that Saturday Night Live had given in to online demand for Betty White to host the show was interesting in and of itself, just as an example of the world we now live in: a deeply entrenched pop culture institution bending to the will of a Facebook group. The announcement that the Mother’s Day weekend episode next month would be a ‘women in comedy’ special, with a bunch of female former cast members showing up to share the spotlight with the host, struck me as a little odd, though. Maybe it was at White’s own request, since she’s 88 years old and maybe understandably apprehensive about carrying a 90-minute live broadcast on her own. But it also made me think a bit about how the show has featured women and chosen female hosts in recent years.
As I said in a recent post
, I just finished reading Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live
, and one of the interesting recurring themes of the book is seeing how various cast members, staffers and hosts have different takes on the show’s “boys’ club” reputation throughout its history. One of the consensus agreements is that things have been better since about the late ‘90s, both in terms of the gender balance of the cast and the writing for women. Tina Fey became the show’s first female head writer around that time, and is probably the show’s most popular alumnus right now, and Kristen Wiig is arguably the breakout star of the current cast (although last year’s firing of the promising Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson, the latter reportedly over her weight, got the argument about the show’s handling of women fired up all over again). SNL is no longer accused of not thinking women are funny, or knowing what they think is funny, at least not as routinely -- the cast is still dominated by guys who have an ear for distinctly guy humor, but it’s nothing like the fratty peak of the Sandler/Spade/Farley years. And Lorne and NBC keep trying to make Molly Shannon happen (terrible spinoff movie Superstar
, terrible sitcom “Kath & Kim,” letting her return to host, possibly the most unjustified “Best of...” DVD/special in the history of the show’s cast), so somebody must like her.
But SNL grudgingly giving a seasoned comedy veteran like Betty White the gig after several weeks of publicly hemming and hawing, and making her share the duty with others, just kind of brought to mind one of the main things that’s been bothering me about the show lately. White will be the 10th female host of this season, which is a huge jump up from last year, when only 3 women hosted. In fact, last season the lowest number of female hosts in a full season in over two decades (the ‘07/’08 season and the ‘87/’88 season each had 3 female hosts in runs shortened by WGA strikes). The only time that number’s ever dipped lower was the doomed ‘85/’85 season, in which Kathleen Turner and Pamela Sue Martin were the only women who hosted. And the only time the number was ever gone about 10 was in the 29th season, when 11 women hosted 10 shows (one was with the Olsen twins). But the problem with the current season is that more than ever, the standards for what women are fit to host have sunk far below that of the men. This was especially glaring last fall, when young starlets Blake Lively, January Jones and Megan Fox all hosted middling to terrible episodes, in which they mainly played the hot girl in sketches full of jokes about how hot they are. That might be more forgivable if any of them were major stars (Lively and Jones are on widely talked about shows that are hardly ratings juggernauts, and the weekend Fox hosted, her first major star vehicle without the aid of giant robots was a giant box office bomb). Add to that old standbys like Drew Barrymore and Tina Fey, and the SNL for some reason pretending Lopez still has enough of a career to be the host and
musical guest, and it’s clear that those 10 shows were padded out with some pretty uninspired bookings. Not that SNL weren’t equal opportunity offenders, though; Taylor Lautner is basically the male equivalent of Megan Fox. To her credit, though, Taylor Swift held her own as the token pop star host, Sigourney Weaver was great, and I think Gabourey Sidibe’s episode this weekend has potential.
So as SNL’s 35th season heads toward its end, here are some humble suggestions for the 36th. I tried to keep the list pretty reasonable and plausible, people that are actually famous enough that they actually could host the show at this point in their career the next time they have a movie or major project to promote. There are a lot of other women I’d like to see host that aren’t really known well enough right now that I’d like to see host (Judy Greer, Maria Bamford, Lizzy Caplan, Sarah Chalke, Portia de Rossi, Aisha Tyler, Jane Krakowski, Alyson Hannigan, Elizabeth Banks), as well as former cast members (Joan Cusack, Maya Rudolph, Sarah Silverman) and past hosts (Christina Applegate, Glenn Close). But for now, I’ll focus on women who have never hosted:Kristen Bell
The former “Veronica Mars” has a great ear for comedy, and even if her first starring vehicle When In Rome
was a dud, she has been in hits like Couples Retreat
and Forgetting Sarah Marshall
, and c’mon, she’s hotter, younger and more famous than January Jones even if that was the only criteria here. Jane Lynch
After a decade of countless hilarious bit parts in Christopher Guest and Judd Apatow flicks, Jane Lynch is now the star of one of TV’s biggest new hits, “Glee.” This should be a no-brainer. Sandra Bullock
It’s funny, early on in brainstorming for this list, I threw Bullock’s name on the list just as an actress who’s been in a good number of comedies and whose career is doing well at the moment. But now that her life is kind of a tabloid shitstorm, it would really be a great time for her to go on SNL, make fun of it all and blow off some steam. Katherine Heigl
Heigl has starred in a lot of romantic comedies in the last few years, but as with a lot of female leads in rom coms, she rarely does much heavy lifting in the actual funniness department. She chose to point this out, however, in the worst possible way, criticizing her breakthrough hit, Knocked Up
, for portraying women as “humorless and uptight.” That, along with throwing the TV show that made her famous, “Grey’s Anatomy,” under the bus, has kind of given her a reputation as being, well, a little humorless and uptight. And like Bullock, if she went on SNL to make fun of the situation, and actually proved she could be hilarious and have a sense of humor, it’d be a huge PR coup. Wanda Sykes
This won’t happen anytime soon because her talk show is on FOX during SNL’s timeslot, but it goes without saying she’d be funny. Susan Sarandon
Last year when Sarandon made a cameo appearance in the “Mother Lover” digital short, it was really odd to realize that the actress, whose career has lasted pretty much the entirety of SNL’s lifespan, has never actually hosted the show. I think she’d be pretty good at it, too. Meryl Streep
Streep’s someone else whose career has spanned most of SNL’s 35 years who’s never been on the show, and considering that she’s been doing more comedies, and having bigger box office success, in the last few years than she has ever before, it seems like the right time for her to do it. Maybe Abby Elliott needs to make her Streep impression a running character to set the stage for it. Amanda SeyfriedDear John
and Mamma Mia!
’s success have cemented her as fast rising star, but she hasn’t really gotten to be funny since Mean Girls
, where she was hysterical. Toni Collette
Collette is a talented and award-winning actress who’s currently showing off her versatility in “The United States of Tara,” a fucking awful series that uses multiple personality disorder as a backdrop for a ridiculous and stupid array of ‘characters’ inhabited by Collette’s titular housewife. If any/all of those personalities originated as an SNL sketch, they might be funny and impressive performances, but in the context of the show they’re gross and off-putting. It’d be nice to see her apply those talents to some straight up comedy. Isla Fisher
No, she’s never hosted the show before. You’re probably thinking of the time Amy Adams hosted. Yes, I’m sure.