Will Forte and Colin Quinn – Practically since the beginning, the Just For Laughs festival has always welcomed past and current performers from the iconic NBC late night sketch series Saturday Night Live (aka SNL) to perform stand-up, do a solo show or be a gala host.
And the list of SNL cast members who have made their way here to JFL has been quite impressive: Jane Curtin, Chevy Chase, Kevin Nealon, Martin Short, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Tracy Morgan, Rachel Dratch, Kate McKinnon, Colin Jost and Michael Che, to name a few.
And this year’s festival is no exception, as the JFL/SNL tradition continues.
First there’s Will Forte, who was a member of the SNL cast from 2002-2010. Throughout his eight years on the show, Forte created a number of memorable characters such as politician Tim Calhoun, the Falconer and his best-known character “MacGruber”, who was a special operations agent whose mission every time was to defuse a ticking time bomb, but somehow, let a whole bunch of personal issues distract him from the dangerous job at hand. Most recently, Forte starred in the Fox sitcom “The Last Man on Earth”. On July 25, Forte will perform at Just For Laughs for the first time, as he hosts his own multi-comic gala at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts.
However, his road to the world of comedy and SNL had quite the inauspicious beginning for this California native. First with a history degree at UCLA, and then following in his father’s footsteps, when he worked as a financial broker.
“I didn’t know what to do with my life after I graduated, so I decided to do what my dad did. I then realized that it was not for me, and deep down, I knew I wanted to try and do comedy. So I got up the courage to go for it, and I am thankful that I did,” said Forte during a recent phone conversation.
Forte started his comedy career as a writer, in which a comic book that he wrote called “101 Things to Definitely Not Do If You Want to Get a Chick” landed him writing gigs on “The Jenny McCarthy Show”, “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “That ‘70s Show”. He then decided to polish his comedy performance skills when he joined the legendary comedy acting troupe the Groundlings. It was during a performance with that troupe when he attracted the attention of SNL creator/executive producer Lorne Michaels, who asked him to audition for the show, which led him to join the cast of the show in 2002 after Will Ferrell left. However, many of his sketches ended up being placed in the “10 to 1” slot on the show’s schedule, which was best known for being its graveyard slot for throwaway sketches that were placed just before that night’s broadcast concluded. But Forte was not deterred, and made that slot his own, mainly as a fertile ground for sketches that catered to his bizarre sense of humour.
“There are a couple of different ways of looking at the ’10 to 1’ slot. You can see it as the place where the worst stuff is crammed in at the end of the show. Or you can see it as a place where you can be more experimental, and show stuff that might not appeal to mainstream audiences, but to a small group of people. To me, that slot on SNL was more of a badge of honour than a junk pile,” he said.
Besides his reputation for his bizarre sense of humour in front of the camera, Forte also established a reputation for himself for the many bizarre and unusual stories that involved himself and many of his SNL colleagues behind the camera. The catalogue of incidents is quite enormous. For example, there was the time he killed a water bug for Rachel Dratch – who had a morbid fear of bugs – and chased her around her apartment holding the dead bug; then there’s the time he simultaneously threw the food of an SNL writer and a $20 bill out of a window from the 17th floor to see what would hit the ground first; then there was his habit of putting his hand in Andy Samberg’s pee on a regular basis; and then there was the time he delivered a totally inappropriate speech in the guise if his White supremacist character Hamilton at the weddings of Samberg and Seth Meyers. However, he admits he is not bothered by the fact that these stories have followed him around.
“I’m totally fine with all those stories; that’s how I chose to live my life,” he said. “To me they’re just jokes with my friends … who just happen to go on TV talk shows and tell these stories to the viewers.”
Although he has visited Montreal on two previous occasions, Forte said he looks forward to spending the eight days here during Just For Laughs, and the experience of being a first-time gala host. However, he admits to a rather Montreal-centric ulterior motive that he plans to accomplish while he is here.
“I plan to eat a lot of poutine here. I experienced it when I visited Montreal last year and I liked it so much, that I plan to try every single variety of poutine,” he said. “In fact, I plan to fortify myself with nothing but poutine in the 24 hours leading up to showtime.”
New York City native Colin Quinn has been a stand-up comic for 34 years, and was a member of the SNL cast from 1996-2000, which was highlighted with a stint as the host of the show’s mainstay “Weekend Update” segment, which he inherited after Norm Macdonald was fired from the show in 1998.
“Doing ‘Weekend Update’ was a weird thing. It wasn’t as easy as it looked. You’re basically reading words off a monitor. And there was always a tendency to change those words between dress rehearsal and when we went to air,” admitted Quinn during a phone interview last week.
However, Quinn cemented his fame in comedy as the host of Comedy Central’s panel show “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn” and his series of solo stage shows such as “Long Story Short” (which was directed by Jerry Seinfeld), “My Two Cents” and “The New York Story”. At this year’s Just For Laughs festival, Quinn will perform his latest solo show “Colin Quinn: One in Every Crowd” from July 23-26 at the La Chapelle as part of the OFF-JFL series.
“One in Every Crowd is basically my take on the break up of society today, especially how the U.S. has been breaking up,” he said. “However, I have to admire Canada. That’s a country that is looking pretty good so far because they manage hold things together. They are the envy of the entire world.”
For more information – or to purchase tickets – to the Will Forte gala on July 25, or Colin Quinn: One in Every Crowd, or any other Just For Laughs show, go to www.hahaha.com.