A show is often only as good as its host, so it’s no surprise that Saturday Night Live can be rather hit and miss.
Since beginning its run as one of America’s favourite shows back in 1975, Saturday Night Live has handed the torch to no shortage of prominent comedians, actors and other celebrities who’ve all taken to the stage as the host of that week’s episode. With millions of Americans tuning in each week and international fans catching up from around the world, it’s a tall order – one that some hosts, admittedly, struggle to meet.
It’s a pretty well-known fact at this point that SNL’s celebrity hosts face three different outcomes when preparing to host – give a mediocre performance and have your appearance forgotten altogether, hit the mark and be remembered as a fan favourite or get it wrong and go down in SNL history for all the wrong reasons.
For many, this weekend was the perfect demonstration of what happens when a host comes off as being just a little ‘meh’, as Kim Kardashian West took to America’s most famous stage for her first time fronting the show. Dressed in head-to-toe bright pink Balenciaga, the star delivered an opening monologue that flitted awkwardly between being self-deprecating, strangely smug and trying, but ultimately failing, to be ‘edgy’.
However forgettable she may have been, it still has to be said that Kardashian’s performance was certainly far from terrible, much unlike many of her celebrity predecessors. So, which SNL hosts were able to hit a home run during their appearance on the show – and which hosts fell flat on their face before they reached first base?
Fan Favourite: Tom Hanks
He was already one of America’s most beloved actors when he first took on the role of host for SNL in 1985 – 36 years and 10 appearances on (including hosting from home during the COVID-19 pandemic), Tom Hanks is a bonafide national treasure. It’s no secret that Hanks can play for laughs just as well as he can deliver drama, but (as if there was any doubt) his SNL monologues and sketches are undeniable further proof. Over the years, he’s appeared in skits as a colourful range of characters, his most famous perhaps being 2016’s ‘King of Halloween’ David S. Pumpkins.
Fan Failure: Lindsay Lohan
When Lindsay Lohan hosted SNL in 2012, she was by no means a first-timer – the actress had fronted the show three times already in a series of performances that had been largely well-received. However, following a slew of tabloid scandals surrounding the actress, the writers made the questionable decision to base many of the evening’s jokes on her highly-publicised struggles with drugs, alcohol and her mental health. Not only did this make Lindsay visibly uncomfortable throughout, but it also gave the show a particularly mean-spirited vibe. Not exactly the feel-good Saturday night viewing experience that SNL fans are looking for.
Fan Favourite: Alec Baldwin
It’s a sure sign of a successful hosting performance if you’re asked back for a second appearance on SNL, so it speaks volumes that Alec Baldwin has fronted the show an incredible 17 times. With an additional 26 special guest spots under his belt, too, Alec has racked up by far the most overall appearances on SNL – particularly following the introduction of his uncanny Donald Trump impersonation in 2016, which he reprised on several occasions.
Fan Failure: Steven Seagal
Steven Seagal is widely regarded as the worst SNL guest host of all time – and not just amongst the show’s viewers. It seems that the general consensus amongst anyone working at SNL during Steven Seagal’s 1991 appearance on the show, including the show’s creator Lorne Michaels, is that Seagal was a nightmare to deal with from start to finish. Not only was he reportedly rude and dismissive of jokes suggested to him by the writers (which he replaced with some painfully unfunny quips of his own creation), but his acting skills appeared to be entirely missing in action during an episode packed with terrible delivery, endless mistakes and zero comic timing.
Fan Favourite: Emma Stone
Having appeared on the show four times during the previous decade, viewers can’t seem to get enough of Emma Stone. Not only is she easily one of the most likeable presences in Hollywood right now, but her history of playing in modern-classic teen comedies such as Easy A and Superbad gave writers plenty to work with, both within the material itself and in the promise that she’d deliver some fantastic performances. Who could forget The Actress, the fan favourite skit in which Stone plays a woman desperate to find depth in her latest role, a bit-part in a porno?
Fan Failure: Elon Musk
Perhaps the most famous flop within recent SNL history, Tesla billionaire Elon Musk took to the stage in May 2021 for his first appearance as host – and we’re pretty confident that it will have been his last. A stilted and awkward opening monologue set the tone for a series of cringeworthy sketches, most notably the now-infamous Gen-Z Hospital skit and a court case starring characters from the Super Mario video game series – both seemingly without a punchline and both acted out with little to no enthusiasm in sight.