Top 20 Best SNL Hosts of the Century (So Far)



Top 20 Best SNL Hosts of the Century (So Far)

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Live from New York, it's the best "SNL" hosts of the century so far. Our countdown includes John Mulaney, Dave Chappelle, Justin Timberlake, and more!

Top 20 Best SNL Hosts of the Century So Far

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Best SNL Hosts of the Century (So Far).

For this list, we’ll be looking at guest hosts who have left the most significant marks on “Saturday Night Live” since the year 2000.

Who’s your favorite “SNL” host? Let us know in the comments!

#20: Zach Galifianakis

Galifianakis auditioned to become an “SNL” cast member in 1999. While he didn’t make the cut, Galifianakis did land a gig as an “SNL” writer… which lasted for only two weeks. About a decade after his brief “SNL” stint, Galifianakis hit the big time with his scene-stealing work in “The Hangover.” Now in high demand, Galifianakis returned to host “SNL” three times, earning an Emmy nomination in the process. As a host, Galifianakis’ signature offbeat awkwardness is on full display, especially during his monologues. “SNL” has also given Galifianakis a chance to show off his musical talents, playing the piano and channeling his inner Little Orphan Annie. Also, few hosts have donned a wider wardrobe of ridiculous costumes, from a dragon to an M&M.

#19: Ryan Gosling

While best-known for his dramatic roles, Ryan Gosling has showcased strong comedic chops in “Lars and the Real Girl,” “The Nice Guys,” and his two times hosting “SNL.” As if he wasn’t versatile enough, Gosling is also a gifted singer and musician, even if he didn’t “save jazz.” During his “SNL” appearances, Gosling has played a man obsessed with papyrus font and an adult who still firmly believes in Santa Claus. As silly as that all sounds, what makes these sketches so funny is how seriously and intensely Gosling approaches the roles. Although Gosling frequently plays cool, straight-faced characters, he couldn’t help but crack up during the infamous “Close Encounter” sketch. Of course, if anyone can make character breaking look cool, it’s Gosling.

#18: Emma Stone

From one “La La Land” star to another! Emma Stone is married to “SNL” segment director Dave McCary, but before they tied the knot in 2020, the Oscar-winning actress hosted four times over the course of ten years. The “SNL” writers have drawn inspiration from the movies that made Stone a star, including “Superbad” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.” They’ve also taken full advantage of Stone’s musical background in sketches like “I Broke My Arm” and “The Christmas Candle.” In a sketch called “The Actress,” Stone plays a struggling performer who takes a bit part in an adult film. And she’s determined to bring depth to her character. Likewise, Stone always goes above and beyond on “SNL,” no matter who she’s playing.

#17: Paul Rudd

The world knows him as Ant-Man, but on “SNL,” Paul Rudd’s most memorable character is Austin Vogelcheck. Although Austin seems like an average Joe, his family can get a little too close for comfort. As uncomfortable as the “Kissing Family” sketches can get, Rudd remains his usual charming, composed self throughout. Rudd’s other personalities include a loudmouthed pizza boy, an avid Showtime subscriber, and multiple characters in “White Christmas.” Rudd even reunited with his “Anchorman” news team in 2013. Will Ferrell, David Koechner, and Steve Carell joined Rudd, as well as One Direction, for a rendition of “Afternoon Delight.” Ferrell and Koechner would stick around to grab a drink with Rudd, Taran Killam, and Kenan Thompson… at Chuck E. Cheese.

#16: John Mulaney

Although he was never a cast member, John Mulaney served as a writer on “SNL” for four years. During that time, he made many contributions to “Weekend Update,” most notably co-creating Stefon with Bill Hader. Since leaving “SNL,” Mulaney has returned to host four times, scoring a guest acting Emmy nomination in 2019. Mulaney typically kicks things off with his standup, as that’s his area of expertise. When he hosted for the first time in 2018, Mulaney was given the opportunity to dig up an old sketch that had been rejected during his days on the writing staff: “Diner Lobster.” The bizarre musical sketch became an unlikely fan favorite, inspiring more Broadway parodies that’d take Mulaney to a bodega bathroom, the airport and a souvenir shop fitting room.

#15: Will Ferrell

For seven years, Will Ferrell was arguably the MVP on “SNL,” breathing new life into the struggling sketch series. Ferrell was missed when he left in 2002, but he’d go on to join the Five-Timers Club. Ferrell brings his trademark over-the-top energy to every monologue, whether he’s paying tribute to mothers, showing off his dramatic side, or getting starstruck by Ryan Reynolds. Unfortunately, Ferrell forgot all about his tenure at “SNL” following a head injury. It’ll take more than a steel beam, however, to make us forget about Ferell’s most memorable “SNL” moments. Hosting has allowed Ferrell to revisit some of his best impressions. He returned to “Celebrity Jeopardy” as Alex Trebek and in 2018, addressed the nation again as George W. Bush.

