Will Forte SNL Sketches Ranked: MacGruber Indoctrinated, Trump Plays Wordle, Pete Buys a Boat

After a lackluster kickoff for the new year, bringing back “Saturday Night Live” vet Will Forte was just what the show needed. The result is the best show of the season.

Forte was joined almost as a co-host by his “MacGruber” co-star Kristen Wiig, who appeared in more sketches on the night than anyone in the cast except for Kenan Thompson (and that only if you count the cut-for-time sketch. Hell, with his appearances in three “MacGruber” pieces, Ryan Phillippe technically appeared more than the cast, too.

Unlike most episodes this season, there were very few ensemble pieces meaning the cast had to settle mostly for one or two appearances all night long. Poor Melissa Villaseñor, who remains criminally underutilized, was seen in the background of the closing credits without making a single appearance through the show. Missing entirely were Cecily Strong, Andrew Dismukes, Punkie Johnson and Aristotle Athari.

Still, perhaps the focus on just a few cast members at a time in this sprawling cast is the right attitude, because this was the funniest and most consistent “SNL” has been in a long time. The quality of writing in each sketch was stronger, the concepts seemed more finely tuned and even the performances felt escalated to a higher level.

It was as if Will brought an energy into Studio 8H that was infectious and suddenly everyone was more excited to be here than they’d been in a long time, they were determined to bring their best to the stage and they maybe wanted to impress one of the most committed performers the show has ever had.

Whatever it was, we could only dream “SNL” delivers like this every week. Maybe by appearing in a surprising cameo tonight, Willem Dafoe can carry some of tonight’s energy into his appearance next week.

As usual, we’re ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Monologue, Cold Open, “Weekend Update” and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. We’ll skip the musical guests, because they’re not usually funny — unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.

Of all the Will Forte recurring sketches, we’d have never guessed he’d bring back this “10-to-1” bit, but it offered him the chance to yet again work with Kristen Wiig as their bizarre country duo belts out songs about toddlers, spaceships, Model-T cars and jars of beer. Yes, that’s really what this sketch is about, though it goes far more absurd than those four things. Kenan Thompson was surprisingly just meh as the infomercial host setting up Will and Kristen to really go all in with their terrible singing and ridiculously stupid lyrics. We can’t say the piece was great, but it was definitely shrill and deeply strange.

“America is still struggling from the loss of America’s dad, Robert Durst,” says Kate McKinnon’s Laura Ingraham. She definitely has the mannerisms and way of speaking down, coming off confident and strong as she actually effectively skewers the ineffectiveness of the Biden administration in moving forward so many of its early initiatives. Honestly, we enjoyed her characterization and fake sponsors even more than the content of her monologues.

Pete Davidson’s Novak Djokovic was less funny than Kate’s looking at the camera like it was a raw steak and Ego Nwodim’s Candace Owens’ biggest laugh came when she said she’s honored to fight for Black people, even though they keep asking her to stop, but we are still here for James Austin Johnson’s rambling Trump, this time using Wordle has his template to navigate from booster shots to running for president again. His opening comparison to his team and “Tiger King” 2 was brilliant! But why did they throw back to Kate for “LFNY” when James was killing it … he should have been allowed to have that moment.

Heidi Gardner’s characterization throughout this piece with Will Forte as a threesome expert she “hired” online is fantastic. She brings a little sultriness and excitement to the role, while Will is the confident buffoon role he perfected through his time on the show. All the ways he planned to sideline husband Mikey Day, who was perfect in his own finely-honed straight man role, were killing us, but even funnier was the brief moments of physical comedy. The pillow-as-wife bit was funny, but we and the audience were dying at him testing out the bed for so. very. Long. Sadly, though, it was the first sketch of the night to kind of peter out as if they couldn’t find a strong exit.

Kenan Thompson was more animated and saucy than usual as host Reese De’What, getting more and more in trouble with his stories about his wife, while Kate McKinnon was transcendent as Ingrid Bergman, slowly going insane in the fake film that supposedly inspired the notion of gaslighting. The gaslighting in the picture goes from literally dealing with gas lighting to trying to pass off a pineapple as a steak, and yet it all works because of the melodramatics of the whole scene. Kate, in particular, was great as she went on a journey throughout before reaching the obvious conclusion. The film itself was a lot of fun, but the bits with Kenan took it to the next level of greatness.

Aidy Bryant has always understood teens in such a way that she is totally believable when portraying one, and that worked perfectly here opposite Will Forte’s twisted game show host. His commentary was savage throughout as she tried to play in a game that looks like it was lifted right out of Nickelodeon in the ‘90s and ‘00s. There was a manic glee in his casual cruelty, accentuated beautifully by her family’s reactions (as shrimp no less) and Aidy’s performance as the heartbroken, embarrassed and frustrated kid. Bonus points for the obvious yet unexpected dig at Bowen Yang as her brother toward the end.

