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Top 10 Surprisingly Good Saturday Night Live Hosts

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Well, we don’t think anyone was expecting that. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten surprisingly good hosts of SNL. For this list, we’ll be looking at ten celebrities who are not exactly known for their comedic or acting chops but who nonetheless killed their hosting duties on “Saturday Night Live.”
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Well, we don’t think anyone was expecting that. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten surprisingly good hosts of SNL.

For this list, we’ll be looking at ten celebrities who are not exactly known for their comedic or acting chops but who nonetheless killed their hosting duties on “Saturday Night Live.”

#10: Christopher Walken

We all know that Christopher Walken doesn’t take himself very seriously, but that wasn’t the case in 1990. Back then, Walken was known for his dramatic roles and movies, primarily “A View to a Kill,” “The Dead Zone,” and especially “The Deer Hunter,” for which he won an Academy Award. However, he blew SNL fans away on January 20, 1990 and later became one of the show’s most iconic hosts. He became known for his Continental sketches, where he portrayed a very creepy and perverted man, and the famous Behind the Music sketch where he repeatedly asked for MORE COWBELL! He is now an SNL veteran, having hosted the show seven times.

#9: Charles Barkley

Before his first stint as an SNL host on September 25, 1993, no one really knew how Charles Barkley would handle being in front of the camera. Remember, this was three years before everyone beheld the beauty that is “Space Jam”. While he was a master of the basketball court, that didn’t mean he’d be comfortable on the stage. Luckily, his first appearance was fantastic, and he hosted the show three more times. Sure, you can tell that he’s hella nervous in front of the camera, and his delivery can sometimes be a little awkward, but for a non-actor, he does just fine.

#8: Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper received mainstream recognition with his 2013 mixtape “Acid Rap”, and three years later took home the Grammy for Best Rap with his follow-up “Coloring Book”. This also led to an SNL hosting gig on November 18, 2017 - easily one of the best episodes of the entire year. Chance seems to have an inherent skill for comedy, as his delivery and timing were immaculate, particularly during that hilarious sketch where he played an NBA reporter who didn’t know a thing about hockey. His ridiculous Steve Harvey impersonation was also on point. What can we say, the man is talented.

#7: The Rock

No, we don’t mean the action movie star Dwayne Johnson. We mean The Rock. That’s how far back his hosting duties go. While The Rock was always a tongue-in-cheek personality, non-wrestling fans were certainly apprehensive about having a wrestler doing legitimate comedy. Luckily, he proved to be a ton of fun and has since become a member of the Five-Timers Club. He’s always game, whether he’s taking meth for his erectile dysfunction, or playing a gun-toting Bambi, and he always makes a joke funny no matter how lame or dark it may be. Such is the power of a great comedic actor.

#6: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift is an undeniably talented musician and songwriter, but her acting leaves a lot to be desired. Have you ever seen “Valentine’s Day?” Gah. That said, she was a surprisingly great host for the night of November 7, 2009. Her little goofy monologue song was a thing of beauty, and she managed to be hilariously self-deprecating and snarky. She also showed off some killer impressions of Kate Gosselin, Shakira, and Bella Swan. This was back when making fun of “Twilight” was still funny. She hasn’t hosted since then, but we certainly wouldn’t mind if her first go was any indication.

#5: Alec Baldwin

To see Alec Baldwin’s first hosting gig, we must travel all the way back to the year 1990. By that time, Baldwin was known primarily as a dramatic actor, having appeared in the soap opera “Knots Landing” and movies like “Great Balls of Fire!” and “The Hunt for Red October.” His only major comedic role was that of Adam in “Beetlejuice”. Fortunately, his comedic talents were also ideal for live television. His gig proved immensely successful and he has since hosted the show a record seventeen times. He has also recently gained national acclaim for his impersonation of Donald Trump, even though those were mostly cameos.

#4: Kristen Stewart

We’re sure Kristen Stewart is a lovely person, but it’s no secret that audiences were dreading her hosting gig. Even though she can be a good actor, she is primarily known for portraying the endlessly boring and dull Bella Swan, and she is quite a jittery and quiet person, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to live comedy. That said, she was a surprisingly great host. Sure, she was still her fidgety self, but her Totino’s sketch was sexy as hell, and the Family Feud sketch was hilarious. And who can forget the majesty that was her accidental and adorable f-bomb? Her episode was pure entertainment, and really, what more can we ask for?

#3: Peyton Manning

There’s no denying it. Professional athletes can be awful hosts. Luckily, Peyton Manning was one of the good ones. On March 24, 2007, audiences could have been forgiven for expecting another painful show starring a stiff and too-serious athlete, but Manning was game for some truly outrageous skits, and surprised everyone with his charisma and comedic timing. His United Way skit is still fondly remembered and he proved at least a double threat with his dancing abilities. Peyton Manning may be the funniest athlete to have ever graced “Saturday Night Live,” even though we admit that’s not the highest praise around.

#2: Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande had appeared as a musical guest before hosting on March 12, 2016. Defying expectations regarding the young diva pop star’s comedic hosting skills, she silenced critics with a truly memorable performance. She started well by singing about her future scandals before delivering some incredible vocal impressions of various artists like Rihanna, Shakira, and Britney Spears. Her spot-on impersonation of the “annoyingly relatable” Jennifer Lawrence was also a huge hit, and one of the standout moments of the night. With this episode, we realized that Ariana Grande is just as funny as she is talented.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Adam Driver

Christoph Waltz

Chris Hemsworth

#1: Justin Timberlake

When fans first heard that NSYNC’s Justin Timberlake would be hosting the show on October 11, 2003, many let out a collective groan. They expected a spoiled, sanitized, and awkward musical megastar who thought he was above the cast - we’re looking at you Bieber. So, imagine our surprise when J.T. became one of the best SNL hosts ever. He’s now hosted the show five times and made countless cameos, with Dick in a Box becoming one of the most popular skits in the show’s history. He’s effortlessly funny, game for anything, and shares a palpable chemistry with the cast. When J.T. is on, you know it’s going to be a good one.
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