ONE

PLAYBOY: Your new movie, MacGruber, is a parody of the ‘80s TV show MacGyver. Were you a MacGyver fan as a kid?

WillForte

WILL FORTE: I don’t think MacGruber is a parody; it’s more like a tribute. But yes, (director) Jorma (Taccone) and I were huge fans of MacGyver growing up. Actually, I can’t even compare my MacGyver obsession to Jorma’s. I was certainly a fan but Jorma was just a nutball MacGyver fan. I have only vague recollections of the show. My years of college drinking kinda took away a lot of my memories. What I have are overall feelings about things. I know that I have a warm feeling towards MacGyver, but that’s pretty much all I could tell you. I can’t really pick out any specific details. I just know that I have a general fondness for Richard Dean Anderson (the actor who played MacGyver).

TWO

PLAYBOY: MacGruber is a secret agent who can solve almost any problem with just a few household objects. Are you as cunning and resourceful?

WILL FORTE: Not really, no. The only thing I have in common with MacGruber is a fierce determination. I will not quit when I’m working on a project, and a lot of times it’s a really negative thing. It comes out mainly with jigsaw puzzles. If you get me around a jigsaw puzzle or a crossword puzzle, I cannot do anything else until I’ve finished it. I’m really stubborn, to the point of being a little OCD. I’ve been to a New Year’s Eve party where I became so obsessed over a puzzle that the other guests literally had to take it away from me. When I went to the bathroom, they destroyed the puzzle for my own good. I could probably put together something like MacGyver does, but it would take me three years and I would lose girlfriends and eventually get kicked out of my apartment. The rest of my life would go to crap.

THREE

PLAYBOY: One of MacGruber’s most defining features is his mullet. Was this your first experience with the long-in-the-back, short-in-the-front hairstyle?

WILL FORTE: I did have a mullet for a few years as a teenager, but that was by accident. I used to cut my own hair, and I’d cut the front part and think, “Oh, that looks good. I’m all done!” My friends never mentioned to me, “Wait, you’re missing the back part. You should cut that too.” They didn’t say a word. So, I kinda blame them for my mullet. I understand why they didn’t want to talk about it. Your friends don’t want to bum you out. But what they didn’t understand is, that painful discussion about my hair would’ve bummed me out for a day, but it’s better than looking back on a huge section of my life and being really, really embarrassed by it.

FOUR

PLAYBOY: MacGruber has an R rating. Can we expect lots of gratuitous nudity?

WILL FORTE: I don’t do full frontal nudity, but you will be no stranger to my butt after seeing this movie. You will feel like you’re old friends with it. I was surprisingly comfortable with being naked. I think a few people on the movie’s crew probably wished I was a little more bashful. I’d put on my cock sock, which is a thing you put over your balls and penis to hide it during a scene, and then I’d just walk around the set between takes. Sometimes they’d ask me, “Would you like to wear a robe?” And I’d be like, “No, I’m fine.” Next time I do a movie like this, I will definitely wear a robe, not for my sake but for the sake of everybody else on the set. In my defense, we were shooting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it was hot. We were there during the summer, and the temperature was up in the 90s and 100s. It was just uncomfortable. Nudity is nature’s air conditioning.

FIVE

PLAYBOY: MacGruber shilled for Pepsi during the Super Bowl. Will the movie be riddled with product placement?

WILL FORTE: We approached Pepsi about helping us out, maybe getting a little more money in the budget. But after they read the script, [laughs.] I think they made a wise decision to keep their product far, far away from MacGruber. They said it was a very funny script, but it was probably not the best decision to have Pepsi so closely associated with my ass. The only product that would benefit from being featured in this movie is probably… well, I guess an ass-hair razor. Does that even exist? Listen, I don’t mean to be gross but… let’s just say that you will see a lot of my body hair in this movie. I was watching a rough cut not long ago and I forgot that it was me up on the screen and I said, “God, that dude is super hairy! Look at that!” And then I realized, “Oh shit, that’s me!” I’ve obviously got a problem with body hair. I’ve got to get some outside help. I don’t know anything about manscaping, but maybe it’s time I looked into it.

