Saturday Night Live has made a good choice in selecting Seth MacFarlane to host its September 15th season premiere. Not that the Family Guy creator won’t suck (You never know), but he’s got wit, sings and dances, and seems comfortable in live TV settings. At the very least, he’s got to be better than, say, Ralph Nader. Or Steven Seagal.
You’d think that picking a good SNL host wouldn’t be that difficult. Afterall, those who have flamed out as SNL host invariably fall into simple and recognizable categories. Here’s what Saturday Night Live might want to consider when picking its weekly host:
Please – no more. I know it is the season for it, but getting a politician to host never works. Steve Forbes? George McGovern? Yikes. Oh sure – the monologue is usually passable. That’s their strength – talking directly to people. But the skits never go well and usually involve the awkward politico playing himself. I do remember Al Gore having some real fun in a West Wing sketch in 2002, but that might have been a case of lowered expectations. The best SNL politicians are the fake kind.
Actors who aren’t funny in real life tend not to be funny on Saturday Night Live. They’ve tried several times, but intense actor Robert De Niro is pretty awful doing the live comedy thing. Much like his interviews, De Niro doesn’t seem to have a personality beyond the characters he plays on the screen. And his background in live theatre is non-existent. Like a lot of nervous hosts, De Niro seems obsessed with those cue cards – staring off camera for long periods as he works out the dialogue. In this clip, he gets to read emotionless copy straight off the page, so it’s actually funny:
Nobody would EVER mistake Steven Seagal for funny – except in an inadvertent way. But his 1991 hosting performance was a flop that still reverberates in SNL lore. He did know this was a comedy show, right? Producer Lorne Michaels actually referred to Seagal in a later sketch as the “worst jerk ever” on the show.
The exceptions to the rule include intense actor Christopher Walken and the formerly-serious Alec Baldwin. No doubt, it was his SNL appearances that convinced Tina Fey to hire Baldwin for 30 Rock. Both Walken and Baldwin have no problem making fun of their overblown screen images:
If someone is weird or unstable in real life, best not to have them host a live network comedy show. Just saying.
Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) is remembered as a host who succumbed to nervousness and overwork and fled the stage during the monologue. Some debate that was part of the show – others say “no way.”
Recently, Lindsay Lohan went straight from rehab and legal issues to hosting Saturday Night Live. Guess what? She seemed nervous, ill-prepared and was De Niro-esque in her reliance on the cue cards. If you make a joke about your crime and drug problems, it helps if you don’t look messed up while doing it:
This falls under the ‘trendy’ host category, as most athletes who host SNL have recently won big games or medals. Athletes ALWAYS make awkward hosts who can’t funny their way out of a paper bag. They’ve been so bad, just being mediocre comes off as refreshing. It was true in the case of 1989’s Wayne Gretzky episode. Here are a couple of clips from that episode tucked in a sports highlight reel:
Recent sports fails include Michael Phelps, whose 2008 appearance wasn’t much better. Who would have thought spending your days underwater wouldn’t prepare you for comedy. Phelps did get some help on the show by Tina Fey’s then-popular Sarah Palin impersonation:
But one of the worst sports legends ever to trod the SNL stage wasn’t even an athlete – it was sportscaster Howard Cosell, who hosted in 1985. Howard was funny and bombastic in real life, but that didn’t transfer to live comedy. I still can’t shake the sight of Cosell dressed up as Ed Grimley’s dad, trying to read cue cards about five beats behind the actual punch line. I must say….that really was horrible to watch.
GIMMICKY/TRENDY HOSTS WITHOUT DISCERNIBLE TALENT
Just because someone is in the news a lot does not mean they can host a live comedy show. Once the novelty of their appearance wears off – after a minute – you’re left with someone who may be ill-fitted to doing the funny. Paris Hilton is an entertaining tabloid headline, but hopeless when required to speak. I’m not sure ‘funny’ is her thing either if her 2005 appearance is evidence. She does the voice of a dog okay I guess: