Will Forte

It’s hard to believe Will Forte left Saturday Night Live six years ago. When Forte mentioned it’s been that long since he was on the show, he, too, looked surprised by that fact. After spending a decade working on SNL, the actor has appeared in a variety of films, including Alexander Payne‘s NebraskaPeter Bogdanovich‘s She’s Funny That Way, and, of course, the actor’s crowning achievement, Jorma Taccone‘s big screen adaptation of MacGruber.

Forte co-stars in Peter Atencio‘s Keanu, a comedy from the team behind Comedy Central’s Key & Peele. The former SNL star’s role as a drug dealer, Hulka, is brief but, thanks to some cornrows and an unforgettable voice, he leaves an impression with his performance.

Below, read our Will Forte interview.

I have to say, I’ve met quite a few people like Hulka.

I definitely have experiences with people kinda like him. Yeah, for sure.

Did any of those people influence your performance at all?

Not really. The main person that I did try to emulate was this guy Riff Raff, who those guys had said they had kind of patterned the character after. I studied him a little bit. But I’m not a very good impersonator. So that was what my aim was, but I don’t know how close I hit the mark. But it was still so much fun to do the role, and those guys are such wonderful people that it was a very, very, very fun, good experience.

Was Hulka’s voice also inspired by Riff Raff?

That was looking at this guy, Riff Raff, and me just trying to do his voice. But it ended up just being some kind of weird…whatever it was, was my attempt to do that, which was off the mark, but just turned into what you see. [Laughs.]

[Laughs.] You’ve always been someone that will go pretty far for a joke. Have there ever been times in your career where you’ve thought, “Should I go far that far for a laugh?”

There are definitely things I think are over…Every once in a while I’ll fall into it, but I don’t like being mean to people, putting down people. And certainly there are times I’ve done it. But I try to avoid that. I don’t like ripping on people. So I would not be good at roasts. I have respect for people who are good at that kind of thing. That would be a hard thing to do. I think there are really fun versions of a roast, and then I think there are versions of a roast that are just mean. But I guess that’s what a roast is.

They can often feel like easy jokes, too. Someone like Steve Martin, he’s great because can just make fantastic jokes without really poking fun at anyone.

He’s my hero. That’s my guy.

Are there any comedic performers in particular that you looked up to growing up?

Steve Martin is my number one of all time, so it’s him, Peter Sellers…SNL was a huge deal for me. I loved Monty Python. David Letterman was a big deal for me. And then I’m constantly collecting more and more comedy heroes. Certainly Will Ferrell is one of my favorites, and Jack Black. The list goes on and on. Obviously, I threw all these people under the SNL umbrella. But every phase of SNL had different people who I admire…Eddie Murphy was so amazing. You know, even going back and discovering Bob and Ray. Have you seen The Slow Talkers of America?

I have not.

It’s so funny. You know, you watch older things and sometimes stuff doesn’t translate and it’s like, “These guys were just so funny.” You’ve got to watch Slow Talkers of America. It might be just under STOA. It’s really, really funny. But yeah, Steve Martin was my number one growing up. You know, right now, I’m in a very interesting job. I’m playing one of the guys that created the National Lampoon Magazine, Doug Kenney, and it’s so fascinating. I mean, there are all these different things about his story. I had always heard about things, like, ‘lemmings’ and different phrases. ‘Lemmings’ is the group — John Belushi and all those guys — that would do these shows. I didn’t know how everything fit together, though. I get to kind of study up on this era of comedy that sort of led the way for all the stuff that influenced me the most. It’s been an interesting experience. I’m really excited to get this opportunity.

Have you read Judd Apatow’s Sick in the Head?

Oh, no, I have not, but I have heard so many people referencing it.

It’s great. There’s a very good interview with Harold Ramis, where he discusses that time period and his friendship with Douglas Kenney.

That’s awesome. You know, it’s certainly a difficult thing to go into because it’s a tragic story, on many levels, and a very interesting story. A lot of the characters in it are my comedy heroes, so I certainly go into this with the greatest amount of respect and appreciation of all these people that are telling this story. I don’t want to offend anybody, but I also want to… it’s just a really interesting story, so I don’t want to pull any punches. It’s just an interesting scenario to be in.

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