From Justin to Mick: 10 ‘SNL’ Hosts Who Doubled as Musical Guests
Bruno Mars follows footsteps of Sting, MC Hammer, and many more
Tomorrow, Bruno Mars will do double duty on Saturday Night Live, acting as both host and musical guest. So, in addition to performing “Locked Out of Heaven,” the lead single off his upcoming second album, Unorthodox Jukebox (out December 11 via Atlantic Records), the chart-topping crooner will be testing his comedy chops as well, joining the ranks of other SNL overachievers, including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Paul Simon (that’s a logical progression, right?).
To prepare for his October 20 appearance, SPIN checked out some of the 32 previous SNL broadcasts that asked for overtime from hosts to determine what kind of legacy Mars has to live up to. As you’ll see, much like the show itself, it’s been a mixed bag.
Who: Desi Arnaz
When: February 21, 1976
Seeing that this episode dates back to the Ford administration (and Chevy Chase’s glory days), it can be tough to locate online without a subscription to Netflix or Hulu Plus (where it’s available for streaming). But it’s worth checking out to see first-ever double-duty-er Desi Arnaz, who once starred on a little-known show called I Love Lucy, play host in order to promote his autobiography, A Book (remember, Google was not a thing yet). When he’s not helping the Not Ready for Prime Time Players with sketches about failed pilots for Lucy, Arnaz belts out versions of “Cuban Pete” and “Babalu.” Gray hair or not, he could still beat the bongo.
Who: Paul Simon
When: November 20, 1976
Paul Simon got a little help from his friend George Harrison for this gig. In the fuzzy clip below, the pair play a sweet rendition of the Harrison-penned “Here Comes the Sun,” followed by the Simon & Garfunkel tune “Homeward Bound” (sans Garfunkel, of course). So that’s two music legends playing two of their classic songs. Your move, Bruno.
Who: Ray Charles
When: November 12, 1977
Another broadcast confined to subscription-only services because, you know, piracy is illegal. But look it up and see Charles, who immediately feels like a natural fit for Studio 8H, open his monologue by saying, “When the people from Saturday Night first asked me to host this show, of course I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I knew the show was tasteless, and offensive, and there was no way I was going to let 30 years of a career go down the drain. I might be blind, but I’m certainly not stupid.” Charles adds that he agreed to host (and perform) after he got permission to play with his backing band. Cue a buoyant take on “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Who: The Rolling Stones
When: October 7, 1978
Years before Don Johnson broke out the white blazer for Miami Vice, Mick Jagger rocked it on SNL’s season four premiere while singing “Beast of Burden.” We’ll excuse the blue beret — which looks dangerously close to a golf cap — because it’s the Stones.
Who: MC Hammer
When: December 7, 1991
This one belongs in a time capsule — as a reminder about what goes wrong when SNL gets slavishly behind a pop culture blip. Hammer’s performance of “Too Legit to Quit” far, far, far, far outshined his painful, jittery hosting. (Note that announcer Don Pardo introduces the rapper as “Hammer” — no MC). Chris Rock likely doesn’t have too many fond memories of the Michael Jackson impression he offered up during Hammer’s nearly joke-free opening monologue.
Who: Britney Spears
When: May 13, 2000, February 2, 2002
Britney didn’t use her first go-around as SNL host and musical guest just to promote the release of her second album, Oops!… I Did It Again. During her opening monologue, the then-18-year-old singer took the opportunity to put rumors about her to rest. Namely, the ones about her being unable to perform without lipsynching and her breasts being fake. Turns out she just needs lipsynching and artificial boobs to get laughs.
Who: Justin Timberlake
When: October 11, 2003; December 16, 2006; May 9, 2009
Timberlake has achieved Alec Baldwin-like levels of SNL ubiquity. He’s hosted and performed on the same show on three separate occasions and he hosted and did not perform on the May 21, 2011 telecast. Then there are his numerous cameos and his viral video successes — “Dick In a Box” among them — with Andy Samberg. Safe to say that Timberlake is SNL’s undisputed double-duty champ. Bring it on down to liquorville; The Barry Gibb Talk Show; “Mother Lover” — Timberlake could have his own greatest hits special of SNL musical sketches.
Who: Janet Jackson
When: April 10, 2004
For her shot at balancing hosting and performing duties, Janet Jackson opened her show with some charming home movie footage co-starring the Jackson 5 (and three other Jackson siblings whose names she claimed not to remember). If you’re wondering whether or not she commented on the whole “wardrobe malfunction” from her appearance at the Super Bowl, there’s a shot of her as a child in a kiddie pool and, well, just skip to the 1:48 mark to find out.
Who: Taylor Swift
When: November 7, 2009
It was no surprise that Swift delivered strong performances of her hits “You Belong to Me” and “Forever and Always,” but only her family members and close friends weren’t surprised at her comedy chops. As host, she gamely played a short-fuse prison convict, did a pretty good Kate Gosselin impression, and opened the show by performing the self-parodying “Monologue Song.” “I like writing songs,” she sang, “about douchebags who cheat on me.” Who knew? (That she was so funny, not that she likes writing songs about douchebags who cheat on her.)
Who: Jennifer Lopez
When: February 10, 2001, February 27, 2010
For her most recent turn as the center of attention at SNL, Jennifer Lopez lended her vocal talents towards a send-up of Rihanna in a “We Are The World” parody alongisde Kristen Wiig’s Gwen Stefani and Bill Hader’s Eddie Vedder. A few well placed yelps and the obligatory “Umbrella, -ella, -ella” jab are appreciated, but it’s the cast of faux-cameos around Lopez that elevate this cold open.