With the recent announcement that Eli Manning has been tapped to host weekly live comedy show “Saturday Night Live” on May 5th, coupled with the knowledge that Justin Bieber is confirmed to host before the current season’s over, NBC appears to have dropped the ball in the tail end of a season that has boasted some reasonably strong hosts. Episodes from Jason Segel, Charlie Day, and returning host Jonah Hill were uniformly strong, offsetting questionable outings from guest hosts Anna Faris and Katy Perr
Given the show’s history of stunt-casting sports figures and pop musicians to perform 90 minutes of live comedy, and considering that a small handful of cast veterans are rumored to be on their way out before the next season, we present to you (and to Lorne Michaels) a comprehensive list of funny folks that would be terrific to see on the legendary 30 Rock stage.
18. Kanye West
Credentials: Live television antics, at least one episode of “The Cleveland Show”, tons of music videos.
The Case: Hear me out. Pop stars treading the boards on live television has largely been hit-or-miss for “SNL”, but Kanye West would add an air of predictability to the proceedings. More importantly, a key selling point for hiring unlikely “SNL” hosts is the inevitable self-deprecation that will occur; how nice would it be to see the perpetually self-aggrandizing West poke a few holes in his self-inflated image for the purpose of good old comedy? Plus, even if his comic chops are DOA, notorious loose cannon West is bound to commit at least one hugely public faux pas on live television, and the world needs another “I’mma let you finish” moment.
While You’re At It: Next time Mos Def has a movie out, can we please get this guy on live television? He’s shown his comedic mettle and penchant for colorful characters in “Chappelle’s Show”, and is a charismatic and forceful dramatic actor to boot.
17. Jemaine Clement & Bret McKenzie (a.k.a. Flight of the Conchords)
Credentials: Critically-acclaimed HBO comedy show, two hilarious and tuneful records, various solo movie roles
The Case: New Zealand’s fourth most popular comedy folk duo may no longer be an HBO staple, but Bret and Jemaine have remained busy after the end of their show, Jemaine as an increasingly in-demand comic actor (he’ll appear in Men in Black 3 this summer), Bret as Oscar-winning songwriter for The Muppets. The pair’s natural chemistry and gift for hilarious songcraft could lend an off-kilter musical vibe to “SNL”, which often trots out song-and-dance sketches for the live show. Their monologue alone would kill.
While You’re At It: The duo’s stalker, Mel, stole scenes left and right on their HBO show; now that the comedienne who breathed life into the role, Kristen Schaal, is becoming something of a film and tv staple (“30 Rock”, Dinner For Schmucks), perhaps she’s ready for a Melissa McCarthy-esque comic breakout.
16. Dave Grohl
Credentials: Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, countless hilarious Foo Fighters videos, general charisma
The Case: Dave Grohl, with his mile-wide grin and mischievous, flippant demeanor, seems to be one of the only rockers around with natural comic chops; he performed capably opposite Jack Black and Kyle Gass as Satan in the Tenacious D movie, and is a hammy delight in videos for “Breakout”, “Learn To Fly”, “Long Road to Ruin”, and many, many more. If “SNL” insists on bringing musicians on, go for someone that can clearly bring the funny. Grohl would kill.
While You’re At It: He may not be a comic veteran, but ?uestlove’s toothy grin and genial attitude bring good vibes to Jimmy Fallon’s gig night after night; at the very least, the Roots drummer’s appearance could bring a repeat performance of “Balls in Your Mouth” or the grand return of Black Simon & Garfunkel.
15. Donald Faison
Credentials: “Scrubs”, Clueless, the very name of this website
The Case: Not only did a stray line from Faison coin this very site’s name – the “Scrubs” actor identifies himself as a “blerd”, which, for those who don’t know, is a “black nerd” – but he’s simply a comic dynamo, energetic, talented, and perpetually good-natured. He’s a showbiz vet, having appeared in roughly half of the teen comedies you loved as an adolescent, and he’s a genuine song-and-dance man with Broadway pipes – a legitimate triple threat. Donald may not have much to plug these days, but next time he’s in a movie, we implore “SNL” to take advantage.
