Five People Less Famous Than Nate Bargatze Who Hosted ‘SNL’
The self-effacing Nate Bargatze was on Seth Meyers last night, still boggling that Saturday Night Live asked him to host this weekend’s show. His reaction when SNL reached out? "I don't know if I'm famous enough to do that." Never fear, Nate — you are far from the least famous person selected to host the show. While some hosts, like supporting players from Melrose Place, aren’t well known today, SNL has employed a number of hosts who weren’t easily recognized even in the moment. Here are five SNL hosts who are decidedly less famous than Nate Bargatze.
While Steve Forbes was super-rich in 1996, he wasn’t exactly a familiar face even though he ran for President twice on the ‘strength’ of his flat-tax proposal. One reason for his failed runs was his awkward campaigning style — not exactly a quality that makes one a successful comedy host. The most noteworthy memory of Forbes’ SNL show was musical guest Rage Against the Machine hanging upside-down flags to protest Forbes and the idea of the privileged class running the country. After performing, the band tore up a flag and threw it into Forbes’ dressing room, earning a permanent ban from the show.
Chevy Chase had a field day with Gerald Ford during the first season of SNL, so a Presidential visit to the show would have been quite the coup. Not the next best thing? Ford’s press secretary Ron Nessen. Nessen’s plan was to show America that the Ford administration had a sense of humor, but it’s not clear how a no-name non-comedian host was going to make people forget that the President was a stumblebum. To make matters worse, the show’s writers admit they used the Nessen show to stick it to the man. Writer Rosie Shuster summed up the approach in Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live: “The President’s watching. Let’s make him cringe and squirm.”
You can watch the episode on the Internet Archive, a night best remembered for Dan Aykroyd introducing the world to the Bass-O-Matic.
Athletes can kick ass on SNL — Peyton Manning and Charles Barkley come to mind — but rarely has a jock host been more anonymous than the 2002 version of Jonny Moseley, an American freestyle skier who had just failed to medal in the Olympics. One SNL blog declared that Moseley “had the acting abilities of a contest-winning fan.” (See “Miskel Spillman” below.) Looper simply called this episode “terrible.”
Speaking of contest-winning fans, Saturday Night Live indeed had an “Anyone Can Host!” contest back in its third season. The winner was an eighty-year-old grandmother named Miskel Spillman. If she seemed a little off that night, it might have been because she was 80 — or maybe it was because John Belushi slipped her a potent doobie. Buck Henry couldn’t believe it, telling Belushi, “Your joints overwhelm even an experienced drug user like myself!” The show was uneventful, other than Spillman introducing Elvis Costello and his rebellious performance of Radio, Radio. (Lorne told him it wasn’t allowed, but hey, how do you stop a guy on live TV?)
Maybe people in 1983 had heard of Tartikoff — he was the president of NBC’s entertainment division, after all — but it’s a safe bet no one knew what he looked like. According to oral history Live From New York, Tartikoff had been diagnosed with cancer in 1982 and producer Dick Ebersol offered him the chance to host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. “It was really initially done to give him something to look forward to as he went through chemo,” Ebersol said.
“At the time they asked him to host, he didn’t have a hair on his head, and yet you have no idea how thrilling it was for him,” says his wife Lilly. “That was one of the greatest moments of his career that literally has nothing to do with his career.”