It takes a special type of person to host Saturday Night Live and do the show justice. Many talented and famous actors, comedians, athletes and musicians bomb horribly on the program. Whether it is the live format, the improvisation that is required, or the sketch comedy involved, a lot of people struggle to hit a home run on SNL. However, a select few people have proven themselves to be great hosts of the show. They get it, and they are able to bring something special to the program when they host. Not surprising, many of the best SNL hosts have anchored the program on several different occasions. And fans look forward to seeing them each and every time they host. Here’s a list of the 10 best SNL hosts ever.
10. Buck Henry
He’s mostly known as a comedy writer who helped pen hilarious movies such as The Graduate and television shows such as Get Smart. But Buck Henry has also proven himself to be a fantastic host of SNL, notably in the show’s early years in the 1970s. In fact, Buck Henry has hosted the show an impressive 10 times, and joined the prestigious “Five-Timers Club” in only four years. His first appearance on SNL was during the show’s first season in back in 1975-76. The two-time Academy Award nominee created many memorable recurring characters on SNL, including Howard the Stunt Coordinator and the creepy Uncle Roy. Buck Henry also performed impersonations of celebrities such as Charles Lindbergh, John Dean and Ron Nessen while hosting SNL.
9. Christopher Walken
Academy Award winning actor Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) is also willing to send up his quirky mannerisms and screen persona as a bit of a kook. And this has worked incredibly well on SNL. To date, Walken has hosted the show an impressive seven times, most recently in 2008. His signature voice and intensity have proven to be comedy gold on SNL. Christopher Walken has been part of several of the most memorable skits of all time on the program, including “Meet the Family” and the classic “Cowbell” skit featuring Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon as members of the band Blue Oyster Cult. Plus, who can forget the hilarious Bruce Dickinson skit that showcased Christopher Walken’s infamous temper.
8. Peyton Manning
He’s only hosted SNL once, but recently retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning knocked it out of the park on the show—proving himself to be the best athlete to ever host the program. Fresh off his first Super Bowl win in 2007, Peyton Manning hosted SNL and it was one of the best episodes in recent memory. Manning’s deadpan delivery worked perfectly on the program, and it was funny how he never let on that he was joking around. Of course, Manning’s best sketch was the unforgettable fake commercial for United Way, in which he volunteers to teach inner city kids how to play football, except that he makes for a terrible coach and just yells at the kids the entire time—hitting at least three of them in the back of the head with a football. In the commercial, Peyton Manning also teaches the kids how to break into cars, run from the cops, and relays the importance of never snitching on people. He also orders one kid to lock himself in a port-a-potty for 20 minutes. Classic stuff!
7. Candice Bergen
Best known for playing iconic newswoman Murphy Brown on TV, Candice Bergen is also a decorated SNL veteran, having hosted the show five times from its first season in 1975 to 1990 at the height of her Murphy Brown popularity. In fact, Candice Bergen was SNL’s very first guest host, the first returning host, and is one of only two women in the show’s notable “Five-Timers Club.” Candice Bergen also hosted the first Christmas episode of SNL, and became renowned for poking fun at the show’s creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels. Many of the original SNL cast members, such as Gilda Radner and John Belushi, considered Candice Bergen to be an honorary member of the show. Indeed, she was comfortable with everyone on the show, and it came through when she performed. In one famous sketch, “The Right To Extreme Stupidity,” Candice Bergen forgot her lines, and in trying to mock her counterpart, Gilda Radner, Bergen called herself “stupid.” The rest of the Public Service Announcement-style sketch features Gilda Radner talking to the camera, making fun of Bergen, and Candice Bergen cracking up in background.
6. Justin Timberlake
One of the most recent people to join SNL’s “Five-Timers Club” is singer and actor Justin Timberlake, who has proven himself adept at the SNL format and been featured in some truly hilarious and classic sketches. Surprisingly, many critics doubted whether Justin Timberlake would work on SNL. But the haters were proven wrong, and today Justin Timberlake is a regular host of the program. His comedic sensibilities and chemistry with the cast, notably Andy Samberg and Jimmy Fallon, has been stellar. His best sketch is arguably the classic Christmas send-up “Dick in a Box,” but JT has been in many other classic sketches, including a recurring one as the singing and dancing store mascot who is trying to entice customers to “Bring it on do-o-o-o-own” to various locations such as Omletteville and Wrappingville.
