What’s in an SNL host, really? Judging by the names on this list, a lot. SNL is a well-oiled machine at this point – regardless of who’s hosting – but a fun and memorable host can work wonders to breathe life into the show. As Splitsider’s resident SNL historians, we decided to look back on some of our favorite hosts from over the years and compile a list of ones we’re particularly jonesing to see make a comeback.
We gave ourselves a few guidelines. Firstly, no one who has hosted the show in the past three years (no hard feelings, Jon Hamm and Melissa McCarthy). We also tried to avoid obvious picks like Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken, and Tom Hanks… though we made an exception for Bill Murray. We’re really too hard on that guy, after all. In the end, we decided on 10 people who have us scratching our heads as to why it’s been so long since they’ve visited, and a few other recent showstoppers we wouldn’t mind seeing again.
Patrick Stewart. Sure, Capt. Picard hasn’t appeared in many major onscreen roles since his hosting gig in 1994 other than to brilliantly wheel circles around his costars in the X-Men movies. But we’ve been dying to see the stage legend return to the show since his hilarious Extras cameo. And while we could make roughly the same argument for Stewart’s best friend Ian McKellen, we won’t be able to see Prof. Xavier in dozens more Hobbit films, and his recent drop-in with Chicago’s famed Improvised Shakespeare Company received much acclaim, so we’re long overdue for a Sexycakes Stewart comeback.
Bill Murray. While he might be an obvious choice, it’s been 14 years since Murray hosted, and the current cast turnover could benefit from the help of a true SNL veteran-turned-indie film favorite. Murray’s hosted SNL five times – including two episodes during Dick Ebersol’s shaky reign in the early eighties – and while he may be depriving Ghostbusters III of Dr. Venkman, perhaps he’d be more receptive to crooning in his Nick the Lounge Singer getup onscreen once more.
Conan O’Brien. It has been 12 long years since Conan last hosted SNL, and it will likely be a long time before we see him do so again. After the Tonight Show debacle of 2010, relations between the comedian and NBC probably aren’t any better, and I doubt either party wants to see Coco and the peacock watermark in the same frame any time soon. That said, Conan’s experience writing for the show and his stellar stint as host in 2001 make him a long-time friend of SNL. Combine that with his unquestioned vaudevillian prowess, his unrivaled performance hosting the Emmys in 2006, and the dark side of him we saw emerge during his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny On Television tour, Conan has become the perfect storm of must-return SNL hosts.
John Goodman. One of the top all-time SNL hosts, Goodman hosted the show an astonishing 12 times from 1989 to 2001, but he hasn’t hosted the show once in the past decade. With big roles in recent award-magnet films like Argo, Flight, and The Artist, one would think he would be in high demand for a return, but alas… nada. Goodman was a powerhouse every time he stepped on the SNL stage, making memorable appearances as Linda Tripp and in the “Da Bears” and “Bill Brasky” sketches. The SNL landscape has changed quite a bit in the past decade, but a true pro like Goodman would always be welcome.
Ellen Degeneres. Now that SNL has its best Ellen impersonator in Kate McKinnon, it seems only right that the real Ellen should return to the show and face her doppelganger. Degeneres has only hosted SNL once back in 2001 two years before the premiere of her daytime talk show, so it’d be interesting to see her return to 30 Rock for another shot now that she’s gained much more fame and steady success.
Megan Mullally. The last time Mullally hosted SNL was back in 2004 to promote the sixth season of Will & Grace, and since then she's been consistently killing it on shows like Party Down, Happy Endings, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and Children's Hospital. Mullally's long overcome being only known as the squawky-voiced Karen Walker, and she's more than overdue for a return to hosting SNL. Bonus points if Nick Offerman’s on hand to interrupt her monologue.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. While she never made a huge splash as an SNL cast member in the eighties, Louis-Dreyfus made a refreshingly entertaining host in both 2006 and 2007 to promote The New Adventures of Old Christine. With the success of her starring performance in HBO’s Veep and the second season premiere just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to see Louis-Dreyfus make another appearance on La Rivista Della Televisione Con Vinny Vedecci.
Brian Williams. In 2007, Brian Williams became the first network news anchor to host SNL, and since then he’s become NBC’s go-to strait-laced comedy cameo figure in shows like 30 Rock and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Williams knows how to play off his anchorman delivery for laughs (see his appearances on “Slow Jam the News”) or switch to the silliest characters like Paul Dooley, the shy but tough firefighter from “114 Ladda” in the Bronx.
Neil Patrick Harris. Though relatively recent a host, NPH joins several others on this list as an inexplicable one-timer. His 2009 episode was one of the best of that season, with a great Broadway sketch and a Doogie Howser digital short, and a pitch-perfect delivery. Also, his performance hosting the Tony Awards last year reminded us of his many talents. With any luck, the How I Met Your Mother star will make an SNL comeback and give the writers a chance to test out their musical theater bits.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Of all the names on this list, Dwayne Johnson probably has the best chance to return to host this season. He has three huge action movies coming out over the next three months (G.I. Joe: Retaliation in March, Pain & Gain in April, and Fast & Furious 6 in May), a workload he owes in part to SNL for helping his transition from charismatic pro wrestler to bankable action star. He has hosted the show three times – once in 2000 as The Rock and twice more in 2002 and 2009 as Dwayne Johnson – and has been arguably SNL’s most memorable athlete host. After giving us The Rock Obama last time, his macho humor would result in yet another fun episode – if they can fit him through the doors.
For another batch of SNL host picks, check out our list of 10 people we'd like to see host SNL for the first time.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.
Erik Voss is a writer and performer living in Los Angeles. He hosts the Evil Blond Kid podcast and performs improv on the Harold team The Cartel at the iO West Theater.