Elon Musk Isn't Alone: When Saturday Night Live Hosts Get Unorthodox

Before Tesla CEO Elon Musk takes his funny bone for a test drive as the host of Saturday Night Live on May 8, a recap of the non-performers who've yukked it up on the NBC show over the years.

By Billy Nilles May 08, 2021 5:00 PMTags
Watch: 5 Things You Didn't Know About Elon Musk

Live from New York, it's...an unexpected choice for host.

Saturday Night Live made waves in April when the show announced that eccentric Tesla CEO Elon Musk would be making his way to Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center to serve as guest host for season 46's Mother's Day show on May 8. The decision was met with raised eyebrows, as Musk isn't the usual actor promoting a project or musician looking to prove they can do more than just sing. After all, the South African centibillionaire's celebrity has nothing to do with the performing arts whatsoever.

However, Musk is hardly the first unorthodox hosting choice Lorne Michaels has made since the late-night show debuted on NBC in 1975. The show's not only made a habit of letting sports stars flex their funny bones—so much so that we've chronicled that list in another post—but its seen politicians, business tycoons, journalists and even an 80-year-old grandmother with zero claim to fame serve as host over the years.

Saturday Night Live's 10 Most Memorable Hosts

While we wait to see if Musk will make us laugh, check out the seemingly random hosts who've come before him.

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Brian Williams

Two years before he began his very funny recurring cameos on 30 Rock in 2009, the MSNBC anchor—then the managing editor and face of NBC Nightly News—proved his surprising comedy chops as guest host of an episode of SNL.

Hugh Hefner

The legendary Playboy founder hosted an early season three episode in October 1977.

Al Gore

Two years after the Vice President lost his bid for the Oval Office in 2000, he landed a hosting gig in a season 28 episode. He'd return for cameo appearances twice more, in 2006 and 2009.

Quincy Jones

The legendarily prolific music, film and TV producer hosted a season 15 episode, airing in February 1990. He'd later go on to produce Fox's MADtv, a direct competitor of SNL, through his company Quincy Jones/David Salzman Entertainment.

Rudy Giuliani

Three years into his tenure as mayor of New York City, Giuliani hosted a season 23 episode in the fall of 1997. The gig came a year after his first cameo appearance on SNL. In the wake of the 9/11 attack on the city, Giuliani would make two more cameo appearance before leaving office in December 2001.

Donald Trump

When the soon-to-be 45th President of the United States hosted a November 2015 episode of SNL five months after declaring his candidacy, it was not his first time in the role. He'd previously hosted in the spring of 2004, back when he was merely the host of NBC's The Apprentice.

Francis Ford Coppola

Known solely for his work behind the camera, the Godfather director hosted a bizarre 1986 episode of SNL in which he was seen primarily directing on stage. In fact, it was Cheers actor George Wendt who delivered the host's monologue that night. 

John McCain

Six years before becoming the Republican nominee in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, McCain hosted an October 2002 episode. During his '08 campaign, he'd make two separate cameos on the show, one just days before the election.

George Steinbrenner

The hands-on owner and managing partner of the New York Yankees from 1973 until his death in 2010 stopped by Studio 8H in October 1990 to host the show.

Al Sharpton

Eight years before he landed a full-time gig on MSNBC, the civil rights activist hosted a December 2003 episode of SNL. He would return a decade later for a cameo appearance.

Ron Nessen

An NBC News correspondent who went on to serve as White House Press Secretary under President Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1977, Nessen became the first political figure to host Saturday Night Live in April 1976. His episode was especially notable because it featured a cameo from Pres. Ford himself.

Steve Forbes

In April of 1996, shortly after the Forbes editor-in-chief dropped out of the Republican primaries for President of the Unites States, he hosted the show. His appearance wouldn't earn him an invitation to return, but he would briefly give running for president a shot again in 2000.

Brandon Tartikoff

While the man who served as president of NBC from 1980 to 1991 was known to make cameo appearances from time to time on shows across the network, he never stuck around for quite as long as he did when he appeared as guest host in 1983.

Ralph Nader

The activist and habitual presidential candidate hosted a season two episode in 1977. He would go on to make three further cameo appearances, each a decade apart, from 1980 to 2000.

George McGovern

When McGovern dropped out of the 1984 Democratic primaries more than a decade after losing the presidency to Richard Nixon, his consolation prize was a hosting gig that April. 

Edwin Newman

Shortly after leaving his post with NBC after a 23-year career with the news division, Newman hosted two separate episodes in the spring of 1984. He'd return a third time that same season for a cameo appearance, serving as the host of the Saturday Night News faux newscast, the show's precursor to the popular Weekend Update segment.

Julian Bond

The civil rights movement leader, who not only founded the Southern Poverty Law Center and served as chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010 but also spent a combined 20 years in both the Georgia State Senate and House of Representatives, became the first Black political figure to host SNL with his appearance in April 1977.

Miskel Spillman

An 80-year-old German immigrant and grandmother from New Orleans, Spillman served as host of a season three episode in December 1977 after winning the show's "Anyone Can Host" contest, making her the first and only non-celebrity to grace the stage of Studio 8H. Her winning entry read, "I'm 80 years old. I need one more cheap thrill, since my doctor told me I only have another 25 years left." As part of her duties, she attended rehearsals, appeared in sketches and even received the host's then-salary of $3,000. 

Jesse Jackson

The civil rights activist hosted the show in the fall of 1984, the same year he first sought the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He would later make a cameo appearance in a 1991 episode.

Howard Cosell

The bombastic sports journalist who presided over Monday Night Football during his lengthy tenure with ABC Sports hosted the season 10 finale in the spring of 1985. 

Ron Reagan

While his father, President Ronald Reagan, was midway through his second term in office, the younger Reagan hosted a February 1986 episode.

Jimmy Breslin

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author with a regular column in the New York Daily News hosted a May 1986 episode.

Saturday Night Live airs at 11:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. PT on NBC.

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