While You’re At It: Donald’s “Scrubs” co-star John C. McGinley made waves as the cantankerous Dr. Cox in the 2000s, but he’s been one of the industry’s best secret weapons since the 80’s. It’s high time this fiercely talented actor gets to work out his sketch-comedy chops, live from New York-style.
14. Chris Pratt
Credentials: “Parks & Recreation”, Take Me Home Tonight, Moneyball
The Case: “Parks & Rec” is a breeding ground for comic talent, and though Chris Pratt’s antics as the cuddly, enthusiastic Andy vie for screen time with Nick Offerman’s titanic Ron Swanson character and standup comedian Aziz Ansari, he gets the lion’s share of the best lines, and delivers them with abandon. The man’s clearly born for sketch comedy.
While You’re At It: Co-star Ansari’s star has been rising lately, and his manic shtick could result in another spectacularly goofy episode a la Charlie Day.
13. Ty Burrell
Credentials: “Modern Family”, Dawn of the Dead
The Case: Everybody loves “Modern Family”, and now that Sofia Vergara has gotten her moment on the “SNL” stage, it’s high time we start mining the rest of the breakout ensemble. Let’s start with Ty Burrell, the Dunphy family’s lovably clueless patriarch; his nimble wit and impeccable comic timing would go over like gangbusters. Co-star Vergara is a very funny woman, but let’s face it – she had to vie for screen time with those massive melons of hers.
While You’re At It: Frankly, half a season could be devoted to plucking comedians directly from the “Modern Family” cast and I wouldn’t say boo. After Ty hosts, bring on that kid who plays Manny, or Eric Stonestreet, or even Ed O’Neill.
12. John Krasinski
Credentials: “The Office”, Leatherheads, Away We Go
The Case: Frankly, it seems weird that this didn’t happen before. “The Office” in its heyday was a proving ground for fresh comic talent, officially launching the careers of Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson, and making in-demand character actors of Jenna Fischer, Mindy Kaling, and Ed Helms. Carell, Wilson, and Helms all got a chance to host, but John Krasinski, the sardonic, quick-witted Jim, wasn’t quite as lucky. It’s not too late, though – Krasinski’s ever-budding film career churns along even as “The Office” is currently dying a slow post-Carell death, so let’s draft this lanky leading-man for some live comedy before he calls it a day. He’s even palled around on-screen with “SNL” alum Maya Rudolph and unofficial “SNL” grouchy uncle Alec Baldwin.
While You’re At It: Mindy Kaling and Ellie Kemper are quickly becoming hot comic properties; meanwhile, Ed Helms is a capable comic actor who the “SNL” writers relegated to the background of his episode, so perhaps he’s overdue for a mulligan.
11. Simon Pegg
Credentials: Shaun of the Dead, “Spaced”, Hot Fuzz
The Case: Now that Pegg, who broke out in 2005’s sterling Shaun of the Dead, is an official movie star – in addition to his series of terrific comedies, he’s appeared in high-profile blockbusters like Star Trek and the latest Mission Impossible flick – he’s more than ready to have a go at live comedy. Pegg’s the rare British comedian whose humor – pardon me, “humour” – isn’t lost on American audiences, and his perpetually-exasperated straight man could prove a hilarious sounding board for some of “SNL”‘s zanier characters.
While You’re At It: Pegg’s frequent on-screen partner, Nick Frost, has become a bit of a star in his own right, and both men shared the screen with “SNL” luminaries Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in Paul. Also, how is it possible Ricky Gervais has never hosted this thing?
10. Kristen Bell
Credentials: “Veronica Mars”, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “Party Down”
The Case: What’s not to love? Even when appearing in forgettable rom-coms, Kristen Bell is an exceptionally capable actress, and irresistibly adorable to boot; not only that, but she’s a stellar singer and dancer, having flexed those muscles in a number of previous roles. All fourteen people who saw Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical can attest to her innate talent and likability, and her Forgetting Sarah Marshall co-stars Jason Segel and Russell Brand have already had a go. What’s the holdup?
