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Relive the time Will Ferrell’s SNL Old Prospector took our minds off 9/11 for a while

(Screenshot: Saturday Night Live/YouTube)

Will Ferrell is returning to his old Saturday Night Live home tomorrow night, hosting the NBC sketch show for the fourth time in his storied career. To celebrate the return of its prodigal comedy son, the show tossed up a few Ferrell-centric tidbits online today: his audition tape, but also one of the silliest sketches that ever made it to air during his tenure: “Gus Chuggins, Old Prospector.”

Featuring Ferrell as the title character, an ornery old coot inexplicably embedded in a crack military unit being deployed to Afghanistan, the sketch is notable not only for its rampant goofiness, but also for its place in SNL history. As noted by Seth Meyers, who’s front and center during one of his first appearances on the show, this thing aired just a month after 9/11, and part of its weird joy is the way it juxtaposes invasion-era tension and wanted posters for Osama Bin Laden with the sight of Ferrell, pickaxe-in-hand, dismissing his naysayers with an exasperated “Oh, peaches!”


This might also be the breaking-ist sketch in SNL history; not just Jimmy Fallon—although, yes and especially, Jimmy Fallon—but pretty much everybody, including Chris Kattan, Tracy Morgan, Horatio Sanz, and Meyers, eventually lose their shit at the silliness of Ferrell’s high, quavering voice, folksy curses, and endlessly banging pots and pans. (Execpt Darrell Hammond; man’s a god damn professional.)

Ferrell’s episode of SNL airs tomorrow night; meanwhile, if you want a more modern taste of his talent for benignly fucking with people, you could do way worse than this sketch from last night’s Tonight Show, which he apparently nailed in a single, unrehearsed take:


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