Funny man Will Forte, a Saturday Night Live cast member since 2002, has announced that he is leaving the show, declining to return for the new upcoming season this fall. According to his publicist, the star of the summer’s recent MacGruber, based on his popular SNL sketch, will “pursue other opportunities,” according to an article in USA Today. Apparently, Forte’s departure is amicable, mentioning that he is “eternally grateful” to SNL‘s perennial big wig, producer Lorne Michaels.
Forte was one of the long-running comedy show’s most recognizable faces throughout the last decade, with his MacGruber character particularly memorable. The sketch featured Forte in a parody of the popular MacGyver television series of the 1980s and early ’90s which centered around often impossibly outlandish no-win scenarios in which Richard Dean Anderson, in the titular role, would implement extraordinary (and increasingly ridiculous) solutions using common, everyday items.
Though MacGyver’s escapes were unbelievably far-fetched, audiences were smitten by the unabashedly cheesy extravagance of it all. Forte’s MacGruber, which was as much homage as it was parody, was popular enough to become the only theatrically released film to stem from the original character, a true irony. The first film based on an SNL sketch in 10 years, hopes were high for MacGruber. Unfortunately, the film grossed a stunningly low $4 million in its opening weekend, and went on to be named the second-biggest box office flop of 2010 by Parade. Even the previous SNL flop, 2000’s The Ladies Man starring Tim Meadows, had a bigger opening weekend, making $5.4 million.
The role which Forte’s disastrous box office attempt played in his decision to leave SNL is anybody’s guess, but he isn’t the first cast member to leave after failing to translate one of the show’s sketches into box office success. The above-mentioned Tim Meadows left the show under remarkably similar circumstances. Meadows’ The Ladies Man was an equally disappointing flop, and Meadows left the show the same year the film was released, exactly as Forte has. Both movies were adapted from popular sketches, but both movies failed to connect with audiences and performed well below expectations.
Meadows has gone on to make frequent appearances on a variety of comedy shows and sitcoms, and has recurring roles on The Colbert Report and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. Although Meadows has never reclaimed the central spotlight in a starring role, either on television or the big screen, his staying power in the TV comedy circuit suggests that he remains a familiar favorite among audiences, perhaps owning to his lengthy tenure on SNL.
With no definite plans announced for now, Forte’s future is uncertain, though it seems likely that he will follow a similar path. Since it seems doubtful that Hollywood will take a second chance on giving Forte another solo career vehicle considering his failure to draw audiences, the comedian’s future probably lies exclusively on television. A talented and genuinely funny comedian, this SNL alum will hopefully be seen doing what he does best on TV or on the road in the near future.