#14: Kristen Wiig

Throughout her seven years as a cast member, Kristen Wiig racked up four Emmy nominations. Wiig would later add two more nominations to her résumé for hosting “SNL.” Wiig’s hosting appearances are not only hilarious, but educational as well. Who knew that Ben Franklin and Vikings were at the first Thanksgiving! That same episode saw the return of Sue the Surprise Lady, whose excitement for a Thanksgiving reunion can’t be contained. Wiig notably hosted the finale of “Saturday Night Live at Home,” which aired during the pandemic. With her monologue, Wiig brought her unmatched eccentricity while also working in a few sincere words. Her screen time that night wasn’t limited to the opening, as Wiig gave some helpful hair tips to everyone else in quarantine.

#13: Bill Hader

Alongside Wiig, Bill Hader joined “SNL” in 2005 and quickly established himself as a comedic force. He received two Emmy nominations as a cast member and two more when he came back to host. The first time, Hader got to fulfill his dream of singing on “SNL” with some backup from Wiig and Harvey Fierstein. The second time around, he resurrected a few classic characters. Hader was so eager to get back onto the “The Californians” set that he changed into his Devin outfit mid-monologue. Stefon returned to Weekend Update and once again, Hader had a hard time concealing his laughter. Hader’s knack for celebrity impersonations was put to effective use as well, inserting Alan Alda, Al Pacino, and Clint Eastwood into “Jurassic Park.”

#12: Melissa McCarthy

Melissa McCarthy has appeared on “SNL” so many times that it’s easy to forget that she was never a regular. She’s hosted five times and has repeatedly popped up as former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. Every time she’s hosted, McCarthy has been nominated for a guest acting Emmy, winning once in 2017. It was McCarthy’s iconic turn as Spicer that arguably got her the gold, but that’s far from her only memorable contribution. As is the case with her film roles, McCarthy throws herself into every sketch… sometimes quite literally. Her powerful line delivery, physical comedy expertise, and willingness to go all out make McCarthy a natural fit for the “SNL” stage. Our only complaint is that “Supermarket Spree” was cut for time.

#11: John Goodman

Like McCarthy, John Goodman could be mistaken for an official “SNL” player. Despite an unsuccessful audition to join the cast, Goodman went on to host thirteen times and portrayed Linda Tripp throughout the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal. So far this century, Goodman’s hosted three times. In Goodman’s 2000 monologue, he addressed his struggles with alcoholism, as well as his absence from “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.” Goodman hosted again in 2001, doing a dead-on Wilford Brimley impression, but took a hiatus of twelve years after that. Goodman delivered with his long-awaited homecoming, sharing a duet with Kenan, sharing a mouthful with Kate McKinnon, and sharing the stage with a few fellow snowflakes. He also brought the laughs as Drunker Uncle, although Goodman’s been sober since 2007.

#10: Steve Martin

Steven Martin might very well be the best host in “SNL” history. While Martin has hosted fifteen times overall, only two of those episodes aired in the past 20 years, hence why he’s not even higher on this list. With both of these appearances, however, Martin reminded audiences why he’s one of the all-time greats. In 2006, Martin opened the show by defending his title from Alec Baldwin. Despite getting thrown out a window, Baldwin would eventually surpass Martin’s record for most times hosting “SNL.” Maybe Martin would’ve hosted more times if Lorne Michaels gave him more money. When it comes to class, sarcasm, and timing, though, Martin will always be hard to top. Our one Christmas wish is that Martin hosts again soon.

#9: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

The Rock is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, but back in 2000, he was primarily known as a professional wrestler. Hosting “SNL” for the first time, Johnson demonstrated that he had real acting and comedic potential, which only became more apparent in the years to come. In between headlining numerous blockbusters, Johnson found the time to join the Five-Timers Club. Over the years, his self-aware macho persona has been impeccably utilized in sketches like the gritty “Bambi” remake. Speaking of fake movies we desperately want to see, when is the Rock going to star in “Gosford Park 2” already? “SNL” has also provided a platform for one of Johnson’s best characters, The Rock Obama. Could that be foreshadowing The Rock Administration?