SIX

PLAYBOY: From Saturday Night Live to movies like Brothers Solomon, you’ve proven to be a master of the vacant, emotionless grin. What goes through your head when you’re playing dumb?

WILL FORTE: I think that’s just a part of my personality. A lot of the characters on SNL aren’t pure fiction. It’s actually an extension of the actor’s personality, and it’s tied to them in a deeper way than just acting. But that grin, I know the expression you’re talking about. Believe it or not, I think that’s what I look like when I’m sleeping. I’m not joking. If I was sleeping and I just opened my eyes for a minute and you took a picture, that’s exactly what I’d look like.

SEVEN

PLAYBOY: Is it true that your audition for Saturday Night Live involved excessive profanity?

WILL FORTE: Yeah, I guess it was a little excessive. There’s a sketch that I used to do at the Groundlings Theater in Los Angeles. I played one of those street performers who’s dressed entirely in gold and does robotic movements for money. Towards the end of the scene I sing this really uplifting song about what it’s like to make a living on the streets, and all these people are standing behind me and dancing. It’s a feel-good anthem. But then I reveal that I suck cock for my gold face paint. And the rest of the song is just basically the words “cock” and “face paint.” Everybody slowly leaves the stage, and it’s just me for like a minute and a half, singing “cock” and “face paint” over and over. When I came out to New York for the Saturday Night Live audition, I thought, “Well, might as well do something that’ll make them remember me.” So I did the street performer song. But I did it without any of the makeup or the backup dancers. When you audition for SNL, you’re alone on a stage, and it’s (executive producer) Lorne Michaels and a bunch of other people in the audience, and they don’t really laugh at all. I’m up there, singing about cocks and face paint to complete silence. After it was all over, I picked up my props and walked towards the exit. I passed Lorne and, I’ll never forget this, I said, “Sorry about all the cocks.” [Laughs.] Two weeks later, they hired me.

EIGHT

PLAYBOY: Andy Samberg gets all the credit for being Saturday Night Live‘s male heartthrob. Have you taken any steps to increase your sex appeal?

WILL FORTE: I have, yes. I’ve been doing a lot of sit-ups and push-ups and… [Sighs] No, that’s not true at all. I’ve accepted my place on the show. I’m okay with it. Andy is the sex symbol, and I get to do all the sex offender roles and the older, pervy dudes. We’re both very happy with our respective niches.

NINE

PLAYBOY: Now that you mention it, you do play an awful lot of perverted characters. Are you just more comfortable creeping out an audience than making them laugh?

WILL FORTE: That could be true. I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it. But I am always a mustache and a Members Only jacket away from looking like a sex offender. Obviously that’s not a reflection on me as a person. I hope nobody thinks that, anyway. There was some point last year when we were working on a Jeff Montgomery sketch, about the overly polite sex offender, and it dawned on me that I’d played an awful lot of these freaks and sex offender-type characters. I was starting to freak out about it. I was like, “People are going to think I really am this creepy dude.” (Laughs.) I’m not like that at all, honestly. I’m a really nice guy.

TEN

PLAYBOY: Many of your characters have mustaches. Do you feel funnier with facial hair?

WILL FORTE: Absolutely I do. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I feel like I can hide behind a mustache and be a little weirder. I would grow my own mustache if Lorne would let me keep it. I know there are characters where it’s not appropriate to have a mustache, but I just can’t help myself. I’ve gotten into a really tense mustache standoff with Lorne. My third year on the show, I did a scene with Will Ferrell about a guy at a restaurant who forces his waiter to keep grinding pepper on his salad. “Grind it! Grind it! Grind, grind, grind!” I used to do the scene at the Groundlings, and my character had a mustache. But Lorne didn’t want me to have a mustache, so it became this major back and forth where I was just pleading with him, “Please, let me wear a mustache!” Obviously Lorne won that argument. And I feel like I played the character slightly different without the mustache. Since then, Lorne finally understands what mustaches mean to me. And I think he feels sorry for me. “Just let him have his mustaches!”

