Feature

Will Forte: Picking the Brain of a Comedic Genius and Former Don

By Sam Fraser and Adam Blake

// While many Acalanes graduates go on to accomplish great things, few over the course of the school’s 75 year history have achieved true fame. None, perhaps, have achieved the level of stardom as Will Forte, Acalanes class of ‘88, and former SNL cast member. Forte has also starred in several films, including MacGruber and Nebraska, had ongoing roles on TV-hits like 30 Rock, and now, writes and stars in his own show on Fox, The Last Man on Earth.

Despite his successes, Forte has not forgotten his roots. On Thursday, April 23, Forte called in for a telephone interview with Blueprint from Sante Fe, where he is currently shooting on location for an upcoming film, The Ridiculous Six.

Forte reminisced with former Blueprint Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor, Adam Blake and Sam Fraser, about his time growing up in Lamorinda and going to Acalanes, and discussed his thriving comedy career. The Hollywood bigshot also hinted at a coming MacGruber sequel, and even addressed some rumours about his college years.

 

Blueprint: What did you think of growing up in Lamorinda?

Will Forte: I loved growing up in Moraga and Lafayette. I was born in 1970 and I lived in Moraga until ‘83 then went over to Stanley in ‘84 and was at Stanley for eighth grade and then Acalanes for all of High school. And I loved it, I thought it was the perfect place to grow up. I had a great group of friends.

BP: So you managed to avoid going to Campo, fortunately?

WF: I have so many friends from JM and I was bummed when I moved over to Lafayette just cause I missed them, but I can’t imagine it being any different and I’m a proud Don. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

BP: How often do you come back to Lafayette?

WF: My Mom moved to Danville and my Dad’s up in Tahoe and my sister who’s also a Don, class of ‘86, is in San Francisco. So I don’t come back to Lafayette that often. Every time that I’m staying at my Moms, I’ll drive over and sometimes I’ll walk around the campus a little bit. And it hasn’t changed too much, there’s definitely some stuff that’s changed. Do you guys still have cheese and sausage …. zombies?

BP: We do.

WF: You do? Oh my God. I gotta come back and have a zombie. I lived on zombies. I would have two or three zombies a day.

BP: When you were in high school did you always know that you wanted to go into comedy?

WF: No I had no idea what I wanted to do. I took a drama class my sophomore year with Mr. Eggertson, I don’t know if he’s still there. He’s great. So I took a drama class sophomore year, but I never did any plays. The closest I ever got to performing was we MCd the talent show, me and a couple buddies and so we got up and we did the dumbest things. We threw out slices of cheese into the audience at some point. I forget why we even did that. But I grew up loving David Letterman so we tried to do our own little David Letterman rip-off. That was the closest I came to performing. Then I went to UCLA and I just thought I was going to do what my Dad does and that was go into the financial industry, but I started doing that out of college and it didn’t feel right. I think all along I was drawn to comedy as a viewer and I just thought ‘Why shouldn’t I give it a thought?’ I had no idea. For everyone who has no idea what they want to do in high school, you are doing just fine. that’s where you’re supposed to be. Keep an open mind. People are really lucky if they know already what they want to do cause then they can start working towards it, but it’s very very normal to not know.

BP: If you were to give the commencement speech at Acalanes, hypothetically, is that the message you’d want to send to students? What’s something you think teengers should know going into college?

WF: Oh man, I don’t know. Just personally I would say, work really hard and don’t stress out about it. I would always get so stressed about stuff and your life is really really long and you have so much time to get stuff done. Everything just works itself out in the long run and as long as you’re working hard, good things will eventually come to you. I didn’t get my SNL job until I was 32, I thought I was never going to be an actor. It’s what I had wanted to do, but then I started writing and it just kind of happened cause I kept working at it. I got really lucky, but you do see that the people around you that succeed do work very very hard.

BP: Prior to SNL you had written for several shows, but after you landed the gig as a cast member, did you feel like you had made it? How did it feel?

WF: I was so excited when I got the job, but I was also terrified. My goal going into comedy was to work at SNL so it should have been such an exciting time, but I was terrified that I was going to be bad at it, and I wasn’t able to live in the moment enough. About four or five seasons in I started to relax a little and enjoy it, and now I look back and it’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. I wish I could go back and have those first couple years over again and just tell my myself, ‘Don’t stress out just have fun’ because I should have had a lot more fun, but I would just overthink stuff and stress out.

