Where Kate McKinnon Ranks Among ‘SNL’ Cast Members Who Returned to Host

McKinnon proves you can go home again
Where Kate McKinnon Ranks Among ‘SNL’ Cast Members Who Returned to Host

There are few bigger slam dunks on Saturday Night Live than a beloved cast member returning to host. From Chevy Chase in Season Two to Pete Davidson leading off Season 49, the returning-cast-member shows nearly always deliver. The pros are obvious — established SNL vets have a stable of popular characters ready to go. Unfortunately, that’s also the con — oh man, is he really going to do Church Lady again? 

Last night saw Kate McKinnon return to 30 Rock, bringing along pals like Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig to help celebrate the season on the annual Christmas show. Here’s where McKinnon’s return ranks among other classic reunions…

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Bill Murray

It was the 500th episode of Saturday Night Live and Murray was a no-brainer choice to host. As always, his energy and charisma power a monologue that likely would have floundered in lesser hands. It’s a kick seeing Murray throwing comic punches alongside Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks and Dana Carvey. 

Recurring Character Callback: Nick the Lounge Singer, entertaining in a minimum security prison. 

Dana Carvey

The most striking thing about this Season 20 episode is how much Carvey wipes the floor among a cast of newcomers. Step aside, kids, and let me show you how it’s done. In a night full of Carvey playing old favorites, he also managed to star in a new one, tutoring Adam Sandler in the ways of the Pepper Boy. 

Recurring Character Callback: Whew — George Bush, Ross Perot, Hans and Franz and Johnny Carson all took curtain calls.

Kate McKinnon

McKinnon’s return was a solid holiday entry, but not an all-time great. For some reason, the show led off with a reprise of Eddie Murphy’s North Pole News, a bit that wasn't begging for a sequel. McKinnon fared better as a passive-aggressive mother in Gifts From Mom and a psychotic grandmother who has it out for Sarah Sherman in Pongo. Best of all was her folk-music banger, “Tampon Farm.” 

Recurring Character Callback: It’s Whiskers R We’s Barbara DeDrew discovering that she might have an unexpected connection to Billie Eilish. 

Will Ferrell

Ferrell has returned five times, with his 2019 appearance as good as it gets. There’s a funny Thanksgiving sketch with Ferrell as a Native American elder, and phony commercial spoofs like Heinz Relax. 

Recurring Character Callback: Surprisingly, none, although he brought back his George Bush during an earlier 2018 stint.

Eddie Murphy

It was the victory lap to end all victory laps, with prodigal son and SNL all-timer Eddie Murphy finally returning to Studio 8H. While Murphy showed off a handful of original characters that night, he was mostly playing the hits. 

Recurring Character Callback: Who didn’t Murphy bring back? Gumby, Mr. Robinson and Buckwheat all came back for curtain calls.

Bill Hader

Leave it to Hader to spend a night reprising old characters but still finding space to introduce new winners like Horace, the would-be octogenarian father in the motorized wheelchair whose erectile dysfunction medicine is kicking in right… about… NOW. 

Recurring Character Callback: It was a night full of encores in this Season 43 episode, and Hader nailed the returns of Stefon and Devin from The Californians.

Kristen Wiig

Another Christmas episode, and Wiig didn’t disappoint. She crushes as half of a swinging couple in Whoville and as a mom who got fewer Christmas gifts than the dog. Like McKinnon, she invited her Bridesmaids bestie Maya Rudolph onstage for a musical monologue. 

Recurring Character Callback: Mindy Elise Grayson from Secret Word returned to misread game show clues, and Sue once again nearly burst while trying to hide a Christmas surprise.   

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

Like hosting a Golden Globes show, Fey and Poehler tag-teamed their way through an all-time great episode. Meet Your Second Wife is a classic.

Recurring Character Callback: Poehler and Rudolph (back again!) invite Fey to an episode of Bronx Beat, but it doesn’t get any better than the comics reprising their Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton one more time.

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