ELEVEN

PLAYBOY: You took over the George W. Bush impersonations after Will Ferrell left SNL, but were eventually replaced by Jason Sudeikis. How’d you lose out on playing the president?

WILL FORTE: It was definitely something that I wanted. I didn’t enjoy doing George Bush on the show. It was tough because I’m not good at impersonations in general. And Will Ferrell was so good at it. He was doing George Bush long before I got on the show. He made it such a wonderful, awesome character. It didn’t feel right for somebody else to do George Bush. It’d be like another actor doing the Church Lady. When Lorne called me into his office to tell me that I wouldn’t be doing Bush anymore, 99% of me was like, “Oh, yes! This is great news!” And 1% was like, “Oh no, what did I do wrong? Why don’t they like me anymore?” But I think Jason is really great at it. He does a wonderful Bush. [Long pause.] I still hate him for it.

TWELVE

PLAYBOY: You do a pretty good impersonation of Lorne Michaels. Is it a good idea to make fun of your boss?

WILL FORTE: The only time I’ve done an impersonation of him was for Weekend Update, when they needed somebody to play a 70s-era Lorne Michaels. I think that everybody in every job around the world does an impersonation of their boss, but SNL just so happens to be a work environment where people have actual impersonation skills. Believe it or not, I do the worst Lorne Michaels of anyone on the cast. When they put the wig on me, I did physically resemble him from back in the 70s. I found a couple of phrases that sounded vaguely like Lorne—things like “riiiight”—and I made sure that I got enough of those lines in there so that it covered up the bad parts of my impersonation. But then I watched some old videos of him, and he doesn’t really say “riiiight” at all. I think I was impersonating an impersonation of him.

THIRTEEN

PLAYBOY: During an SNL scene with quarterback Peyton Manning, he strummed your leg like a guitar. Was it frightening to be manhandled by a football legend?

WILL FORTE: I’m no spring chicken anymore. And Peyton is much taller than I am. When he pulled my leg up to play it, it got very close to a groin injury or a groin pull. My leg isn’t designed to twist that way. I guess I’m not really very flexible. If I was six inches taller, then it wouldn’t have been an issue. But for him to play my leg effectively, he had to pull it up to a really dangerous level for me and my crotch. Thankfully I was fine, but it would have been an honor to have my groin injured by Peyton Manning. It would still suck, but it would’ve been a badge of honor. [Laughs.] That doesn’t sound right. Is a groin pull ever a badge of honor? I don’t know, I’m standing by my answer.

FOURTEEN

PLAYBOY: We’ve heard a lot of wild stories about the post-show parties at SNL. Is it nothing but wall-to-wall celebrities and punch bowls filled with cocaine?

WILL FORTE: I don’t know what the parties used to be like during the 70s and 80s. I’ve heard some crazy drug stories. But it’s not like that anymore. They’re very mellow. Every once in a while there’ll be a lot of celebrities at the post-show party, but it’s usually just a group of friends and co-workers hanging out. It’s kind of a family atmosphere. (Pause.) Well, if your family is a bunch of shameless drunks.

FIFTEEN

PLAYBOY: Your real first name is Orville. Why’d you drop it? Isn’t Orville a funnier name than Will?

WILL FORTE: I’m the fourth Orville in my family. My full name is Orville Willis Forte IV. I don’t know how the name got started, or why it’s still passed along, because none of the Orvilles in my family have gone by Orville. My dad goes by Reb, my grandpa goes by Junie, and my great-grandpa was Buster. I’m the only one who even uses a part of my name. Willis is my middle name, so I shortened it to Will. Even though the whole thing seems crazy to me, I’ll probably pass on the Orville name. If I ever have a son, he’s definitely going to be Orville Willis Forte V. If I was Orville Willis Forte Jr., I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. That’s not a long enough list of Orvilles to really worry about ending it. But once it gets to number four, you kinda have to keep it going. It’s like a stupid joke that your family plays on each other.

