Anyone who knows me will eventually discover that I am a huge Saturday Night Live geek. I’ve read far too many books and articles detailing the behind the scenes antics. Through the good seasons and bad, I have watched the show…often all 90 minutes of it (no matter how painful). Early on, my parents would record it on the VCR and I would wake up Sunday morning to devour Eddie Murphy’s latest sketches. By the late 80s/early 90s the show was so good that I usually stayed awake through SNL’s 1am sign off; then during the week I would entertain my friends at school with a pretty damn good impression of Dana Carvey’s George Bush. (In fact, I was once asked – for charity – to get on stage and, this is a direct quote here: “do an impression of George Bush sitting on the toilet talking about Sadaam Hussein.” Needless to say, I killed.) Now there are DVRs and the internet to keep me in the SNL loop, and of course cable has been kind enough to rerun the shows featuring the original cast that aired when I was simply too young to watch. I admittedly know far too much about SNL.
Nevertheless, for me, one of the most exciting moments of an episode is finding out during that second or third commercial break who will host the following week. Regardless of the perceived quality of the show, hosting SNL still has an appeal that attracts some of the best and brightest: the show is an institution and hosting is a rite of passage. Of course, that hasn’t always been enough of a draw – there are plenty of big names out there who have never taken center stage in Studio 8H. For some it’s simply a matter of timing, for others it might be a fear of doing a live broadcast, but whatever has kept these performers off that stage, they have a chance to jump into that spotlight this season due to the fanfare surrounding a milestone few television shows ever reach.
Saturday Night Live turns 40 this season. Specials are already slated to air over the course of the season celebrating the show’s Ruby Anniversary, but the hosting gigs from week-to-week will offer a special opportunity for the show to attract some top talent as part of the ongoing festivities. This being SNL, you can be sure they will contact some of their most well known and beloved prior hosts to appear once again – the Steve Martins and Justin Timberlakes of the world come to mind – but I’m just as interested in the shows where newbies take the stage. In a 40th anniversary year, the show should go after some of those big names who have never had the pleasure of hosting. That’s why I have compiled a list of people I think would be excellent hosts for the 2014-15 SNL Season. But first, the rules:
Rule #1 – This list only features people who have never hosted and never been a cast member (cameos are okay). You have to be an SNL virgin to make this list.
Rule #2 – This list only goes eleven deep. Why eleven? I looked at a handful of seasons and, out of the typical 22 episodes, about half feature first-time hosts.
Rule #3 – I’m sticking with tv and movie personalities. A politician or an athlete hosts every now and then, but they have a much higher bust-rate than people who are actual professional performers. Why flirt with likely suckitude if you don’t have to? Besides, all the big name athletes – LeBron, Peyton, Brady, Jeter – have already hosted, and you will never see a sitting President, the likely next presidential candidate, nor her famous former-President husband do anything more than a cameo. However, for the record, while I can’t think of a first-time, big name athlete who should host, the political figure who I think would be a big hit is Michelle Obama (after the mid-terms). I have no clue if she’d be good, but I’d sure as hell tune in to watch her try. I just don’t think there’s much of a chance she would do it considering the toxic political climate these days.
Rule #4 – These 11 potential hosts have to be BIG NAMES, people whose star-power would attract additional viewers all by itself. It’s a 40th Anniversary season so you want the best of the best. I have another list brewing with performers who aren’t necessarily household names saved for another time, but this list feeds off the A-List.
Your top potential hosts, in no particular order:
Denzel Washington – Do we know whether Denzel can be funny? Can he do intense? Absolutely. Indignant? No problem. Evil? Go see Training Day. But funny? The guy has two Oscars and 53 acting credits to his name since 1974 and I have absolutely no clue if he can crack a joke. I suppose I’ve seen him tell a humorous story or two on a late-night talkshow, but nothing to make me think he’s hilarious (his wife’s assertions notwithstanding). But this is Denzel we’re talking about – the guy can act circles around most anyone so you have to figure he could get a laugh on SNL just making fun of his characters’ intensity alone, right? Plus, we’d have the opportunity to see Jay Pharaoh do his fantastic impression of the man right to his face. I don’t know if Denzel is funny, but I definitely want to find out.
Kristen Bell – Is Kristen Bell on the A-List? Anyone with kids who has heard her as Princess Anna in Frozen will answer with an unqualified “Yes.” Perhaps being on the A-List for the 10-and-under set isn’t quite what you had in mind, but as SNL’s disastrous Justin Bieber episode proved last season, Lorne Michaels is certainly willing to aim for a younger demographic, and Bell is approximately 8 billion times better than the Biebs (and that includes singinging ability). Besides, we already know she can get a laugh from her work in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Veronica Mars, and on Funny or Die. Anna Kendrick hosted last season; Kristen Bell can easily be this season’s Anna Kendrick.