5. Paul Simon
He is a musical genius who has written some of the most iconic pop songs in history. But Paul Simon is also known to have been an integral part of the history of SNL. A long-time friend of executive producer Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon has hosted SNL four times and been the musical guest on the show eight times. He has also made many one-off appearances on the show. And since the debut season of SNL in 1975-76, Paul Simon has provided many memorable moments on the program, including a stunning duet with George Harrison on the song “Here Comes The Sun,” and singing his own song “Still Crazy After All These Years” while dressed in a chicken suit. Paul Simon has also garnered many laughs on SNL sparring with Lorne Michaels over the years. He has proven that he is funny as well as musical.
4. Tom Hanks
Eight-time host Tom Hanks is one of those actors that the writers and cast members on SNL love to have host the show. A funny, likable and adaptable guy, Tom Hanks has shown that he is a good sport and up for anything when on SNL. And he has left a lasting imprint on SNL over the years. In an opening monologue in 1996, Tom Hanks read the acceptance speech he would have given if he’d won an Academy Award that year instead of Nicholas Cage, and does an amazing fake crying bit throughout the whole thing: “I just wanna say, Nicholas Cage, you should’ve won this year!” He was also in the classic sketch with Jon Lovitz where they fail miserably at hitting on women passing them by on the street. “Rock bottom. Nowhere left to go but up!” And Tom Hanks was in a hilarious Wayne’s World sketch with Aerosmith back in 1992.
3. John Goodman
Although mostly known for the sitcom Roseanne, actor John Goodman has also show that he is a versatile actor and comedian. And he has been particularly good on SNL over the years, having hosted the show a whopping 13 times between 1989 and 2013. Considered one of the all-time great hosts by both the cast and critics, John Goodman has proved that he is a master impersonator, doing imitations of everyone from Elvis Presley to an overweight Anna Nicole Smith, to his hilarious send-up of Linda Tripp, the whistleblower in the Monica Lewinsky/Bill Clinton scandal. Never shy to make fun of his own weight and size, John Goodman has been part of some truly funny and ridiculous sketches over the years. In 2013, he performed “Last Call,” a recurring sketch about the two saddest, loneliest people left at a bar. At the end of the skit, cast member Kate McKinnon licks whipped cream off John Goodman’s face.
2. Steve Martin
Another guest host who is largely considered to be an honorary cast member, Steve Martin has famously hosted SNL 15 times, beginning with the program’s inaugural season. In 1978, Steve Martin hosted the show three times in one season. He has also appeared in 27 one-off sketches on SNL over the years, and has helped to create some of the most iconic characters and moments on the program, including a dancing and singing King Tut (1978), The Festrunk Brothers, “We are two wild and crazy guys!,” (1977), and the “Medieval Barber” (1978). Steve Martin has also had a long-running comedic feud with Alec Baldwin as they run neck-and-neck for the most times hosting SNL. Their rivalry has produced several hilarious on-screen moments over the years, including murder gags, stage brawls, and of course that infamous drug test skit.
1. Alec Baldwin
Not only does actor Alec Baldwin hold the record for most times hosting SNL at 16, but he has also been featured in some of the very best sketches over the years, including “Canteen Boy” and “Schweddy Balls.” A versatile actor who understands how the show works and is up for seemingly anything, Alec Baldwin has become a cast and fan favorite on SNL since he first hosted the program in 1990. As he did on comedy show 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin fully commits to each sketch he is in on SNL, no matter how weird or ridiculous it may be. He has also made fun of many of his own movies on SNL, none funnier than his spoof of Glengarry Glen Ross when he berates Santa’s elves and warns them that they’ll be fired from the North Pole if they can’t pick up the pace of toy making. “A.B.C. – Always Be Cobbling.” Hilarious.