50 People You'd Be Surprised To Learn Actually Hosted SNL
Since its on-air debut on October 11, 1975, on the NBC network, Saturday Night Live (SNL) has been capturing the hearts and smiles of its fans. The show is filled with live sketches that showcase an array of talent from the actors as they try to keep from laughing at the hilarious jokes.
Its key feature is having a notable celebrity host the show in between sketches. Whether it be a stand-up routine or simply engaging with the crowd, the Master of Ceremony had to be entertaining. With 47 seasons under its belt, let's check out 50 people you'd be surprised to learn actually hosted SNL.
George Carlin (1975)
George Carlin receives the first special shout-out because he hosted the first SNL episode ever! The actor, author, and social critic was noted for his black comedy and personal thoughts on politics the audience couldn't get enough of. The show was still perfecting its overall tone and Carlin seemed like the right choice to start.
George was chosen for many other reasons including that he knew how to captivate an audience while still keeping the crowd laughing with banter in between takes. He also played the anchor on the "Saturday Night News" segment in his second go-around at hosting in November 1984.
Rob Reiner (1975)
Rob Reiner is next on the list because during this time he was on the rise with his role in All in the Family (1971) and he was being prospected by other talent agents to do more projects due to the success of the show. As the host, Reiner was the first guest to not have a musical number with him, so it was simply him and the attentive crowd.
His set went well as he played in different sketches including being a lounge singer and a spokesperson for The National Pancreas Association. Even his wife joined him as they exhibited the best fashion faux-pas.
Candace Bergen (1975)
Candace Bergen is one of the hottest women to ever hit mainstream media, according to critics and viewers alike. The American sweetheart was a former fashion model and stunned the crowd with her angelic looks and subtle comedic skills.
Her most notable set was when she played the singer Esther Phillips and performed "What a Difference a Day Makes" and "I Can Stand a Little Rain." Based on the date, we'll also mention that Candice Bergen was the first woman to host Saturday Night Live and is noted in the SNL history books for it.
Richard Pryor (1975)
Richard Pryor, voted #1 on Rollings Stone's list of 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time in 2017, hosted Saturday Night Live in 1975 and owned his set. Many viewers were surprised to see Richard hosting a comedy sketch show as many viewers reported feeling it was "beneath him" but not according to Richard.
The star comedian began by speaking on why he doesn't drink or do psychedelics and portrayed an African American author who tried to sell his book by portraying himself as Caucasian. Richard Pryor is also noted for being the first African American man to host the famous sketch show.
Desi Arnaz (1976)
During his one and only appearance as host of SNL, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz Yde Acha III, better known as Desi Arnaz, thanked the cast for the special cigars that they gave to him. His face and name may seem familiar because Desi is the actor that played Ricky Ricardo on the hit show, I Love Lucy (1951).
His stellar performance and suave, gentlemanly style made him a hit on SNL. One of his funnier sets is him portraying himself as a father giving peculiar advice to his son about business, a classic sketch.
Kris Kristofferson (1976)
Kristoffer Kristofferson was one of the bad boys of country music alongside Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash as the dynamic trio, The Highwaymen. The well-known musician received some of his early attempts at acting through SNL and learned the art of facial control.
Kris did a sketch where he educated viewers on how they can overcome their handicap of wanting a good education and how to become a famous country singer. The young singer did his best to stay focused and keep from showing those pearly whites of his. Nonetheless, he did a good job and sang one of his hit songs during his monologue.
Hugh Hefner (1977)
Hugh Hefner, the original playboy and owner of the company, was a major surprise to SNL viewers. The founder and editor of Playboy magazine was a kind-hearted man that the cast and producers thought would be a hoot to have as a host.
Of course, the show used Hugh's life for many of the sketches including a Playboy bunny that flopped at telling jokes, and the reveal of a deleted sex scene from "The First Mrs. Kimball." Hugh may not have been the funniest host, but he wasn't a comedian... he was America's legendary playboy!
