John Goodman Says His Biggest Careeer Risk Was Hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’

Based on his SNL audition, he was right to be scared
John Goodman Says His Biggest Careeer Risk Was Hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’

During Hollywood Reporter’s Comedy Actor Emmy RoundtableKelsey Grammer (Frasier), John Goodman (Righteous Gemstones), Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live), Anthony Mackie (Twisted Metal), Ricky Martin (Palm Royale) and Theo James (The Gentlemen) gathered to discuss their careers. When the moderator posed the question, “Looking back on all your careers, when was the time that you felt you took your biggest risk?” Goodman was the first to jump in. 

His answer: “Hosting Saturday Night Live.”

Martin couldn’t believe it. SNL a risk? For a comedic talent like Goodman?

“The first time, I was scared to death,” Goodman confessed. “I didn’t think I could do it. I thought I’d die once I opened the door for the monologue. But it turned out to be the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Still, it’s hard to reconcile Goodman’s anxiety considering, as Yang put it, “You were such a mainstay.” The current SNL cast member asked Goodman what he was so afraid of. 

“Just stinking on ice, not being funny, being fat on camera,” said Goodman, to name three. “Because I admired the show so much, I was afraid of getting kicked out of the studio before the hour and a half was up. But it worked out. Everybody took care of me. It was scary, but so rewarding.”

Let’s not forget that Goodman auditioned for the show in 1980, and it didn’t go well. Despite being a huge fan, his tryout was “the worst thing I’ve ever done in front of people in my life,” he told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. “I wrote something about 15 minutes before I went over there, and, oh God, it was awful.” So no wonder Goodman was a little stressed out when he hosted for the first time in 1989. 

Martin would have called for help. “I would let everybody know I’m a mess,” he said. “‘I’m super nervous. Help me here!’”

That’s the right strategy, said Yang, confirming that the cast and crew appreciate that honesty. Goodman agreed, offering that he got plenty of help each of the 13 times he’s hosted.

“Fuck me!” said James. “You’ve done it 13 times?” 

Forget the Five-Timers Club — people who’ve hosted in the double-digits are the ones who really impress. Goodman’s 13 swings as host rank third all time, behind Alec Baldwin (17) and Steve Martin (16). Only Tom Hanks and the late Buck Henry, with 10 hosting gigs apiece, are within shouting distance.

Grammar, who’s hosted twice, “had a great time. I loved the immediacy. Their fingers were on the pulse,” he said. “These guys are in the game like I never was. And you’re right about that nervous thing. I’ve never been a stand-up guy because I was too scared of it.” 

Despite his many appearances, Goodman never completely overcame “that nervous thing” when hosting SNL. “I was still scared,” he admitted, but with each return visit, “it felt like coming home again.”


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