Best and Worst ‘Audience’ Participation Moments in ‘SNL’ History
Why do so many SNL hosts take questions from audience members instead of straight up telling jokes? Seth Meyers spilled the beans about those monologues to Marc Maron back in 2016: “They are really tough to crack sometimes. Oftentimes by the time it’s a problem, you know they can’t (sell jokes), and sometimes they’re holding onto the idea that they can. I loved question monologues where people in the audience would stand up and ask questions. Cause then it’s just, you take six of them to dress and if four of the questions work… There were hosts who took that as an insult: ‘I just feel like you obviously don't think that I can do a monologue if you have people in the audience asking me a question.’ It was that. But the real question was, why do you think that you can do a monologue?”
But audience question monologues don’t always go to celebrities who can’t tell a joke. As you can see below, some of the show’s funniest hosts have taken questions from “audience members.” (Let’s be upfront here — those people raising their hands are invariably SNL writers or even cast members planted to ask inane queries.) Here are the best and worst examples of audience interactions in SNL history…
Best: Tina Fey
We’re with Jerry Seinfeld — gratuitous celebrity cameos are lazy, swapping recognition applause for actual jokes and stealing air time from up-and-coming cast members. This monologue, however, is the exception that proves the rule, with Fey’s acerbic delivery taking the piss out of the whole idea.
Worst: Nancy Kerrigan
And this is why Meyers wrote Q&As instead of jokes for some hosts. Kerrigan is a swell skater, but one of the show’s all-time wooden hosts. Her stilted cue-card reading dooms this one from the start, although the silent Chris Farley as Tonya Harding's accomplice Shawn Eckhardt nearly pulls off the save.
Best: Emma Stone
Nerds want to make out with Emma Stone? Funny enough, but it’s Bobby Moynihan as Jonah Hill and Taran Killam as Michael Cera that puts this one over the top. It’s so Superbad, it’s good.
Worst: Natalie Portman
Familiar cast members embrace their inner dork, asking Portman obscure questions about Star Wars nerdom. It’s a twist on a William Shatner sketch from years earlier, where the former Captain Kirk told fans to kiss girls and get a life. This time around, Portman proves herself to be the biggest geek of all. Why does Portman’s Q&A get a worst? It’s all thanks to a sweaty Chris Parnell requesting old wardrobe items from 11-year-old Portman’s performance in The Professional. Pedophilia jokes ain’t it, guys.
Best: Jim Carrey
Wait a hot second — is Carrey interacting with an actual audience member? I haven’t been able to 100 percent confirm, but it certainly seems like already-married Mindy is an actual civilian. She’s also one heck of a good sport, enduring Carrey’s impromptu marriage proposal like a champ. We’ll give new life partner Bob the benefit of the doubt as well — leave it to Carrey to truly flirt with the unpredictable on live television.
Worst: Drew Barrymore
Barrymore is freaking adorable, but what the hell? Tim Kazurinsky, wearing an inexplicable bathrobe-and-jeans combo, stumbles his way through what appears to be actual audience questions written on index cards. The spontaneity is welcome, but it also leads to a lot of not-comedy. Was anyone else afraid the chimp would rip Drew’s face off?