BP: You played a character called Jennjamin Franklin on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Care to comment on that? Would you like the apologize perhaps?

WF: How dare you sir. No, oh my God, I will not give an apology for that. I will say ‘You’re welcome America,’ no I’m kidding I’m kidding. That was one that I put up a bunch of times at SNL. You’d write on Monday and Tuesday, put up your stuff at a table read on Wednesday and then they’d pick the stuff. Jennjamin Franklin always went really well at the table read and they wouldn’t pick it, and I’m really stubborn so I just kept putting it up.

BP: We’re big fans of the character. Is that the weirdest one you’ve ever played?

WF: It’s a weird one. I don’t know what the weirdest one would be, but the good thing about doing it on Seth Meyers is that we had the benefit of being able to talk all about it during the segment before we did it. So we couldn’t help but do well on the show because people knew the backstory and were kind of rooting for it. It would have bombed so hard on SNL for sure. But because of the situation it was just super fun and it was really fun to get to do it. But for sure Lorne made the right call by not doing it. 100 percent.

BP: Any memories you’d like to share about your time at Acalanes?

WF: I won’t tell any partying stories, I’m sure that doesn’t go on anymore. I was always a pretty well behaved young man. I hung out with a bunch of troublemakers. We had fun, we had a really fun group of friends. But like half my friends ended up getting kicked out of school. It was the most fun time being at Acalanes. I don’t know what it’s like there now, I assume it’s the same. You just gotta treat everybody with respect. That’s the main thing. I just remember my parents really instilled that in me and my sis. You would see people that were mean to other people at school, and it’s just such a bummer to see that. I would pass that on. A lot of the people who get made fun of are the coolest people who you’ll run into years later and they are the people who you become close with.

BP: So you were on the Aklan staff, did the friendly yearbook-newspaper rivalry exist during your time?

WF: We had a fun little rivalry, it didn’t ever come to fistocuffs, just a bunch of the nerds from the yearbook staff fighting with the nerds from the newspaper staff. My mom wants me to make sure I tell you guys that I was a nerd, but it’s not true. I think I was pretty cool.

BP: Well you were class president and captain of the football team.

WF: I was class president, and on the football team and the swimming team. My senior year we started up the Spanish Honorary Club which had been defunct for a while. It was just a desperate ploy to have more stuff to put on your college application. We had my Mom came in and made a bunch of food one day. That was the only thing we did the whole time. But I was the President of the Spanish Honorary club.

BP: On a different subject and not to get too political here, 2016 presidential candidates…Marry, *make love to*, Kill?

WF: Ok, let’s see. That’s a tricky one to answer, you’re asking me to step into the danger zone here. I didn’t know this was going to be such a hard-hitting interview.

BP: We’re serious journalists. We take our job seriously.

WF: Ok let’s see…who would I marry? I would definitely marry Chris Christie, because part of a healthy marriage is sex. And who would I kill? I would say if there was some person who had murdered somebody, that would be the person who I would kill, and hopefully that person would throw their hat in the ring. That’s the worst answer of all time.

BP: Yeah, it is. Which one of the presidential candidates is most likely to have killed someone already, in your opinion?

WF: Sam, I don’t know. Who knows? You grow up and you realize, God, anything is possible. I would hope that nobody has killed anybody.

BP: If your character Felix Dewhurst from Comedy Bang! Bang! were running for president, do you think that he would be in the running for the killing? Is he bad enough?

WF: I forgot all about him. I don’t remember him being a very viable candidate in any way, so he probably was very likely to have murdered someone. If I could change my answer, I would marry Felix Dewhurst. I think that guy is gorgeous.

BP: We were just reading up about some of your philanthropic causes, like SciEyes and the Fellowship at Duke, so we were wondering what got you involved with these organizations? Was there any personal connection?

WF: I feel like I have been very lucky my whole life, growing up in Moraga and Lafayette, and then I got the good fortune to do this career that I always wanted to do, so why not help people that are less fortunate? Usually that stuff comes from personal connections that I have. I do stuff for Camp Wamp, or it may be called Wampler Kids now. Steve Wampler was a year ahead of me in school and he’s this amazing guy, he’s got cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair, and he used to go to this camp up in the Sierra Nevada that was specifically designed for kids in wheelchairs. But then it got shut down, and he found out about this and took it upon himself to raise all of this money to reopen the camp so that other kids could have the same experience he had. So being friends with Steve, he approached me about helping out.