Ray Charles (1977)
Learning that famous musician, Ray Charles, hosted SNL in November 1977 is truly a shocker in the best ways. During his opening monologue, he discussed with the crowd what the producers had to do to get him to come on the show. His sketches ranged from being interviewed by Tom Snyder to having a trick up his sleeve for the burglar who tries to steal his lucrative painting.
Because of his musical genius, Ray Charles was also the musical guest during his hosting and sketches duties. He sang a medley of his hits including the iconic "What'd I Say."
O.J. Simpson (1978)
Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson was playing football with the San Fransisco 49ers when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1978, and racked up yards and laughs simultaneously. His opening monologue consisted of him dressing like a Conehead (featured) which showed The Juiceman's light and humorous side.
There's also a skit where he rejected his famous Hertz car rental ad for very peculiar reasons. O.J. had a highly viewed show because of his notoriety and ability to be comedic in a dad jokes kind of way. It's safe to say that his only appearance on SNL was a successful one.
Carrie Fisher (1978)
Carrie Fisher is best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, which is why she was an exciting pick as an SNL host. The galactic royal played her famous character in two different sketches: one where she was forced by Obi-Wan to tell a joke about aliens which totally bombed, and the other where she takes flight and lands on Earth to join a beach party with two fellow associates.
Her episode ratings were high as SNL viewers and Star Wars fans joined forces that night in support of the subtly charismatic Carrie Fisher.
Cicely Tyson (1979)
Award-winning actress, activist, and humanitarian, Cicely Tyson, hosted SNL with her musical guest, The Talking Heads. Cicely's episode went over very well as she was interrupted by her fellow thespian, Garrett Morgan (right), dressed as her. She berates him, tells him not to degrade himself, and sends him packing.
Another sketch that was a real plot twist was her and Garrett's conversation about the misrepresentation of African American people on screen, and blaming it on African American men! As controversial as it seems, the star's ability to place emphasis on making it humorous is what made it great prime-time television.
Burt Reynolds (1980)
Burt (right) had an interesting set because there were so many mistakes and setbacks that occurred. Yet, the actor persevered and helped create a decently rated episode. Reynolds had a certain charm that the producers used for an idea for a skit where a pair of parents endorse their daughter to sleep with the famous actor.
A sketch connected to Burt dressing like a roman (featured) is a hard one to forget, as well as the first celebrity Jeopardy show in which Burt took part. Either way, Burt hosted SNL with optimism and a helpful cast.
Tim Curry (1981)
Tim Curry (left) is a notable English actor that received his start to stardom via The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and transferred those skills to Saturday Night Live six years later. Tim played his role well in the 'Ronald Regan's Illegitimate Son' sketch. He and his partner-in-crime, Meatloaf (right), came together to create a One-Stop Rocky Horror Shop.
The English charmer is also a singer and performed "The Zucchini Song" with the house band. With wit and plenty of comedy, Tim Curry had one of the more successful episodes of SNL.
Stevie Wonder (1983)
Stevie Wonder (left) was the host and special musical guest as he wowed the crowd with his sensational smile, charisma, and instrumental talent. We'll also add comedic skills to his list of attributes as Stevie was a good sport in many of the skits including a pseudo-biopic of himself portrayed by none other than the famous comedian, Eddie Murphy (right).
Stevie was able to make the live audience get lost in wonder as he performed some of his top hits including, "Fingertips," "Overjoyed," and "Go Home." There was rarely a dull moment in this episode.
Flip Wilson (1983)
Flip Wilson was an American stand-up comedian noted for his witty banter and outrageous antics including cross-dressing and pointing out uncomfortable truths in the most comical way possible. Some of his remembered sketches were "Unrequited Sex" and "Unanswered Questions of the Universe."
Because he already had his own show, Flip was a pro at keeping the crowd engaged and laughing with glee. He and Stevie Nicks, the musical guest, rocked the house with smiles and banging music... literally! The episode had great reviews and improved cross-generational viewership.
Michael Douglas (1984)
With a decently rated episode, Michael Douglas held his own on Saturday Night Live. According to critics, Michael was a bit nervous to do the show, which is odd because he's a famous actor. However, in his early years of acting, Mr. Douglas was a charismatic man who could grab the attention of a crowd.