We loved the energy of this piece, and Chloe Fineman did a great job as “the glue” between Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd’s dually unhinged Michael Ervin and Stephen A. Smith, respectively. Chris, in particular, seemed to really have the mannerisms and delivery down for Stephen, but Kenan only got stronger as the piece went along and he got deeper into his character. Will Forte was almost an afterthought in this one as Kenan and Chris were more than capable of carrying the sketch, and did through most of it. This is one of those moments where it’s so over the top you can’t help but laugh, and then you lament that this didn’t make it onto the show when something like “Jackie & Clancy” did. Had this been on instead of that, Will would have had a show with zero weak sketches!

Part 1: Kristen Wiig again showed up for a modernized (yet still classic) episode of “MacGruber,” alongside Ryan Phillippe. It was great seeing the usual gang from the film and TV show together, and we can’t say that we’re all that surprised with MacGruber’s stance on vaccines and masks. The formula of the sketch may not have changed, but his diatribe about the current state of the world was very sharply written and funny — still giggling about his twist on asymptomatic (yikes!). Yes, it’s a strong political statement as MacGruber is clearly an idiot and … well … you know.

Part 2: A little later in the show, we got the second part of it with updated theme song to suggest that MacGruber did a little digging into Covid to expand his mind and grow as a person. He’s now “following the science.” So, take the biggest idiot you can imagine and see where that’s likely to go and this went even further and stupider. And with only 60 second before this whole place was gonna blow … well … you know.

Part 3: If you didn’t think this could escalate any further, a picture’s worth a thousand words and that screenshot in the video above … well … you know.

Self-deprecating and bitter that it’s been 12 years since he left the show and he feels like he’s the last former cast member from his era to host, this was an absolutely brilliant monologue. It feels like it’s been forever since a host really just owned the stage and their moment, even if he had to share it with Kristen Wiig briefly (loved him telling her to leave) and even Lorne Michales breaking the news to him that they actually wanted next week’s host Willem Dafoe for this week — and Dafoe being there. Will was perfect in his emotional journey as everything about this worked so well. We can’t remember the last time a monologue left us this excited for what was to come.

Colin Jost quickly proved why he didn’t get the Trump impression for “SNL” while Micheal Che was going hard on the fight against voting rights and critical race theory. He also got a dig into his favorite white target, Colin, by suggesting who he thinks might be an even better co-host. Could it be a foreshadowing of things to come? We’d be here for it.

Bowen Yang was fired up and saucy as ever with “trade daddy” Chen Biao, apparently with some real responsibilities over the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. A lot of the shtick was just the same old material he’s covered before, but we did enjoy his commentary on “human rights, we don’t have that” and when he got real for a moment to point out that the world chose China, what did they expect? He also got in some good jabs at the idea of NBC covering the games from Connecticut.

Taking issues with the comparison of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell to Batman and Robin, Che asked what the latter duo “has in common with a billionaire who grooms teenagers?” They also took aim at the redesigned M&M’s, Bono’s comments about his band’s name, and Kyle Rittenhouse trying to get his rifle back — with a timely reminder about how well memorabilia chasing went for O.J. Simpson. And if it’s possible to go too dark with a joke about the ghost of Abraham Lincoln, Che went there — and it was hilarious.

Sarah Sherman came out for another baiting piece where she sets up Colin to blast him with fake headlines decrying what a terrible person he is and this was so much stronger than the first time she did it. The audience was into it, and you just know Che was on board with trashing his co-host. Sarah hasn’t had any breakout sketch moments yet in her “SNL” career, but she’s definitely getting her voice out there with these pieces, and it’s a very funny one.

Alex Moffat was stumbling over his usually slick delivery, which was disappointing, but then this piece went meta and real when Pete Davidson joined him because Pete and Colin actually did buy a boat — a ferry to be exact. When Alex went into his small penis schtick, Pete got the giggles and he could not recover for the rest of the piece, which only enhanced the whole experience. Honestly, it was a moment of genuine humanity from Pete and Colin alongside a sleazy fake character from Alex, which was a little odd, but we couldn’t stop smiling ourselves, so clearly it worked.

After weeks of bloated sketches, this week’s approach is entirely different. Kenan Thompson is the only cast member to have appeared in more than two sketches (and one of those was cut), so the focus is almost entirely on quality rather than a blend of quality and quantity.

Still, Kenan made a strong case for himself as two of his three performances were fantastic, with Reese De’What funnier than ever and his Michael Ervin cracking us up. Where he lost us was as Jevner Keeblerelv. In the night’s weakest sketch, he really seemed to be phoning in this performance, with his reading of the address his funniest bit.

Kate was consistently entertaining as Laura Ingraham and Ingrid Bergman, while Aidy Bryant cracked us up as the teen in whipped cream and her usual Ted Cruz smarminess. But we’re going to go out on a limb and give it to someone who made the most out of their one appearance on the night and had us laughing from start to finish.

Sarah Sherman has been slowly finding her place in this ensemble, and so far the strongest place she’s found is in relentlessly attacking Colin Jost at the “Weekend Update” desk. The whole premise of what she does is so brilliant as a send-up of cancel culture, but it’s her delivery, which manages to be both scathing and charming, that’s really working to help her stand out among more than 20 cast-members.

“Saturday Night Live” returns next week with host Willem Dafoe and musical guest Katy Perry.

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