SIXTEEN

PLAYBOY: You were a history major at UCLA. How long did it take you to realize that you may’ve made a mistake?

WILL FORTE: Almost instantly. I somehow got really good grades but I wasn’t a great student. I basically convinced the other students in class to do all the work and then I just memorized their outlines. And to this day, I’ve retained none of that information. I can barely hold my own in Trivial Pursuit. Their history questions are way too complicated for me. I should know a lot more about history than I do. People ask me all the time, “Oh, you were a history major? What did you specialize in?” I have no idea. I think I was supposed to pick one period of history to focus on for my major, but I have absolutely no memory of what that might’ve been.

SEVENTEEN

PLAYBOY: The memory loss might be explained by your other college experience, as a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. Did you have a few blackout drinking binges?

WILL FORTE: More than a few. I was a mess in college. In my freshman year, I gained forty pounds. And it was all from beer and vodka. My entire college drinking experience can be summed up with one story. I went to a sorority party—my date was an old friend from high school whose boyfriend couldn’t make it—and it had a western theme, so I was dressed like a cowboy. A friend loaned me a cowboy hat, and for some reason it had great sentimental value to him. He said, “Please, whatever you do, be very careful with this hat.” So I went to the party, and the next thing I remember is waking up at six in the morning in the back of a postal jeep. [Laughs.] I had no idea where the fuck I was. All I could see were postal jeeps, and I was dressed in this stupid cowboy outfit, and the cowboy hat was gone, and for some reason I had scrunchies around my wrists. This was before cellphones, so I walked around for almost four hours, looking for a payphone to call my date and find out what the hell I did last night. This was during my first quarter at UCLA. To this day, I still don’t know what happened. I was convinced that the fraternity was going to find out about it and kick me out. My friend said, “Are you kidding? You might get elected president of the fraternity.”

EIGHTEEN

PLAYBOY: You played Barney Stinson’s inept wingman on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Are you a little better with the ladies?

WILL FORTE: I’m not the kind of person who can just walk up to a woman in a bar. I’m fine with talking to them if I’m introduced through a friend. But I can’t just approach a woman I don’t know and strike up a conversation. Actually, you know what? I would be an okay wing man. If I’m approaching a woman for a friend, then there’s no pressure. There’s no fear of rejection, so it’d be easier for me. Approaching somebody for myself, I’m a mess. It’s weird, I’d probably be saying pretty much the same thing in either case. But in the context of being a wingman, it would be different. I wouldn’t feel as vulnerable and cheesy.

NINETEEN

PLAYBOY: On SNL‘s Weekend Update, you introduced your “semi-celebrity” sex tape sampler, in which you performed a naked Thighmaster routine and poured honey over your chest. What can we expect from an actual Will Forte sex tape?

WILL FORTE: A lot of dissatisfaction on the woman’s part. [Laughs.] It will be really quiet, occasionally broken with mumbled apologies. And the woman will say things like “That’s alright, that’s okay, don’t worry about it.” There’ll be a lot of “don’t worry about it”s.

TWENTY

PLAYBOY: We’ve heard rumors that you owe Amy Poehler fifteen thousand dollars. Care to defend yourself?

WILL FORTE: [Angrily.] I’m not going to talk about that! Next question! [Laughs.] Okay, here’s the thing. When Amy was promoting Blades of Glory and going on a lot of talk shows, I told her, as a joke, “Let’s get the Will Forte name out there. I’ll give you a $100 if you mention my name on TV.” And I think she misunderstood it as “I’ll give you $100 every time you mention my name.” It was my fault for not establishing the terms or making it clear that it was a one-time deal. You say my name and I’ll give you $100. But she ran with it, and she did a lot of TV spots to promote the movie, and my tab really started to run up. Even if our agreement was legally binding, I don’t have that kind of money. I forget how we eventually worked it out. I think we reached a compromise that was charity related.

