Sometimes they do it to get a laugh, sometimes they’re forced into it by bad writing, but no matter how good an actor you are, if you agree to host SNL, you will invariably end up humiliating yourself for laughs and sometimes you will even be successful — though many times, you just end up embarrassing yourself for no legitimate comedic reason.
Here’s 10 of Hollywood’s best actors humiliating themselves on SNL, more often than not to their own detriment.
A 10-time Emmy nominee, a five-time winner, and considered maybe the best television actor of our generation — capable of deftly playing comedic or dramatic roles — Cranston was reduced to singing about sparkling apple juice in a terrible wig. It’s literally 5 minutes of Cranston and Fred Armisen mostly repeating the same phrase: “I sent a bottle of sparkling apple juice to your house. Did you get it?” Terrible, terrible sketch.
Robert Downey Jr.
The man who launched the biggest franchise of all time and a two-time Oscar nominee considered by some (or at least, by Sean Penn) as the greatest actor of his generation, once gave a confrontational monologue on SNL while inside a suitcase. Bonus: His scene partner was Oscar winner Joan Cusack. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Suitcase Boy.
Robert De Niro
De Niro may be the best actor of his generation. He has seven Oscar nominations and two wins for movies like Raging Bull and The Godfather. Yes, while De Niro has done plenty over the last 15 years to embarrass himself in his choice of movies, nothing — not even The Family — is as embarrassing as seeing De Niro, in drag, show up in a Blizzard Man sketch, shake his ass for Diddy, and deliver the line, “Oh Diddy, as you know, a b*tch gotta stay dipped.”
Recent Oscar winner and one of the very best character actors in all of Hollywood, J.K. Simmons has been in everything. He’s gotten 155 credits in the last 30 years and still, he’s never done anything as embarrassing as wear a bad wig and host a “Miss Trash” pageant, a terrible, unfunny and confusing sketch that went nowhere.
A two-time Oscar nominee better known now for his roles in the X-Men and Lord of the Rings movies, McKellen is also one of the finest Shakespearean actors around (he got a Golden Globe nomination for Richard III). However, McKellen once also dressed in drag — as Dame Maggie Smith — and gave his Oscar predictions, which included taking potshots at Judi Dench and making out with Jimmy Fallon (and no, I’m not even going to pretend it wasn’t hilarious.)
Another great Shakespearean actor, Grammer, of course, is better known for playing Frasier Crane, a character that has gotten him 15 Emmy nominations and five wins. He, too, has made some bad television along the way, but little is more embarrassing than having played a Baywatch director on SNL who consoled all of his Baywatch actresses before spraying water all over them to get “poignant” performances for Baywatch scenes.
In “Animal Confessions,” John Lithgow — 11 Emmy nominations, five Emmy wins, and two Oscar nominations — played a priest who listened to dogs confess their sins. Voice-over work was done for the dog’s confessions, of course, but the look on Lithgow’s face when one of the dogs actually barks is priceless.
In “Janet Reno’s Dance Party,” Kevin Spacey — three-time Emmy nominee and two-time Oscar winner — dressed up as Donna Shalala (former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services) and slow-danced with Will Ferrell’s Reno.
Craig may not have as many awards as the other guys on this list — he has one Emmy nom and a BAFTA nomination — but he’s James F*cking Bond, the coolest, most collected guy on the planet … until he’s asked to play a construction worker in one of the worst sketches in the last few years. It is straight-up painful to watch. WHAT IS THAT ACCENT? I heard Rachel Weisz considered divorcing him after watching it.
Whether you find this sketch embarrassing may depend largely on your politics. Two-time Oscar winner and three-time Emmy nominee Charlton Heston was in a sketch boasting about the NRA Loan program, in which the NRA would loan out free guns during the five-day Brady Law waiting period. History may ultimately judge it poorly, but you can bet your ass that it was one of Heston’s proudest moments. He was bragging, and the writers of the sketch were, I assume, making fun of the absurdity of it.