Credit: NBC

From Donald Trump to Frank Zappa: The 9 worst hosts in the history of Saturday Night Live

By now, the word has spread and Saturday Night Live is just about the only television show that can regularly draw audiences of all ages away from the internet and sit them in front of that beautiful blue screen. That means to host the iconic show, which welcomes a celebrity guest host every week, is one of the biggest roles in television. The opportunity has seen many stars outshine the spotlight of late-night TV and become national darlings while others have been just awful. Below, we’ve got the worst hosts in Saturday Night Live history.

The show has become an institution of culture and a weekly peek into the psyche of the country, acted out through a series of skits and musical performances. The star of these skits, as well as the always A-star cast, is the guest host. It provides some of the more flexible stars to really show off their skills while the more wooden hosts are fed to the chipper audience without a second thought. For every host who becomes a weekend hero, there is a boring villain.

The show, with its giant audience, can be a launching pad to turn an artist into a global megastar overnight if the performance goes well but, sometimes, it can have the adverse effect and on several occasions. SNL, so furious with some unruly stars, have been known to dish out lifetime bans for things as trivial as being boring. It’s the kind of thing which makes SNL legendary and keeps Lorne Michaels’ name in the good books of advertisers everywhere.

Being a good host is always a difficult thing to do. Christmas, birthdays, dinner parties, a television show with millions of people tuning in. Difficult. So when you add the need to be flexible, friendly and funny into the mix, you can understand how some people mess up. We’re taking a look below at those who have made us cringe, shudder and yawn, find the 10 worst hosts in the history of Saturday Night Live.

SNL’s worst hosts:

Donald Trump

Yes. Of course, we had to include Donald Trump. The 45th President of the United States once took the helm of SNL when he was just a harmless if not putrid celebrity. On the show, he made little contribution, though he wasn’t particularly funny, he wasn’t terrible either. He certainly gave the show a ratings bump, with viewers tuning in to catch the figure of The Donald being ribbed by the all-star cast. They didn’t disappoint either.

Darrell Hammon and Chris Parnell did impressions of him while the rest of the cast mocked him incessantly. All in all, through a slightly deranged semi-permanent grin, Trump was a good sport. The trouble is, looking back, there’s a shuddering sense of foreshadowing as he ingests the mocking laughs with an ambivalence that he would show to many of his fellow Americans. Now being portrayed on the show by Alec Baldwin with the definitive impression of the former host, there’s no need for him to ever return.

Lance Armstrong

At one point in his career, Lance Armstrong was America’s darling. A sincere sportsman with a penchant for winning gold, the cyclist defined the idea of American determination. Having survived cancer and officially retired from cycling (for the first time), Armstrong was offered the opportunity to host as a no-brainer for SNL. What’s more, rumours of Armstrong’s steroid abuse was beginning to swirl around the scene and it left the show a home-run set of jokes.

As such, the cyclist spent a lot of time during the show mocking the allegations of his cheating while also taking shots at his then-fiancee and esteemed singer Sheryl Crow — offering up a joke about him finally setting their often delayed wedding date. The couple broke up a year later and we think it may be due to just how unfunny he was during the show’s skits.

Tom Green

Tom Green was a comedian with a big future ahead of him. While he mainly used shock tactics for his laughs, Green was still seen as a star for his comedic timing and leftfield wit. His MTV show and brief marriage to Drew Barrymore made him a headline act and even brokered him his own deranged film Freddy Got Fingered and a shot at hosting SNL was always on the cards.

The reality is, that without his series of increasingly shocking scenes and props, Green just isn’t as funny as a comic needs to be hosting SNL. A particularly bad moment came when Green, open-mouthed, saw Will Ferrell regurgitate food into his mouth as if he was a mother bird feeding Green, the baby. It’s as gross as it sounds and within the context of Studio 8H, feel incredibly flat.

Paris Hilton

When you think about wooden performers, Paris Hilton may not be the first name on your list but when you think about it, she’s as stiff as the Barbie doll the cast of SNL made her poetry. Hilton was certainly one of the worst hosts in the history of SNL. Not only was she terrible in the skits but she annoyed the cast members too. After her appearance, Tina Fey took to the Howard Stern show and called the famed heiress “a piece of shit.”

According to Fey, the cast were tired of Paris’ attitude and her inability to apply herself to the opportunity. The cast, comprised of some of the most gifted writers in comedy, gave up on writing anything good for Hilton after she refused to be a part of the proceedings. They decided that going plastic was the best course of action, they dressed her as a Barbie and put her in the middle of a skit without moveable elbows.

Adrien Brody

Adrien Brody’s ‘Best Actor’ Oscar made him the youngest actor to win in the accolade for The Pianist, a celebration of a quite spectacular performance which established Brody as a Hollywood superstar. However, in the world of television, the actor has had less success. Brody’s first foray into the world of TV fell awfully flat. The actor was booked to host Saturday Night Live on May 10, 2003, and would make the crucial mistake of taking to the stage in an improvised skit which was later rightly criticised as racially offensive.