TWENTY-ONE

PLAYBOY: A woman claiming to be your grandmother appeared in some hilarious Internet ads for your first movie, The Brothers Solomon. Was that a stunt grandmother?

WILL FORTE: No, that was my real grandma. Grandma Helen. She was a magical woman. When you met her, you couldn’t help but fall in love with her. I had this idea to film her saying stuff about The Brothers Solomon and make these little trailers for the film. I told my mom about it and she said, “Oh, we should do it this weekend.” I didn’t know it, but my grandma was kinda declining in health. So I said, “If she’s feeling sick, let’s just wait and I’ll come back in a couple weeks.” And my mom was like, “Well, maybe just to be safe you should do it now.” Grandma was really excited to do it, so we went ahead with it. She had one of those oxygen tubes in her nose, and we had to take it away from her whenever she did her lines. [Laughs.] So I felt bad. I kept asking her, “How are you feeling, Grandma? Do you want oxygen again?” But she was a trooper. There was one point where she admitted, “I think I need my oxygen now,” but we were right in the middle of a take, and my mom was like, “No, no, no. Get this one line first.” [Laughs.] She was so great and so funny, and then two weeks later she died. There’s a small part of me that feels like I might’ve been semi-responsible. I still have this memory of taking the oxygen away from her face so that we could film her. “No oxygen for you, Grandma!”

TWENTY-TWO

PLAYBOY: You French-kissed fellow SNL cast member Fred Armisen at the Comedy Central Autism benefit Night of Too Many Stars. How would you rate Armisen’s kissing skills?

WILL FORTE: It’s funny that you’d ask about that, because just last week we were working on a sketch for SNL that didn’t make it to air where I had to kiss Fred Armisen again. And it was a real deep, heavy kiss. I get a little razor burn with Fred, so I still prefer kissing women. But I can say for the record that Fred Armisen is a great kisser. And I’m happy for Lizzy (Elisabeth Moss, Armisen’s wife and Mad Men co-star), because she’s going to be satisfied in that department. I can vouch for him.

TWENTY-THREE

PLAYBOY: You videotaped your sister giving birth. How was that not weird and awkward?

WILL FORTE: Well, first of all, we’re a very close family. She asked me if I’d videotape it because her husband, who was also at the birth, is a little squeamish. So the thinking was, it’d be safer if the camera was in my hands. The original idea was that I would be shooting from the “good” angle. You know what I mean by that? I’d be standing behind her, up by her head, facing down. So you wouldn’t see anything until the baby was lifted up by the doctor. But then everything just happened so fast. It was one of those situations where we thought we were still seven hours down the line and then all of a sudden it’s like, “The baby’s coming right now!” My sister asked me, “If you’re comfortable with it, I’d love if you would videotape it from…” well, the red zone, I guess I’ll call it. [Laughs.] I have no idea why I’m using a football term. I can be an adult about this. She wanted me to shoot the birth head on. And I said yeah, I don’t care, it’s fine. It was pretty amazing, seeing this new little person come into the world. And there was some pretty vivid imagery, I’ll admit to that. But it wasn’t nearly as gross as I’d been led to believe.

TWENTY-FOUR

PLAYBOY: You composed a new theme song for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Would you come up with a catchy ditty for our magazine?

WILL FORTE: Right now? Off the top of my head? Okay, I’ll just start singing and see what happens. [Sings.] Playboy magazine! {Long pause.] I spanked to it when I was a teen! [Long pause.] Good articles, beautiful girls! [Long pause.] I’ll think of more laaaater! [Laughs.] There were a lot of pauses in there, I apologize for that. I like to think that’s where the instrumentation will go. Those were for drum fills. So what’d you think? [Laughs.] It needs work, right? I guess the answer to your questions is no, I can’t come up with a catchy ditty for Playboy. Sorry.

Will Forte Sings The Playboy Magazine Theme Song

(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the April 2010 issue of Playboy magazine.)