It’s fun, but not all that surprising when Jim Carrey, Matt Damon or Brad Pitt show up on Saturday Night Live to cameo as a famous political figure. The real bewilderment comes when truly out-of-left-field celebrities show up without warning. And over the course of nearly 50 seasons, SNL has played that “what the what?” card plenty of times. Here are seven of the most “Are you freaking kidding me?!?!” cameos in the show’s history…
As recently as last year, Burnett turned frosty when asked if she’d ever host Saturday Night Live: “I would not be interested. That’s all I can say.” That’s because Lorne Michaels repeatedly used her show as an example of hack-y sketch comedy that his SNL would avoid. But Burnett has appeared on the show. Back in Season 10 (a year, perhaps crucially, that Michaels didn’t produce), she was in the audience when comic/magician Harry Anderson was host. At show’s end, Anderson announced that “one of the reasons why we’re in this business is right here.” He went into the audience, took Burnett by the hand and brought her onstage for applause.
William S. Burroughs
Back in Season Seven, Beat Generation icon Burroughs showed up to sit behind a metal desk and read passages from Naked Lunch. It was about as funny as it sounds.
Heard the name but can’t place his infamy? In 1992, Buttafuoco had an affair with a 15-year-old minor, Amy Fisher. Fisher shot Buttafuoco’s wife Mary Jo in the face, earning her the tabloid nickname Long Island Lolita. How any of these sordid details earned statutory rapist Buttafuoco a walk-on on SNL is a mystery but it happened. The bit: Quiz Show star John Turturro is hosting the show — if he can’t answer game-show questions correctly, Buttafuoco stood by in the wings to replace him.
In 1996, Jewell was first lauded as a hero for discovering a pipe bomb at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, then vilified when some suspected he planted the bomb himself. Jewell was eventually proven innocent after the real bomber was caught, somehow earning the former security guard a spot on Weekend Update with a suspicious Norm Macdonald. You can see Jewell’s awkward appearance at the 2:05 mark.
Lewinsky was an SNL punching bag for months, portrayed by Molly Shannon as an “oversexual airhead” who flirted (and possibly more) with the most powerful men in the world. Either Lewinsky was an incredible sport or a woman looking to retake control of her narrative when she guested in 1999. But couldn’t SNL have found a more dignified sketch than making her a “very sexy and very special” guest alongside Tim Meadows’ drooling Ladies Man?
Like Lewinsky, the U.S. attorney general was the subject of a not-exactly-flattering portrayal by Will Ferrell. In a Playboy interview, Ferrell explained, “Somebody’s always going to do the president and probably the vice president, but there’s no reason to do Reno. It’s creating something out of nowhere.” In January 2001, the real Reno literally crashed Ferrell’s recurring sketch, “Janet Reno’s Dance Party” by breaking through a wall, Kool-Aid Man style. Peacock cut the sketch from its version of the episode, but there’s Reno chilling with Lenny Kravitz for the good-nights.
Hey, if you can harness the comic genius of a Zuckerberg, why wouldn’t you? Jessie Eisenberg was the host of a 2011 episode when he was confronted by Andy Samberg’s version of the Facebook chief. Backstage, the real Zuck begs Lorne Michaels to go onstage. “Those guys are such nerds!” he protests while nervously glancing straight into the camera. “Come on, I invented poking.” When Zuckerberg finally makes it to the stage, Samberg nails the situation with a singsong “Awkward!”