It’s Time to Retire ‘Saturday Night Live’s Five-Timers Club
Congratulations to Woody Harrelson! With his SNL hosting gig tonight, he becomes the 25th member of that elite company of comedy talents, the Five-Timers Club. (If you haven’t seen the many sketches honoring its members, this is the cliquish coterie of celebrities who have been invited to host Saturday Night Live at least five times.) Harrelson gets an extra accolade, becoming the host with the longest span between his first and fifth appearances.
There was a time, however, when no one gave the distinction a second thought. Instead, we only had funny people who had hosted a bunch of times. But in the show’s 16th season, someone got the bright idea to make Five-Timers an actual thing. And why not? At the time, it was pretty upscale company. We’ll let longtime friend of the show Tom Hanks introduce the concept:
To honor his hosting accomplishment — a quinfecta! — Hanks received a gold membership card. Membership had its privileges, including access to one of the premier clubs in the world. With the help of then-unknown manservant Conan O’Brien, Hanks donned his silky robe and took his place in the SNL pantheon. The sketch was a thrilling reunion of favorites, from Paul Simon to Steve Martin to a pool-hogging Elliott Gould (Elliott Gould? Okay, Elliott Gould).
It’s Gould who first expresses the sentiment to Hanks, “You know, it really is a little bit easier to get to number five these days.” Geez, you think? When Hanks arrived in the Five-Timers Lounge, only three members were there to greet him (although Chevy Chase, Buck Henry and Candice Bergen also had their cards by this point). But nowadays, we practically enshrine new members every year. It’s Harrelson so far this season; John Mulaney and Paul Rudd last year; Will Ferrell just a couple of seasons ago; and Jonah Hill right before that.
The Five-Timers parade isn’t stopping anytime soon either. Lindsay Lohan, Charles Barkley, James Franco, Emma Stone and Kristen Wiig are all knocking on the door with four hosting gigs each. Even Tom Arnold has four in his back pocket! We doubt he’s getting in, but you can see how this little club is getting, how do we say it, less exclusive.
It’s the sports Hall of Fame problem. With each passing year, fans bemoan that their sacred halls have gone from glorifying their games’ all-time greats to simply honoring the pretty good. Nothing against Justin Timberlake or The Rock, but they seem a little less worthy of SNL all-timer status.
Perhaps we need a new club, one with a little more exclusivity. SNL had the right idea in a 2006 episode, introducing a wing in the Five-Timers lounge called the Platinum Club, a swanky room for members who have hosted 12 times or more.
At the time, that was a pretty limited group — just Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin and John Goodman qualified. Today in 2023, the group would be just as select, with only Hanks and Buck Henry (10 times each) within shouting distance of membership. Okay, so that’s likely too exclusionary. Something between three members and 25 members seems ideal. An Eight-Timers Club would add Hanks, Henry and Chase, with the likes of Christopher Walken, Danny DeVito, Drew Barrymore and Tina Fey having a realistic shot of getting in someday. That’s more like it.
And with a little chutzpah, even Woody Harrelson could get in. But at his current rate, that won’t be until 2042.