Going against all the pre-planning and preparation, Brody went off-script and walked on stage to present his intro wearing faux dreadlocks and began to don a Jamaican accent in reference to the fact that the show were planning to welcome Jamaican reggae musical guest Sean Paul to perform. “Ya, ya, ya, ya, you know, man. We got original rude boy Sean Paul here,” Brody begins to say as the crowd falls silent.

He continues: “Respect all respect. My auntie. Respect all aspect, respect me neck, respect me knees, Big up Jamaica massive! Big up Kingston Massive! We got the whole family now, ya here! Big respect to my man Sean Paul the dance floor killer!” The skit, which has largely been removed from the internet despite the short clip below, lasts less than a minute but, in truth, trying to watch it until the end is almost impossible.

Milton Berle

One thing you make sure you don’t do when working with Saturday Night Live is to arrive with needed airs and graces but you should still show some respect, even if you are acclaimed TV legend, Milton Berle.

When Berle arrived on set in 1979 he wasn’t beyond letting everybody within earshot just what a big deal he was, in fact, he went as far as to even pitch jokes and skits to the acclaimed comedy show with the preface of “Now this might be over your heads.”

It was enough to provoke the cast to turn on Berle but they were still professionals and keen to see the project out. But when Berle got on stage, thingsgot worse as he repeatedly lost the cameras, plugged his own autobiography and insured that a member of his team lead a standing ovation for the star.

He never returned to the show.

Steven Seagal

A recurring theme on this list is that of a bad attitude. The facts are that if your arrive at 30 Rock without your attitude aligned and tuned into the kind of show the cast were making, you were going to fall foul of their expectations and, in turn, Lorne Michaels’ temper. That’s exactly what happened to martial artist turned action-movie star Steven Seagal in 1991 when he appeared as a guest host on the show. Not necessarily known for his affable nature, Seagal struggled to make sketches work with a rather wooden persona. He not only flattened some lines but his ideas on how to make them better were distinctly unfunny.

“He just wasn’t funny and he was very critical of the cast and the writing staff,” former cast member Tim Meadows later recalled. “He didn’t realize that you can’t tell somebody they’re stupid on Wednesday and expect them to continue writing for you on Saturday.”

Looking back, we’re not sure we can think of anybody worse to host a show than Seagal. Bring down an entire terrorist organisation that all happen to be in a building susceptible to a hefty karate chop? Yes. Host SNL? Not a chance.

Martin Lawrence

Known for his somewhat erratic behaviour, Lawrence was handed the opportunity to host the show in 1994 and, as is customary, began his opening monologue. However, after days of rehearsals, Lawrence decided to go completely off-script on the big night.

While SNL has since released clips of Lawrence’s monologue—which you can find below—the show has decided to completely remove the comedian’s comments about female hygiene. The full transcript can be found here but we’d suggest that the few lines including, “Um… some of you are not washing your ass properly,” which is how he begins the monologue before saying, “I’m watching douche commercials on television, and I’m wondering if some of you are reading the instructions. I don’t think so. Y’know, ’cause I’m getting with some of the ladies, smelling odours, going ‘Wait a minute’. Girl, smell this! This you! Smell yourself, girl,” are enough to put you off.

“Smell yourself! I tell a woman in a minute, douche! Douche! Some women don’t like it when you tell them that, when you straightforward with them. ‘Douche!”

It doesn’t get much better from there as the crowd pulls back from the conversation Lawrence is now having with himself, “I’m sorry, y’all. You got to wash properly. You know, and then, you know, ’cause I’m a man, I like to kiss on women, you know, I like to kiss all over their bodies, you know. But if you’re not clean in your proper areas I can’t.”

Frank Zappa

In truth, Frank Zappa’s addition to this list is nothing more than a little bit sad. The mercurial talent, the pioneer of counterculture and experimental free-form improvisation, fell flat on his face after being invited onto Saturday Night Live for the October 21, 1978 episode.

Welcomed to the show as the featured musical guest, Zappa also took up hosting duties in what can only be described as a cringe-worthy scenario. Looking like a fish-out-of-water, Zappa struggled to interact with the production staff of SNL prior to the show. In fact, the musician seemingly made it his overall goal to avoid contact with anybody associated with the show in the build up to his big moment. Unsure how to conform to SNL’s strict guidelines, Zappa decided the best approach for him to take on the biggest stage was one of nonconformity — a stance that goes in line with his prolific career of avoiding the mainstream.

Kicking things off, Zappa starts the show by reminding the audience to “keep in mind” that he is reading off of cue cards and, from there, continued to hammer home the fact that he is not taking the position as host of the show with any sincerity. While it may have been an attempt at ironic humour, Zappa’s efforts fell flat across all aspects.

His refusal to make an effort with SNL staff in the week of rehearsal prior to the recording would go on to become a major downfall. While some of the specific details of what happened behind the scenes have yet to surface, a number of cast members eventually refused to take part during the “goodnight” segment at the end of the show in protest of Zappa’s role.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Delivering curated content