Michael was able to handle a skit where a young couple had to make a hard decision at an ice cream parlor. Do you think he helped out? Watch his episode and find out for yourself!
Rev. Jesse Jackson (1984)
I can hear it now, "Jesse Jackson hosted SNL?!" Correct, the strong-faith preacher and noted civil rights activist had his chance at hosting an episode of the popular sketch show with the musical styles of Andrae Crouch and Wintley Phipps.
Rev. Jackson played himself in a more comedic role in a few of the skits including "Advice" and "Funny Black People." He also sang along with the music group as they played the song "Right Now," which rocked the house.
Mr. T and Hulk Hogan (1985)
You read it right, noted former wrestlers Mr. T (center) and Hulk Hogan (right) hosted the episode together and their star power created lots of views. The dynamic duo held their own in the skit, "Mr. T and Hulk Hogan Reply," where the two powerhouses would respond to random questions from the audience and viewers at home.
Mr. T did a swell job in the praised sketch "Toxic Waste" and was noted for his assertive comedy. The future Hall of Famers were a true shock to see hosting due to their no-nonsense demeanor as viewers were pleased with their performances.
Oprah Winfrey (1986)
You would think that Oprah Winfrey had more pressing matters to focus on considering she was the first African American female talk show host as well as a news anchor in her early career, but no, Oprah loves the camera and the camera loves her!
The media giant placed emphasis on her skills of acting which were seen in several sketches. What her episode is most remembered for is the skit "A Color Purple take-off in the Cold" opening, which she did during her dialogue. Now we know that the female phenom is also humorous and funny in her own right.
Willie Nelson (1987)
Country music would be missing a piece of its soul without musician Willie Nelson in it. Known for his high-quality music, and cannabis, Willie received much notoriety from fans because of his comedic antics and witty remarks through his ever-calm demeanor.
In the episode pictured above, Willie's acting was based on his natural self, but what increased the ratings for the show was his song selections considering he was also his own musical guest. Who knew Mr. Nelson had so much range.
Dolly Parton (1989)
The American country songstress, Dolly Parton, is known for her acting, business acuity, and authorship, but not really for her comedy. That changed when SNL helped her transform her humor into down-right, knee-slapping banter. The singer performed well in her skits as she is no stranger to the spotlight
Of course, she was her own musical guest and rocked the house with her sensational and nurturing voice. Amongst others, Dolly had a highly viewed show, which SNL was very grateful for. Let's also add that her skit, "Food Emporium," was successful enough to reach the archives.
Quincy Jones (1990)
Legendary music producer Quincy Jones took a moment from producing the world's greatest hits to provide us viewers with his subtle humor and famous friends. Now, he himself wasn't as funny as your typical Eddie Murphy or Jim Carey, but he was able to bring good music to some very funny skits like "Jazz Perspectif."
What made his segment even better was special guest appearances from a few of his friends like rapper Kool Moe Dee, Melle Mel, and Tevin Campbell as his musical guest. His show was rated 6/10 but his music selection boosted the episode's views.
Michael Jordan (1991)
Wow, basketball, baseball, sort of, and acting? The multi-talented basketball legend Michael Jordan just couldn't be stopped as he was only a few steps from a camera during his hay day, including when he hosted a Saturday Night Live episode.
Michael's monologue is what caught the most attention and kept viewers engaged, while sketches like "The Dark Side with Nat X" (featuring director Spike Lee) kept the people laughing. "Tales From The Barbecue" was also one of Mike's personal favorite sketches. His episode had a high rating and after watching it, it's easy to see why.
MC Hammer (1991)
Former, but never forgotten, hip hop superstar MC Hammer put on a fly suit and hosted an SNL episode. His episode had an average rating, but it's still cool to know that "Mr. Hammer Time" was up for spreading laughter to a live audience and viewers at home.
The special part about his episode was not just the hilarious skits, but the special appearance made by The Adams Family children! Hammer was also his own musical guest and stunned the crowd with his wild spins and expansive charisma.
Sara Gilbert (1994)
Sara Gilbert may be best known for her role as Darlene Conner on the hit series, Roseanne, but what you may not know is that the lady has real chops for being funny. Funny to the point of having a decently rated show based on her monologue alone.