While You’re At It: It’s debatable as to whether or not he’s a household name, but Bell’s “House of Lies” co-star Don Cheadle is an acting veteran with comic chops, an Oscar nominee, a capable singer, and has already played a superhero (if War Machine in Iron Man 2 counts). Melissa McCarthy wasn’t a household name either, guys, and you let her have a go after one high-profile movie gig.
9. Patton Oswalt
Credentials: Young Adult, Big Fan, one of the single best stand-up comedians working
The Case: Let’s face it: “Saturday Night Live” could stand to employ a few more comedians. Monologues work best when the hosts are delivering their own material – Dane Cook notwithstanding – and Patton has proven time and again to be a strong character actor and a silver-tongued comic. And the man’s wit notwithstanding, he’s got the kind of rubbery face and expressive voice that make him a natural for some good old-fashioned slapstick; there’s a reason that, despite his barbed stand-up act, he’s been tapped for featured voice work in Ratatouille and Puss In Boots.
While You’re At It: David Cross may be mostly remembered as “Arrested Development”‘s campy Tobias, a performance that alone would qualify him to host; he’s a stellar comedian to boot, admittedly snarky and profane, but a killer physical comic with a dramatic Broadway singing voice.
8. Timothy Olyphant
Credentials: “Justified”, The Girl Next Door, Go, “Deadwood”
The Case: “SNL” enjoys taking budding leading men and making them do silly things; think Channing Tatum, who was mostly used for “hey, this guy’s got killer abs!” jokes, or Jon Hamm of “Mad Men”, who has quickly graduated to “returning favorite” over the course of three hosting gigs. Olyphant doesn’t only have the movie-star looks, though – he’s also a bit-part vet with crazy eyes, stellar comic timing, and swag to spare. And given the success of “Justified”, it seems a foregone conclusion that “SNL” should book Olyphant before he gets too big to bother.
While You’re At It: It’s a long shot, but Olyphant’s “Justified” co-star Walton Goggins is an exceptional character actor, delivering Oscar-quality performances on the small screen ever since “The Shield”. By all accounts, Goggins’ southern-gent charm and good humor off-screen are rarely reflected by his ultra-serious on-screen persona, but he’s enough of an old pro to bank on.
7. Robert Downey, Jr.
Credentials: Iron Man franchise, Tropic Thunder, “Saturday Night Live”
The Case: Downey’s tenure as an “SNL” cast member may not be looked back on fondly, but no matter; the guy’s a bona fide star these days, with a quick wit and a glorious deadpan that keep him in high demand. The guy knows how to land a punchline, is a strong enough physical comedian to have portrayed Charlie Chaplin, and boasts comic chops to boot; once again, the question isn’t whether RDJ would be a solid host, but why it hasn’t happened yet.
While You’re At It: Downey’s Avengers co-star Mark Ruffalo has been a highly-respected dramatic and comedic actor for over a decade now; in a few months, he’ll have a legit blockbuster under his belt. Just sayin’.
6. Nick Offerman
Credentials: “Parks & Recreation”, 21 Jump Street
The Case: “Parks & Rec”‘s breakout character Ron Swanson has been rightfully heralded as one of the best characters on television ever since the show’s debut; “SNL” has banked on tv actors before on the strength of one performance (think Charlie Day or Jon Hamm), so why not give the invincible Offerman a go? He plays Ron Swanson straight, as a libertarian superman who swills whiskey and does woodworking in his spare time, but occasionally Offerman lets some deep-seated silliness bubble to the surface, and the results are always comic gold. Plus, I’m pretty sure Offerman would be the ultimate straight man.
While You’re At It: The merits of “P&R” ensemble players Chris Pratt and Aziz Ansari have been touted earlier in this column, and star (and “SNL” alum) Amy Poehler has already returned to host. Perhaps it’s time to give Adam Scott a whirl?
