30 Jock Hosts of ‘SNL’, Ranked
Athletes make up a good percentage of many Worst SNL Hosts of All Time lists. Makes sense, we guess — the ability to run fast, smack a curveball or lift heavy objects doesn’t necessarily make a person a gifted sketch comic. But that doesn’t mean a jock can’t surprise you with the funny once in a while. Here is our definitive ranking of the 30 world-class athletes who have hosted Saturday Night Live…
Although the Juice is technically not the worst host on this list, we’re ranking him last because he was found guilty in the wrongful death of his ex-wife. Also, because of this prosthetic head.
Please explain the comedy appeal of ex-Detroit Lion standout Alex Karras. He farted in Blazing Saddles and he was nice to Webster, but other than that? In his SNL monologue, even Karras complained about how no one thinks he’s funny. Then he went out and proved it.
It’s telling that SNL’s YouTube channel has only uploaded a single clip from the Roddick show despite its recent vintage. He served up a wooden performance, a guy with the looks of American Pie’s Seann William Scott and the charisma of a can of tennis balls.
Moseley was a weird host choice at the time and remains a weird choice in retrospect. If you’ve never heard of Moseley, he was a hyped Olympic skier who failed to medal, an apt metaphor for his SNL performance.
Poor Kerrigan got bonked in the knee, then had to go on SNL and joke about it. Her monologue was painfully awkward, but she did score in this pairs skating sketch with Chris Farley, who once again demonstrated his surprising athletic grace. (Of course Farley could skate — he was from Wisconsin.)
Maybe it’s just Olympians? Phelps was so bad as SNL host that he reportedly lost a movie role as Tarzan after producers saw this dead-on-arrival performance.
This show featured a second go-round for Pete Davidson’s “I had sex with my high school teacher” series of charming pedo-sketches, with Rousey cast as one of the offending educators. The fact that SNL needed Cecily Strong to perch next to Rousey and show her how to make faces tells us that the mixed martial artist wasn’t up to sitting there on her own.
Neon Deion scampered his way through a laughless monologue only to find himself in an even cringier sketch about rappers who don’t have much to say. We love Michael McKean, but he’s no hip-hop DJ. Yikes.
Seems like a nice guy, but as a sketch comic, he was driving 30 in a 65.
For some reason, the embattled Yankees manager co-hosted with… Angelica Huston? We’re not sure who should have been more insulted. (Okay, it was Huston.)
The Guardian called his monologue “wooden and milquetoast.” The defensive end wouldn’t even let Robbie play.
The first athlete ever to host SNL arrived in New York directly after another Super Bowl loss (his Vikings took the L in four of them). He was so nervous he asked Bill Murray to be his comedy mentor for the week. Good choice, but Murray must have told Lorne Michaels to not give Tarkenton too much to do. He didn’t even get a single line in this sketch.
The Celtics great had the misfortune of hosting in Season Five, the year John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd bailed and the rest of the cast was running on fumes. The most fun in Russell’s episode? The show’s white writers joined up to form a lousy basketball team in The Black Shadow, a parody of TV’s The White Shadow. Ask your dad, he loved that show as a kid.
The iconic football coach and Hall of Fame announcer delivered his best bit off camera when he told producer Dick Ebersol that the show sucked and he was going to bail after dress rehearsal. (He was just kidding!) And yes, Eddie Murphy, we saw you wearing that 69 jersey. Nice.
Mr. Baseball’s everyman appeal always killed on Carson, and it worked nearly as well here, though his ability to read cue cards was juuuuuuuust a little bit outside. That threw off his timing in this monologue convo with a heavily made-up Harry Shearer as Ronald Reagan.
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T
The Hulkster and Mr. T teamed up for a screamologue, threatening to beat the audience to a pulp if they didn’t laugh. If you find Hogan’s “we’re coming for you, brother” shtick amusing, this is for you. If not, keep scrolling.
In the mid-1990s, America somehow decided that the heavyweight boxer was a cuddly comic celebrity, so showing up on SNL made sense. It was a tough year for the show in general, but Chris Elliott scored as a cast member who wanted to skip rehearsal so Foreman could read him a bedtime story.
Evert was a surprisingly good actress, although she was nervous as hell about having to kiss dreamy Dana Carvey on camera. Bonus for those of you watching the sketch now: Lorne Michaels with a mullet.
Walter Payton and Joe Montana
Sometimes, an athlete’s lack of charisma can be turned into a comedic advantage. That was the case with Joe Montana, a man with way less showbiz in his bones than the Chicago Bears’ Sweetness, but who scored big as Sincere Guy Stu.
Jeter’s athlete-speak in post-game interviews didn’t make him a media champ, but he was game when it was his turn at bat on SNL. It’s not every day you see Jeter dolled up in a Yankee wife pantsuit talking shit about the players. He saved the worst for himself, describing his alter-ego as “if the Rock had sex with a Muppet.”
Long before he was Peacemaker, Cena took to SNL to let the world know that he was a game comic performer. Below, the former wrestler played an eager Alabama linebacker presenting his scientific findings on the banana.
Like Joe Montana, Gretzky was not exactly an Eddie Murphy when it came to electric performances. But he was so damn likable that the writers couldn’t help but come up with comic gold for him. Our favorite? Waikiki Hockey, with Gretzky as a hockey-playing, blonde-pompadoured Elvis-type.
Despite what we’ve said elsewhere, LeBron was really good on SNL. Just not as good as Michael Jordan.
Manning was hilarious in an entirely different way from his brother, Peyton. Case in point: Watch the dorkiest Super Bowl-winning quarterback of all time use his intrinsic dweeb factor to his comic advantage.
“I remember Michael being incredibly intuitive and smart,” Al Franken has said. “He didn’t show any nerves. He was at the top of being Michael Jordan, no question.” In other words, he was good enough. Smart enough. And doggone it, people liked him.
An unexpected surprise, with Brady not only being a good sport but also having the great fortune of performing with a cast that knew exactly what to do with him. He sang his monologue — and somehow it worked! And he was a tighty-whities expert on how to approach female coworkers without being slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit. (The key: Be handsome.)
As a member of the (no longer so exclusive) Five-Timers Club, Johnson might as well change his name to the 30 Rock. His first hosting gigs leaned into his rassling persona, but he broadened his palette with each subsequent performance. And what could be funnier than America’s favorite strongman struggling with erectile dysfunction?
It’s time for the Hall of Fame quarterback to make a triumphant return to SNL. Then again, since Manning’s first go-round was pretty much perfect, maybe he shouldn’t blemish his record. The United Way sketch is an all-timer — if it doesn’t make you laugh, it’s only because you’ve seen it 100 times. It’s a timeless message: Spend time with your kids so Peyton Manning doesn’t.
Four-time host Barkley is “one of the funniest people on the planet,” Will Forte told The Ringer. When he wasn’t getting a contact high from Nirvana, Barkley was taking it to Barney down low. The Round Mound of Rebound is hilarious on Inside the NBA, but he is even better when he’s chuckling it up on SNL.