Sketches like "Simon" and "Blossom" were on the menu, and so was Sara's skit, "Lunch Lady Land." Her musical guest was the iconic band, Counting Crows, and her episode was rated even higher than MC Hammer's episode! Nonetheless, Sara debuted why she is meant for T.V.
Deion Sanders (1995)
Nicknamed "Primetime" because of his flashy skills on the football field and even flashier fashion, football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders took control of SNL for a night and was happy about it. Deion is a good sport and loves to laugh, which is why the "O.J. Simpson Field Trip" sketch had Primetime rolling out of his chair.
His episode had a moderate rating with decent views. What really brought it all home was the rock legend Bon Jovi making a cameo appearance with Deion in the 1995 "ESPY Awards" skit.
Mike Myers (1997)
Mike Myers in front of a camera making other people laugh is what he was made for, and Saturday Night Live took full advantage of his up-and-coming star power and everlasting comedic antics. Mike is great at creating his own original characters which he brought to the stage that night.
His character Wayne (featured left) from his movie, Wayne's World, made an appearance in the sketch "Party on With Wayne Campbell" and the crowd went wild. Overall, Mike has one of the highest-rated episodes in SNL history and his natural humor is the reason why.
Samuel L. Jackson (1998)
You know him, you may love him, he's the household name, Samuel L. Jackson and he is one of the few actors you be surprised to learn actually hosted SNL. The noted American film producer is critically acclaimed for numerous roles, including receiving much praise for his subtle debauchery on Saturday Night Live.
Samuel was able to make a few cultural comments that made people cringe and laugh, which is what made his episode worthy of our list. Samuel even had a small beef with SNL actor Kenan Thompson and thought he was banned! Luckily, that is no longer a worry for him.
Cuba Gooding Jr. (1999)
The American actor and director Cuba Gooding Jr. had his time on Saturday Night Live. Now, Cuba isn't a comedian, and according to his episode rating, he may not have been that funny, but what he does know how to do well is have a good time! He and guest star Monica Lewinsky played well in their segment "Ladies Man."
Cuba also got down and dirty on the dance floor when guest musician Ricky Martin played his hit song, "Livin La Vida Loca." Between the three of them, his episode was a straight-up party.
Jackie Chan (2000)
What?! Jackie Chan hosted SNL? Right, it's a real shocker but it's true. The martial arts master was inducted into the Saturday Night Live lineup because of his wit, humility, and capable acting skills. According to producers, Chan (center) was a lovable person to have on the show and had so much fun playing different characters.
His musical partner was Kid Rock (left of Jackie) and he rocked the house with guest appearances from other thespians. Fun fact: "Jackie" is his American moniker, his real name is Chan Kong-Sang.
Ellen DeGeneres (2001)
Ellen has a way with words as she captivated her audience with her subtle and slick humor. In one statement, she described to the world how she "really isn't gay" and was only at a party to impress specific people... clearly, she was just joking. Another skit that made her giggle was the "Dan Rather Report" where an alternate translation of Bin Laden described pushback from highjackers.
Ellen enjoyed the show where the alternative rock band, No Doubt, performed and her episode rating was moderate enough for her to make the list of surprising SNL hosts.
John McCain (2002)
John McCain really hosted SNL? The shock is universal. The American politician and United States Senator from Arizona played his part well in a scene that was totally different from what he was used to... comedy. However, John and the writers were able to come up with a decent show with great antics.
There was one skit where Saddam Hussein had a "100% victory" in an election, and McCain gets pressed by Tim Russert in "Meet the Press." With an average rating, it's safe to say that John did a good job from start to finish.
Salma Hayek (2003)
Salma Hayek, the Mexican beauty of Hollywood, aced her spot on SNL with her dramatic scenes in many of the sketches. Her smooth and passionate thespian style stole the hearts of many viewers that saw her segment. In one skit, she played a comedy version of a novella that she performed, and used her culture to add more spice to the American show.