5. Dave Chappelle
Credentials: Groundbreaking sketch series “Chappelle’s Show”, Half-Baked, some screamingly funny standup
The Case: The only reason Chappelle is so low on this list is simple: it probably wouldn’t happen. But he’s one of comedy’s luminaries, a troubled genius with terrific comic timing and insanely funny (and cutting) observations; if he were to mount a comeback, the man would be an absolute laugh riot given the right material, and legions of comedy nerds would salivate at the chance to see Chappelle doing sketch comedy once again, even if just for a night.
While You’re At It: I don’t know how well he’d fare as host, but Wayne Brady could gladly stop by for Chappelle’s hosting stint if he were to reprise his secret-badass alter ego.
4. Will Arnett
Credentials: “Arrested Development”, “Up All Night”, Blades of Glory
The Case: I assume it’s a fear of nepotism that’s kept Arnett from hosting the show – he’s married to former “SNL” MVP Amy Poehler – but given how hilarious Arnett can be on his own, he needn’t worry about such things. As anyone who’s ever seen an episode (or 30) of “Arrested Development” can attest to, Arnett plays clueless better than anyone else in the game, and he’s not scared to commit to a premise. And, I mean, you’ll invite Eli Manning to host over the guy in the $5000 suit? Come on!
While You’re At It: “Arrested Development” alum Jason Bateman hosted the show a few years back, but was given pretty flimsy material to work with; why not bring him back for another go-round? After all, they have Taran Killam and his killer Michael Cera impression; the sketches almost write themselves.
3. Louis CK
Credentials: “Louie”, “Parks & Recreation”, the single funniest stand-up comic around
The Case: He’s hilarious. I’m gonna leave it at that, because the strength of Louis’ hilarity should be enough to qualify him.
While You’re At It: Just… just get more funny people to host this show, all right?
2. Donald Glover
Credentials: “Community”, budding stand-up career, budding rap career as Childish Gambino
The Case: We like Glover around these parts; Childish Gambino’s Camp album made waves among the Popblerd staff last year, and Glover is an unapologetic and self-professed blerd, and we’re always in the corner of a prominent and talented blerd (see also: Donald Faison and ?uestlove). Putting aside the fact that he could easily double as musical guest, Glover is just a funny, funny dude. His monologue would be killer, and his kinetic, childlike brand of physical comedy would easily up everyone’s game a few pegs.
While You’re At It: Glover’s “Community” co-star Joel McHale has kept the women swooning and the men guffawing for years now; it’s about time, yeah?
1. Stephen Colbert
Credentials: “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, The Love Guru (but we won’t hold that against him)
The Case: Stephen’s no stranger to “SNL”; he voiced one-half of The Ambiguously Gay Duo in a series of animated interludes, and made an appearance in last year’s Ed Helms-hosted episode. Still, Colbert’s satirical right-wing caricature has reached a fever pitch ever since he spun off from “The Daily Show”, and the fact remains that out of all the terrific suggestions on this list, Colbert’s the most comfortable in front of a studio audience. He’s one of the most famous men in the world, he’s freshly hilarious on his own program every weeknight, and from straight man to zany comic relief, there’s no note Colbert can’t hit. Once again, “SNL” – the fact that this one hasn’t already happened is a bit of an oversight, but there’s still time to remedy it, especially as we approach election season.
While You’re At It: While Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” antics may revolve around his own personality – he doesn’t inhabit a character, like Colbert does – he’s still a funny, funny man with impeccable comic timing, and is more than able to captivate an audience.
And there you have it, “Saturday Night Live” – 18 suggestions (with some bonus ones) to slip some talent into the hosting rotation. I’d like to thank Lorne, and the amazing cast, and –
Oh. I’ve just been told that I have nobody to thank for this but my overactive imagination, WordPress, and this ancient dusty Toshiba. Well, still.