Leonardo DiCaprio – Unlike Denzel, I’m pretty sure Leo is funny. Sure, he does intense and brooding almost as well as Denzel, but he throws in a touch of crazy to keep things a bit off kilter. Just think how nutty he was in films like Wolf of Wall Street, Django Unchained, and The Aviator and then put that energy on stage at 30 Rock with the SNL cast and let the magic happen. His movie career tells us he’s willing to do pretty much anything on-screen and he already seems somewhat willing to give SNL a try: he made a cameo during Jonah Hill’s (his co-star in Wolf) hosting gig earlier this year. Most importantly, a show with Leo means we may finally get that Growing Pains parody we’ve been waiting for all these years. Bottom line: DiCaprio has the makings of a great host and he should have done this long ago. Get him on the air ASAP.
Beyonce – I know, I know…I said this would only include tv and movie personalities, but you can make an exception for the Queen B. Besides, she has actually appeared in a handful of films, the most notable for our purposes being Austin Powers in Goldmember as SNL alum Mike Myers’ co-star, Foxxy Cleopatra. I can’t say she was amazing in the movie, but she held her s**t together while staring at Austin Powers’ goofy mug for 90 minutes, which is probably more than enough preparation for hosting an episode of SNL. Moreover, she has already appeared on the show as a musical guest five times (twice solo, twice with Destiny’s Child, and once singing with Jay Z) and has been the subject of numerous sketches, including THIS fantastic Single Ladies parody from 2008. Among the marquee musicians who could pull off hosting duties, Beyonce is at the top of the list (followed by Adele – her first album in years comes out this winter and, frankly, she seems like a pistol) and she has the added bonus of potentially bringing her husband along for the ride.
Stephen Colbert – This one is a no-brainer. The Colbert Report closes up shop at the end of 2014 while his gig at the Late Show doesn’t start until some indeterminate time in 2015 (whenever David Letterman decides he’s officially ready to retire). That leaves a nice gap between the two shows during which Colbert can host SNL. I won’t attempt to convince you that the man is a comic genius – that’s already been firmly established – however, it is worth noting that Colbert has some history with SNL: Colbert voiced Ace, the leader of the Ambiguously Gay Duo (Steve Carell voiced the duo’s other half, Gary), the hilarious cartoon that had several installments on the show in the 90’s and 00’s. Given Colbert’s apparent availability and his connection to SNL, there’s a legitimate chance this potential host could turn into an actual one.
Emma Watson – Daniel Radcliffe hosted two years ago so it only makes sense that the other famous Harry Potter alum should take the stage. Since wrapping the 8th film in the Potter series, Watson has proven she can play more than a witch with strong performances in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Bling Ring. She also demonstrated a good sense of humor about herself in a brief, axe-wielding turn in last year’s very funny This Is the End. And if you’ve ever caught her in any of her five appearances on Letterman, you know she’s charming as hell. Most importantly: everyone loves Hermione. Also: Watson will get major bonus points if she can find a way to respond to Lindsay Lohan’s admittedly funny portrayal of Hermione back when Lohan was still in our good graces.
Chris Pratt – A year ago, Pratt didn’t have a high enough profile to make this list, but following the massive success of The Lego Movie last spring and Guardians of the Galaxy this summer, his lead role in Jurassic World next year, plus more serious turns in Moneyball and Zero Dark Thirty, he has broken through to the A-List. Of course, his work on Parks and Recreation over the past six seasons alone should be more than enough to get him on SNL – the man is the funniest physical comedian on television since Michael Richards and has been known to improvise some of the best lines in the show, to say nothing of his working with one of the best SNL cast members ever, Amy Poehler. Simply put, Pratt is the kind of host SNL loves: a star on the rise with a strong comedic background, SNL connections, and a show on NBC. As with Colbert, I think Pratt hosting has a good chance of happening. UPDATE: Score one for the Ziz – just 12 hours after I wrote this paragraph, SNL named Pratt the host of the season premier on September 27th.
Meryl Streep – After 3 Academy Awards, 18 nominations, and more fantastic performances than I can remember, I don’t think there’s any reason to make a case for Streep – she’s one of the greatest actors of all time and would undoubtedly be awesome hosting SNL. The only question to ask is: why would she bother? She has accomplished just about everything an actor can accomplish and she certainly has nothing to prove. Hosting SNL would be, for all intents and purposes, just another notch on the bedpost for her. The only decent reason I can think of is that it would give her the chance to do something she hasn’t done before – perform live sketch comedy on television, i.e. do it for the challenge. I don’t know if that would be enough to convince her, but perhaps it’s enough to get her to drive down from her house in Connecticutt for a week.
