This Performer Claims to Be the Most Nervous Guest Host in ‘SNL’ History

He’s got the flop sweat and fistfuls of hair to prove it
This Performer Claims to Be the Most Nervous Guest Host in ‘SNL’ History

It would be the odd celebrity who would boast about zero anxiety during their first time hosting Saturday Night Live. But only one host can hold the title of “most nervous guest in the history of SNL.” On this week’s Fly on the Wall podcast with Dana Carvey and David Spade, 1986 host Griffin Dunne staked his claim. 

The star of American Werewolf in London and After Hours was on a hot streak in the mid-1980s but skittish about hosting SNL nonetheless. “I would talk to Lorne (Michaels) about my monologue,” he said. “I was kind of nervous about it. And he goes (insert obligatory Lorne Michaels impression here), ‘Well, you know, all the guests, all they do is talk about their opening monologue. Well, that’s not the most important part of the show. It’s just an intro. We don’t care. Take the pressure off.”

“He was burnt out 50 years ago,” laughed Carvey.

But Dunne’s confession to Michaels did bear fruit, with the writers turning Dunne’s jitters into his “most nervous host” opening bit, pulling out handfuls of hair and appearing to drown in his own flop sweat.

“They put things in my hair (to pull out),” Dunne remembered. “And it was a guy off camera with a watering can” handling the fake perspiration. 

“Always good to get soaking wet right before you're doing a whole night of sketches,” Spade agreed. 

But yanking out fistfuls of follicles wasn’t enough to sustain an entire monologue. So it was a good thing that Dunne talked to the show’s writers about some of his other talents. “When you have the first time that the cast meets the host, (they ask if) you have any special activities that you were really good at, do you do accents and all that. And I said, ‘Well, I know how to play Wipeout one-handed. I just threw that out.”  

But an impressive one-handed drum solo wasn’t why Dunne was part of SNL history that night. That would come in a later sketch when frustrated cast member Damon Wayans went rogue, turning a bit part into a flamboyantly effeminate character that completely stole the sketch’s focus.

“We were doing like a Scarface kind of a thing. I was doing a Pacino thing, and we did the dress (rehearsal) and he is the cop interrogating me,” Dunne remembered. Wayans played it straight for the practice run, but when it came to the live show? “There was a whole lisp involved. And I go, ‘I guess I didn’t get the rewrite on that.’” 

Michaels was livid. “I’d never seen Lorne lose his cool,” Wayans confessed in Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. “But he came backstage, and he was like, ‘Get the fuck out of here, who the fuck, what the fuck.’”

It was a historic firing that overshadowed Dunne’s performance as SNL’s most nervous host ever. 


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