During his time as a writer for SNL, Conan appeared in several sketches, usually as an extra. In 2001, however, he was given his lone chance to host the show, and it was just as hilarious as you would expect. In the above sketch, he plays a super hero who blows his secret identity because he can’t stop saying his own name. Elsewhere, there’s the glorious Napster sketch, where he plays Right Said Fred, who gained a lot of weight after becoming too sexy for gym membership fees. Conan was a fantastic host, and it would be awesome if Lorne invited him back. The world needs more of Moleculo, The Molecular Man!
This one was a bit surprising; Christina Aguilera was hosting the show, but not singing (Maroon 5 was the musical guest). She was hardly known for her comedic abilities, but she delivered a fantastic performance, and was game for anything. The best sketch of the night was the Sex In The City parody above, featuring her spot-on impression of Kim Cattrall’s Samantha. This episode came from the same season as Timberlake’s first hosting gig, and while his talents are undeniable, Aguilera’s great performance has sadly gotten lost in the shuffle.
Easily the best one-time host, and the above sketch is enough to clinch that title. As amazing as it is to watch the tension escalate as Chevy Chase says a list of increasingly offensive racial slurs (and Pryor responds in kind), what really makes it is the way Pryor twitches after Chevy finally drops the n-bomb. The fact that Richard Pryor genuinely disliked Chevy Chase seemed to improve what was already a great sketch. You can feel the tension between Pryor and Chase, and you can tell they aren’t just acting. Pryor also does some great stand-up in this episode, but really, the Word Association sketch is why this episode is so memorable. It played a huge role in SNL becoming so popular, and to this day, it’s one of the best sketches they’ve ever done.
Athletes aren’t the best hosts. They have little experience in comedy or acting, and the result tends to be a weak episode with wooden performances by the host (see: Jeff Gordon, Deion Sanders, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter). Manning was an exception to the rule. He had a surprisingly strong sense of comedic timing, and was more than willing to mock himself. The United Way sketch seen above, in which he torments kids and throws footballs at them, was by far the best example of this. Throughout the episode, he displayed more comedy chops than any other athlete host with the possible exception of Charles Barkley. It would be great to see Peyton host again, but with his Broncos out of the playoffs, that probably won’t happen this year. Too bad; he’s a lot funnier than Tom Brady or Russell Wilson.
John McCain/Al Gore
The rules for athletes also apply to politicians. But in the spirit of bipartisanship, let’s acknowledge that in the 2002-03 season, politicians from both sides of the aisle were funnier than anyone would have expected. John McCain and Al Gore both had an excellent sense of humor about their political careers, and mocked themselves in hilarious fashion. McCain memorably performed a medley of Barbara Streisand songs, and Gore had an unforgettable appearance with Stuart Smalley. At this point, McCain might be too old for another hosting gig, but it would definitely be fun to bring Gore back. After years of being seen as wooden and dull, he displayed tremendous personality on SNL.