BP: So right now, you’re writing and acting on your own show The Last Man on Earth, but where do you see taking your career after that given how you’ve been branching out, doing a lot of writing, and even dramatic acting?

WF: I don’t know, I never really plan it out that much. I kind of just do whatever seems interesting at the time and go from there. When I started doing SNL, obviously I was going to do that for as long as I could, and getting to be there for 8 seasons was awesome. Then you get to a place where you can hopefully choose your path a little more and be selective, so this is an interesting experience to be a part of this show right now and to be doing a second season. With SNL, you’re on this show for 8 years, but every week is a totally different ball game, and you’re doing all these different characters. Then I had the good fortune to be able to do some movies, and you’re working for several months on these, and then you move on to the next thing, and it’s a really interesting situation to be in, to live with this one character for a long time.

BP: If you could do anything, what would you say would be your dream project?

WF: I’ve been so lucky. I got my dream job, SNL was my dream, and then working at Letterman was another goal and I got to do that. Everything after SNL was just gravy, and I never thought I’d get a chance to do a movie like Nebraska, so I’m pretty happy with how everything has gone so far. If it all ended and I never got another job, I’m pretty satisfied.

BP: What project would you say you’re the most proud of?

WF: I’ve gotten a chance to do a bunch of varied things. Being in Nebraska was the most exciting thing ever, because I never thought I’d get to be in a movie like that, but I also got to be in MacGruber, which is about as different a movie as you could get, and I’m just as proud of that movie.

BP: Any chance of a MacGruber sequel?

We started working on a script for MacGruber 2 last weekend. So you’re getting the scoop, we wrote the first scene last weekend, and we have an outline for two thirds of it. So we’re just starting to write it, but you know, we only want to do it if we love it and think it would be good, we don’t want to just make it to make it. We loved the first one and we don’t want to do anything to screw up our memories of it. It’s really funny talking about how proud I am of this movie, because it’s this disgusting, dirty movie and my mom is horrified listening to this.

BP: What’s the most outlandish skit idea you’ve ever had, and how did the producers react to that?

WF: Definitely among the weirdest ones I ever did was one that actually made it on the air. It’s called Potato Chip, I don’t know if you guys ever saw it, it’s crazy, it’s me and Jason Sudeikis and Blake Lively. It’s bonkers. I’m like this old, western dude with weird hair and a mustache, and Jason Sudeikis is basically playing Foghorn Leghorn. He wants to be an astronaut, but he’s way too old to do it. I have this bowl of potato chips, and I go to get the NASA Space Test, which I think is just a piece of paper, and it’s in the fridge. And then he takes a potato chip, and it goes from there. The only bummer is that I went so nuts in the dress rehearsal version of it that I blew my voice out and I had to kind of pull back, so you’re actually seeing 55 percent of what it was in the dress rehearsal. That’s one of the weirdest ones for sure.

BP: So we talked earlier about how you starred in the movie Nebraska. If you could get rid of any state in the US, continental, obviously, which one would it be?

WF: If I could get rid of any state? I don’t know the answer to that!

BP: Continental. It’s gotta be continental.

WF: I refuse to answer that.

BP: We’ll open it up to US territories, open season on Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, any of those.

WF: You’re not going to get me to answer that. I’ll answer another question. I truthfully wouldn’t get rid of any state. Come on, we’ve got the greatest country in the world, why would you want to do anything to change this country? I mean yeah, there are things we could change to make it better.

BP: Barack Hussein Obamacare, for one.

WF: Nothing’s perfect, and we’re always working towards our most perfect selves, and that goes for us as a country too. So let’s keep all the states.

BP: That’s a good presidential platform to consider, ‘keep all of the states.’ Anyhow, rumour has it you were a bit of a poonhound around the UCLA campus, is there any truth to that rumour?

WF: You guys are really ending with a whimper, huh? I know that’s not an actual question and I want to know your sources. I don’t think you have sources for that. I was a very nice, respectful person when I went to college.

BP: We were somewhat joking earlier about you doing a commencement speech, but people would be thrilled if you swung by Acalanes at some point

WF: I would love that, I definitely want to come by at some point. If I ever come up there I’ll call you guys, I’ll take you to breakfast.

BP: That would be incredible, we’d love to take you up on that offer. Thank you so much for giving us your time.

WF: It was my pleasure, I have to do a lot of interviews for this job, and this is the best one I’ve done. We’re all a family, we’re Dons!


Lauren Kim and Conor Sasner also contributed to this interview.

Categories: Feature

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