From sketches where she plays parent to her emotional boyfriend to playing the illustrious Jacqueline DuBonnet during the "Seduction Class" skit, Salma certainly put a few points on the board for both SNL and her acting career.
Snoop Dogg (2004)
The high-grade rapper Calvin Broadus Jr., a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, had his chance at wowing the crowd back in 2004 with his cool banter and solid ability to act considering his history on the big screen. Speaking of which, a recognizable sketch that had the party going was when he played a character similar to himself that was called, "Pothead Theater."
You would think that Uncle Snoop would be his own musical guest, but he's too cool for that. Pop-rock artist Avril Lavigne swung by and rocked the mic with a smile and decent viewership.
Jack Black (2005)
Jack Black (right) is a special one as he is one of the selected few who has had the honor of hosting the show more than once. Jack showcased his first show in January 2002, then continued his SNL career appearing once again in October 2004, with a final exhibition in December 2005.
If you know Jack Black, it's easy to see why the honor was bestowed upon him. Jack's opening monologue hooked the crowd within seconds with quotes like "I'm just trying to get some finger loving up in here." Not sure what it means, but it got the people going!
Forest Whitaker (2007)
Forest Whitaker is no stranger to the camera and because of his already established name in Hollywood, bringing him on to the show as a host seemed like a no-brainer. One of the many sketches that caught the attention of the viewers and cast alike was the "Bronx-Beat: Blood Drive." It seemed like it took a lot of guts to do it the way they did it.
Kenan Thomspon also joined him and played alongside him as he impersonated Rev. Jesse Jackson. If you take a good look at the show, you'll see why its reviews went so well.
Megan Fox (2009)
Megan Fox is known for her incredible beauty and is filled with action-packed lines and witty remarks. When she hosted SNL, she did just that, with a monologue that had people engaged. Critics said that they were slightly surprised by her performance on live T.V. and how well she handled herself on camera.
Yet, it was easy to see her trying not to laugh, which made it even funnier. Skits like the "United Nations General Assembly" and "Megan's Roommate" couldn't help but evoke laughter and joy from all that watched it.
Betty White (2010)
As she now rests in peace, Betty White can say that she added to her life by creating one of the highest-rated episodes in Saturday Night Live history. How? Simply by being Betty White. Her many decades of experience paved the way for fine live acting that had even the SNL actors hiding behind props to cover their laughter.
In her monologue, Betty joked about how Facebook is such a waste of time, yet, it was the same platform that collected the petition for her to host the episode! Betty knew the right way to tease the crowd.
Daniel Radcliffe (2012)
Daniel Radcliffe (center) was able to show off his cooler and more fun side when he hosted SNL. The viewers were very receptive to seeing him play different characters from the one we recognize him the most as, Harry from the Harry Potter series.
However, the studio did take advantage of that particular character and created a sketch where after 10 years, Harry Potter is still hanging around Hogwarts to impress new students. Daniel turned what sounds like a sad situation into pure golden laughter.
Kerry Washington (2013)
Kerry Washington is simply a stellar actress. Her name has carried weight ever since the smash hit movie, Save The Last Dance (2001) hit the movie theaters. It seems that the ABC network was paying attention to how Kerry would be in the political office based on her portrayal of Michelle Obama (left) in the "White House Cold Open" sketch.
Of course, Kerry Washington would go out in style with the intensity that is Eminem, who was paired with her as the musical guest. It's always great to see the range of Kerry's thespian skills.
Taraji P. Henson (2015)
Taraji P. Henson is a household name when it comes to famous actresses. Her pizazz and spunk are what made her a great contender for hosting an SNL episode. Can you imagine her performance? It was considered "downright funny" by a few SNL critics and gained popular viewership based on her name alone.
Taraji's "I Made It" monologue made millions of knees sore from all the slapping that her jokes caused. The "Hollywood Game Night" segment went over well with viewers as well, as that was their favorite Taraji scene.
Ronda Rousey (2016)
You wouldn't expect to see UFC fighter Ronda Rousey hosting a live comedy sketch show, but hey, that's what Saturday Night Live is all about! Ronda made her hosting debut in 2016 with Selena Gomez to back her up as support in the musical department. "Love Struck" was a popular sketch and a favorite skit of Ronda's, according to critics and producers.
