‘MacGruber’ is back to save the day in profane Peacock comedy based on ‘SNL’ character

Kate Feldman
New York Daily News

The only man for the job may be the worst option possible.

Almost 15 years after “Saturday Night Live” debuted its MacGyver-like action hero MacGruber — and a decade after the same-named movie flopped at the box office — America’s unlikeliest savior is suiting up again in a Peacock series that premiered last week.

Kristen Wiig as Vicki St. Elmo, Will Forte as MacGruber and Ryan Phillippe as Dixon Piper in "MacGruber."

“We’re basing this on American bad--- one-man army movies that we loved growing up, like ‘Commando’ and ‘Rambo,’ but then being like, ‘What if that guy sucked?’” Jorma Taccone, who created the character for “SNL,” told the Daily News.

“MacGruber,” starring Will Forte as the foul-mouthed, risk-it-all hero, finds the uber patriot behind bars for the past decade for the brutal murder of archenemy Dieter von Cunth at the end of the movie. But when a long-lost villain, Brigadier Commander Enos Queeth (Billy Zane), pops back up, MacGruber is called back into duty to hunt his enemy.

“I think when you’re playing in this sort of universe, there are no rules,” said Ryan Phillippe, who returns as Dixon Piper, MacGruber’s right-hand man whose life was blown apart by his recklessness. “There’s a lot of leeway when you’re working in satire. You can break some of the rules of conventional storytelling.”

Ten years in prison — and off the air — hasn’t changed MacGruber at all. He has no limits or boundaries, no sense of respectability. He’ll do whatever it takes.

“Literally anything could happen,” Kristen Wiig, who plays MacGruber’s ex-wife, Vicki St. Elmo, told the News. “And it does.”

Usually, that’s violence — an excessive brutality in an homage to '80s action flicks drenched in blood. In the movie, MacGruber didn’t just kill Cunth; he shot him with 7,800 bullets, then a grenade, then urinated on his corpse.

“It’s like, oh, that was violent and then oh, it’s (still) going and he’s continuing to mash that guy’s head and there’s more brains and then oh, it’s still going,” Forte told The News. “Our over-the-top violence is a comment on violence, I guess. Or maybe it’s just over-the-top violence … it’s our comedic take on over-the-top violence, which just ends up being on screen over-the-top violence.”

Descriptors get thrown around in explaining “MacGruber”: spoof, parody, homage. But Taccone and co-showrunner John Solomon just ended up making their own version. As Forte said of the brutality, emulating a genre just looks like the genre.

Forte, Wiig and Phillippe said they dreamed of returning to the world of “MacGruber,” even with the miserable box office returns. Now, Taccone said, they got to make a “a bigger, bolder version.” The show, by design, feels like an exercise in absurdity.

Zane called “MacGruber” “badass and … kind of punk rock.” Solomon described it as “a person who’s willing to commit to the stupidest thing possible.” Laurence Fishburne, who joins the cast as General Barrett Fasoose and Vicki’s new husband, fell in love with the humor. To hear the cast and crew tell of “MacGruber,” you’d think they were talking about Rambo.

For the character’s cult following, he may as well be.

“It’s definitely an acquired taste,” Forte laughed. “We don’t make compromises and I think you can feel that as you watch it. We all are trying to make things that make us laugh and people who end up liking ‘MacGruber’ probably just have similar sensibilities.”


streaming on Peacock