Brad Pitt – Like Denzel and Leo, Pitt has a certain intensity he brings to the screen which, in recent years, has been tempered by a sense of weariness. But we forget that Pitt also has a slightly crazy streak and a sly sense of humor that he busted out in movies like Inglorious Basterds, Ocean’s 11, Burn After Reading, and especially 12 Monkeys. That mix gives him all the makings of an excellent host. Of course, the primary reason I’m lobbying for him is that there’s the ever-so-small chance he could take that great Dr. Zizmor ad from Taran Killam a couple of seasons ago and attempt a sequel.
Sandra Bullock – Dear Sandy…you really should host SNL this year. We’ve all seen you in The Heat, Miss Congeniality, While You Were Sleeping, and The Proposal so we know you can do comedy while winning our hearts; everyone loves you; you’re not filming anything this year; and you just made $70 MILLION for Gravity – with that kind of free time and money in the bank, why not do something fun that’s not a long-term commitment?
Mel Brooks – And now we come to the last name on our list. Four years ago, Betty White hosted the show at age 88 following a late career resurgence. The show she hosted was one of the best episodes of SNL in the last ten years. She famously appeared in every sketch of the evening, a rarity for a host of any age, but even more unexpected for an 88 year old. That episode was so good it got me thinking – White certainly had her fans, but you could make the case that her comedic contributions had gone under-appreciated until her gig on SNL shone a spotlight on her long and distinguished career. Why not make an effort to have maybe one host a year who is something of a comedian emeritus and ask him or her to host? The cast and crew would certainly appreciate the opportunity to work with someone of that caliber and the viewers would be reminded of that person’s great career and hopefully reacquaint themselves with their back catalog. Isn’t this a better way to appreciate a funny person as opposed to the sad retrospectives we’ve seen recently for greats like Robin Williams and Joan Rivers? So the question is: who now fits the bill of comedy legend who could host SNL for the first time? The four names that come to mind are Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Bill Cosby, and David Letterman. We can immediately eliminate the notoriously private Allen and Letterman (who will be getting his own sendoff when he leaves the Late Show anyway), so that leaves Brooks and Cosby. While both are still funny, the younger Cosby (he’s 77) is actually the more cantankerous of the two. Besides, if Cosby didn’t host SNL back in the 80’s when he had the top-rated show on television, happened to share a nework with SNL, and when SNL was really good, I don’t know that he’d care to host now. The 88 year old Brooks, on the other hand, still comes across as zany and fun every time he shows up as a guest on Kimmel or Conan where he has made 6 total appearances in just the last 2 years. And since he’s been pushing several newly released dvds looking back on his career, you know he’s interested in his legacy; also: merchandising! From SNL’s side, what better way to celebrate its 40 years on the air than by having a writer from the show that was its precursor – Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows – host? It would be a tribute to one of the all-time greats in Brooks as well as to the history of television sketch comedy in general. I wouldn’t have an issue with Cosby taking this spot either, but you can never go wrong with the king, so Brooks it is.
Did I overlook anyone? There are several other people I wanted to include on this list but had to cut due to my self-imposed 11 person limit. I’d be curious to hear who you might prefer as a host.
First: welcome back to the blogosphere. It’s been a while.
Second: great post, and a solid list of potential hosts. I don’t think you’ve named anyone who wouldn’t be excellent….though the writers would really have to bring their A game for a show worthy of people like Streep and DiCaprio. As for Denzel, he can definitely do funny, and has said in multiple interviews that he would love to do more comedy, but that he doesn’t get offered those parts. SNL could be a nice calling card for his lighter side.
Still, as great as it would be to see these people on the show, I gotta say: for the three I just mentioned, as well as Pitt – basically the really big scores – I’d kinda rather see them make their hosting debuts when there’s a stronger cast in place. The current cast is good, and has a few stand-outs. But the void left by Bill Hader, Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig has yet to be filled. There are some really good people, but I don’t see any true Hall of Famers on the current line-up. And if Meryl or Leo are going to finally do the show, I want them surrounded by a cast with some Hall of Famers.
I’m optimistic that paring down the cast will improve the show this season. Also, when I look at the remaining cast members, I like most of them – it’s a pretty deep cast. You may be right about the lack of Hall of Famers (though I think Kate KcKinnon has a real chance) – but there’s a lot of talent there. The oversized cast definitely hampered the show last year, but I think the writing was weak too. If the writing gets better, then I think this cast has the chops to make it work.
It’s also worth noting that higher caliber hosts tend to bring out the best in the writers and the cast – it’s not a coincidence that the show is noticeably funnier when Justin Timberlake or Melissa McCarthy or Alec Baldwin hosts. The people on my list certainly have the talent to be great hosts so I would cross my fingers and hope for the best.