Her monologue showcased a side of her that many of us rarely see. For this reason, amongst many others, the ratings for her episode were slightly higher than what critics postulated for her premier hosting gig.
Octavia Spencer (2017)
The glorious part about watching Octavia Spencer host a live show is that you can tell that no prompts were necessary for her, it all came straight from the heart. In her opening dialogue, Ms. Spencer pokes fun at the Oscars, pointing out how she played 16 nurses in her acting career and received an award for being a maid... a good point!
Nonetheless, sketches like "Girl at the Bar" and "The Chocolate Man" kept the show light-hearted, and Octavia on air. Her ratings were average and she was able to let off some steam. Good for you, Octavia.
Steve Carell (2018)
When you think about it, Steve Carell was made for live television. With topic structure and creative control, Mr. Carell does superb work at making a stale crowd crumble under the pressure of his absurdly hilarious multiple-character personality.
Alongside his comedic genius showcased in the many sketches that he was a part of throughout the episode, none other than Ella Mai had the privilege of providing musical pleasure to the already relieving comedy scenes. Critics were impressed with the synergy between Mr. Carell and Ms. Mai.
Sandra Oh (2019)
Live shows were a bit weird for Sandra Oh, according to the show's producers, so the Canadian-American actress just let the awkwardness flow, which helped her make her hosting debut even better. Better known for her acting in the medical-drama-hit series, Grey's Anatomy, Sandra was praised for "never playing the same character twice."
"The Duel" was certainly a top fan favorite based on viewer, and critic, reviews. Her antics and reactions were deemed "appropriately funny" and Sandra Oh can sleep well knowing she did a swell job at being stronger than her awkwardness.
Don't know who RuPaul is? RuPaul is America's top drag queen as the diva has been strutting his stuff from a media perspective since the late 1980s. In his opening monologue, he presents himself in his natural state and explains why he didn't come out in drag, and shared his philosophy on it.
But the funny came in during the sketches, like in "Check Splitting," where RuPaul and Cecily Strong made a huge fuss about splitting a lunch bill. It was funnier than it seems and increased the ratings thanks to none other than RuPaul himself.
Daniel Kaluuya (2021)
Mr. Kaluuya has become a Hollywood heartthrob ever since his return from "The Sunken Place" and arrival in Wakanda. The English actor had his premier hosting gig with SNL in 2021 and was praised for his charm, wit, enticing accent, and ability to improvise with style and humor.
Some critics considered some of the sketches to be "so-so," but Kalluya's acting was spot on, especially during the sketch where he played a snarky game show host (featured). Even during Covid-19, Daniel was still able to put on a decently rated performance.
Elon Musk (2021)
Billionaires typically don't host too many shows, but in the millennial age, we're able to get one or two. Take Elon Musk for example, when he made his debut hosting SNL with the satirical humor that only Elon can give.
Coming up with sketches must've been easy for the writing crew based on Elon's endeavor; the issue was more on the dryness of Elon's delivery and was deemed the "worst host ever" by sources like Vox. Take into consideration that Miley Cyrus was the musical guest and you can start to imagine why Vox made their slick comment.
Zoe Kravitz (2022)
She may be the daughter of music phenomenon Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet, but Zoe Kravitz has created her own name with both lead and supporting acting roles and showcasing her talents in the forms of live comedy.
It was obvious that this experience was new for Kravitz, yet she put in a good effort. The "Don't Stop Believin" (Marching Band) sketch was proof that, with practice, Zoe could probably hold down the fort in future comedy sketches. Until then, she'll continue to learn from the true masters, the SNL actors.
As one of the hottest music artists of the Millennial and Gen Z era, Lizzo has earned a spot in the premiere Saturday Night Live host club because of her charisma and proven ability to switch from rapper to actress like she's practiced it in the mirror hundreds of time.
Lizzo was able to showcase her star power in all the sketches that she played in and gave the people what they truly wanted in the end, her performing songs like her single, "About Damn Time." Her mother joined her in her special moment and with more work, Lizzo could make another exciting SNL appearance.