Saturday Night Live has been influencing television for over 40 years, and along the way, the series has had plenty of moments to celebrate. However, they have also had a lot of moments worth forgetting and some completely shambolic performances. This is all to be expected in a show that has only one week to prepare with a guest host, who will be performing entirely new material. The wide range of stars that have appeared on the show have made it versatile and dynamic and has given us a reason to keep watching.
The thrill of live television remains one of the few events that viewers can look forward to expecting that truly “anything could happen.” SNL has seen stars go off the rails during monologues or run with improvised lines, much to the chagrin of Lorne Michaels, the show’s longtime producer. Comedy is a complicated formula requiring hundreds of hours of writing and preparation, yet sometimes a stroke of brilliant improvisations is what puts a sketch over the top and makes it a hit. However, the individuals included on this list lacked that quality or were unable to make these on-the-fly adjustments click with the audience.
Part of the appeal of Saturday Night Live is that their guest stars come from a variety of professions and are not always trained actors or comedians. Politicians, athletes, and musicians have all had successful host appearances, while some professional actors and comedians have bombed. Individuals may not be able to identify what in particular makes them funny and perhaps don’t realize until it is too late. Still, the show must go on and will continue to do so through the peaks and valleys that the long running series has gone through. Here are some of the hosts that Lorne Michaels would like you to forget.
10 January Jones
January Jones is a super talented actress as she has displayed on Mad Men for many seasons, but humor may not be her strong suit. Jones’ hosting appearance went downhill from the awkward opening monologue, which featured Fred Armisen, Jason Sudekis, and Bill Hader imploring her to say things and a weird rendition of the Mad Men theme. In a sketch straight out of the writer’s room on 30 Rock, she played a flatulent Grace Kelly. Her episode stood in stark contrast with Jon Hamm’s episode, which was one of the most well received ones in recent memory.
9 Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton represented a particular challenge for the Saturday Night Live writing staff, mostly because of her complete absence of discernable talent. Hilton struggled through a monologue in which she held her dog and the two of them conversed with Keenan Thompson. Hilton was mocked by the SNL cast including Tina Fey, who found it offensive that Hilton was proud of her lack of intellect. The cast had a bet going over who would be asked the first personal question by the self-consumed Hilton. For those of you wondering, Seth Meyers was the winning choice.
8 Lance Armstrong
Once upon a time, Lance Armstrong was a beloved American hero that was in the midst of an incredible string of Tour de France victories. Armstrong had a strong cameo appearance in Dodgeball, which in hindsight changes the plot meaning of the movie, but enabled him to appear as a host on SNL alongside his then girlfriend and musical guest, Sheryl Crow. Armstrong made a few jokes about drug testing that look highly questionable upon reflection. He also says that all the proceeds from his Livestrong merchandise go to charity, which also proved to be not true. It makes you wonder if he’s the only malicious sociopath to have ever hosted the show.
7 Nancy Kerrigan
Less than three months after being assaulted during an attack orchestrated by rival Tanya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan was thrust into the spotlight in front of a national audience on SNL. Kerrigan had just won a silver medal at the 1994 Olympics and had a notable faux pas at Disney World during one of her appearances. She made references to the incident during her monologue and received a laugh, but there were few to follow. If it weren’t for the heroic efforts of Chris Farley, it may have been one of the most awkward episodes ever.
6 Milton Berle
Milton Berle is a textbook example of what can happen when network executives push an idea for a show too aggressively. Berle was forced upon Lorne Michaels and the staff of SNL in more ways than one. Mr. Television allegedly displayed at least one prodigious body part to both willing and unwilling cast and crew members. He also orchestrated his own standing ovation by planting friends and family in the audience, which led to his lifetime ban from the show. Even without that stunt, it is unlikely that the overacting, ad-libbing Berle would have been asked back.
5 Michael Phelps
Olympic athletes do not necessarily have a track record of success as hosts on Saturday Night Live, and Michael Phelps was yet another to fall into this trend. Phelps was chosen to kick off the 34th season by hosting the first show after the summer hiatus. Phelps portrayed himself in one sketch, but was mostly a forgettable background character. The episode was overshadowed by the debut of Tina Fey as vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, which proved to be the water cooler topic rather than the lackluster comedy chops of Phelps.
4 Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber was, according to all accounts, a nightmare to work alongside during his brief stint as a guest host on SNL. Bieber brought his full entourage to the studio, which apparently made it difficult to navigate the tight quarters for members of the regular cast and crew. His episode was described among the worst ever by Bill Hader. The episode was not an entire loss though because it did give the world Kate McKinnon’s awesome impression of the former teenage pop star.
3 Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan appeared on SNL in 2004 in the wake of her rise to stardom thanks to the classic film Mean Girls, written by SNL cast member and writer, Tina Fey. Lohan again appeared as a host in the midst of her 2012 comeback attempt and bombed about as hard as a host possibly can. Lohan poured on a heaping helping of self-deprecation, but even the support of the cast and crew could not keep the episode on track. Numerous reference were made to her drug and alcohol abuse problems, but perhaps more time should have been spent trying to recreate the “Debbie Downer” gold from her earlier hosting appearance.
2 Martin Lawrence
Martin Lawrence is an extraordinarily talented comedian and actor that has starred in blockbusters and television shows for two decades. However, Martin also has the potential to be a volatile personality, and this was displayed during his SNL hosting opportunity. Lawrence launched into his monologue, which included a graphic description of female genitalia that was censored in future airings of the show. Lawrence was banned from hosting the show in the future and the incident allegedly resulted in many people losing their jobs.
1 Steven Seagal
If you’ve ever seen any of Steven Seagal’s action packed films, you will know that they are comedy gold mines. The only problem is that Seagal played every single one of those roles in a serious manner that gave movies like Under Siege a hint of humor. Seagal is a serious martial artist and part time police officer, so expecting him to show some silliness may have been beyond his acting repertoire. In one notable instance, he would not emerge from his dressing room because he was offended by a sketch in which Hans and Franz threatened to beat him up. He was eventually banned from hosting the show in the future, and the episode was censored when it featured on Netflix.
Sources: snl.wikia.com, www.mediaite.com, thelaughbutton.com ,thesportsfanjournal.com, screen.yahoo.com, snltranscripts.jt.org, articles.philly.com, mentalfloss.com, snl.wikia.com, screen.yahoo.com, snltranscripts.jt.org, nypost.com