-lightness of this episode, this sketch was a quick and effective reminder of how fun awkward, child character Lil’ Baby Aidy always is. If there was one sketch to show for what Forte’s deal is, despite seeming like an average white man, it would probably be “Kid Klash.”

It’d be easy to forget, but Clancy T. Bachleratt (Forte) and Jackie Snad (Wiig) was a somewhat recurring bit, which, as the show noted, hadn’t happened since Forte’s last season on “SNL.” Previously, the emcee role in these sketches would be played by the episode’s host, but in this case, we got Thompson as Jevner Keeblerelv; so we did get a sketch with all three of the former (and again, Thompson is still on the show) cast members together. As noted in the sketch, all they sing about is spaceships, toddlers, Model T cars, and jars of beer. It’s ridiculous, it leads to a song about “toddler Hell,” and it’s great.

Worst Sketch of The Night: “Threesome”

It’s almost always a bad sign when an “SNL” sketch clearly has no idea how it’s going to end, which was absolutely the case for “Threesome.” While there was something to Forte’s character — whose look promised a much more entertaining sketch than could be delivered on — only referring to Mikey Day’s Tate as “Taint,” there wasn’t much more to the sketch than that. It was also a sketch with Day at his most incredulous, “this is really, really weird, right?” in his reactions, which is definitely something he can do well but something that got old fast with what he brings to the table.

Heidi Gardner’s character as the oblivious straight woman was also the kind of role that Cecily Strong (who is, again, nowhere to be found) would usually play and excel at; Gardner can do the straight woman role, but she tends to do better as a more frustrated one.

Best Male Performer: Will Forte

Despite Forte joking about essentially not getting his flowers as a former “SNL” cast member, his hosting debut allowed it to finally happen. Even in a sketch like “Threesome,” it was not that Forte’s performance was below par — the sketch itself was just one that didn’t quite hit, despite the promise of his introduction.

Best Female Performer: Kristen Wiig

Between “Jackie & Clancy” and MacGruber (and even the opening monologue), it was a no-brainer that Kristen Wiig would come in and just take charge. Much like last week, there wasn’t too strong of performances from the female cast members who were around — and McKinnon wasn’t in so much of the episode that it was a no contest — which doesn’t quite make sense, considering the number of women in the cast (again, compared to Season 35). Always good to see Wiig.

Final Thoughts

Weekend Update included three (now) recurring features, in Bowen Yang’s Chen Biao (who is now also Olympic Games organizer), Sarah Sherman as her flamboyant self, and Alex Moffat’s Guy Who Just Bought a Boat. The former and latter are more established features, both that can be hit or miss depending on how you’re feeling when watching them. Yang’s Chen Biao starting by calling Michael Che “Che Diaz” (a reference Che does not get) is a high point, but the character can meander a bit — though he definitely ended strong here.

Moffat’s Guy has one bit… which is why this version inverted it by including Colin Jost and Pete Davidson, due to their very real news of them buying a Staten Island Ferry. Honestly, in trying to add to this bit, it became chaotic. To some, that’s a good thing. To others, they were probably wondering why Davidson came onto live TV with a 40 in his hand.

Sarah Sherman, on the other hand, returned with the sequel to her show-stopping bit versus Colin Jost. It was definitely solid, but the original was kind of like lightning in a bottle.

As mentioned, Forte as host allowed him to remind people just how good he was and is — the recognition he’s getting is long deserved. The episode wasn’t too over the top — and the utilization of the cast has been somewhat lacking in this second half of the season — but it was very, very solid. Eat your heart out, Willem Dafoe.

Grade: B+

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