#8: Adam Driver

We all associate “SNL” with quality comedy, but Adam Driver proves that it can also be a great showcase for acting. Take “Career Day” for example. If you didn’t already know that Driver was hosting, you probably wouldn’t recognize him under that decrepit makeup, devious voice, and domineering demeanor. Driver is just that talented of an actor. Where a lot of “SNL” hosts essentially play themselves in each sketch, Driver has transformed himself into a frustrated science professor, a Southern cheerleader coach, and a medieval times restaurant actor who takes his role a little too seriously. Of course, Kylo Ren is the most famous character in Driver’s filmography, and he helped make “Undercover Boss: Starkiller Base” one of the best “Star Wars” parodies ever.

#7: Dave Chappelle

Following a lengthy absence from the mainstream comedy scene, Dave Chappelle staged a comeback that culminated with an Emmy-winning “SNL” guest spot. Aside from bringing back several “Chappelle’s Show” characters, the episode was notable for airing the Saturday after Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election. At an especially uncertain time, Chappelle made audiences laugh and think with his poignant monologue. The “Election Night” sketch featuring Chappelle and Chris Rock also perfectly captured the moment. Chappelle returned four years later on the same Saturday that many outlets officially declared Joe Biden had defeated Trump in the 2020 election. In addition to politics, Chappelle provided clever commentary on COVID-19, race relations, and the state of America, again giving us exactly what we needed.

#6: Drew Barrymore

Barrymore hosted in 1982 at the ripe age of seven and again in 1999 during her 20s. She’s hosted on four additional occasions this century, bringing her total to six. Becoming the second woman to host five times, Barrymore has more than left her mark on “SNL.” If that’s not enough evidence, look no further than her priceless impressions of Sharon Osbourne, and fellow child star Abigail Breslin. On a side note, Barrymore approves of Chloe Fineman’s spot-on impression of her! Outside of celebrity impersonations, Barrymore’s vocal talents have given us original characters like Barbara Hernandez. Gilly has also met her Italian equal in Barrymore’s Gigli. This actress has come a long way since “E.T.”... and apparently “Star Wars” and “Poltergeist”...

#5: Christopher Walken

Few hosts have given us a wider array of memorable “SNL” characters than Christopher Walken. There are recurring characters like the Continental, who we like to watch with a nice glass of “champagna.” Even characters who only appeared in one sketch have achieved legendary status. Walken’s Bruce Dickinson delivered what might be the most quotable line in “SNL” history: “More Cowbell.” Then there’s Colonel Angus, who’s infamous for… well, his name speaks for itself. What makes Walken such a fun host is his unusual delivery, spinning the most basic lines into comedic gold. He’s the kind of actor who can mess up on live television and still get a huge laugh. Several “SNL” members can do a good Walken impression, but nothing beats the real deal.

#4: Justin Timberlake

After Justin Timberlake went solo, a lot of critics had a hard time getting past his boy band days. For many, it was Timberlake’s appearances on “SNL” that finally won them over. On his way into the Five-Timers Club, Timberlake proved that he can not only sing, but deliver the laughs as well. The charismatic performer has developed a few unforgettable characters, such as the dancing mascot and Peg from Target. Of course, it’s Timberlake’s collaborations with Andy Samberg that’s solidified his status as an “SNL” all-star. What started as a song about a naughty Christmas present inspired a trilogy about motherly love and the golden rule of three. Timberlake’s won four Emmys for his work on “SNL,” two of which were for guest acting.

#3: Tina Fey

Shortly after becoming the show’s first female head writer, Tina Fey started getting in front of the camera as an “SNL” regular. So, when Fey returned to host in 2008, it was as if she had never left. Still, that didn’t stop Steve Martin from giving her a few pointers. While Fey was best-known for “Weekend Update” during her years as a cast member, hosting has given her the chance to really cut loose. She’s played a teacher infatuated with Justin Bieber and a would-be “Mean Girls” cast member. Fey’s sporadic cameos as Sarah Palin have only added to her “SNL” legacy. There’s only one thing better than Fey hosting alone: Fey hosting with her old “Weekend Update” co-anchor Amy Poehler.

#2: Alec Baldwin

As of 2020, nobody has hosted “SNL” more times than Alec Baldwin, who’s taken center stage on 17 occasions. Baldwin shattered the record this century and not even Steve Martin could stop him. He commemorated his 17th time with a trip down memory lane and while Baldwin got visibly older since 1990, this actor ages like a fine wine. It’s hard to top Pete Schweddy, but Baldwin has played plenty of memorable “SNL” characters these past two decades. He’s gotten close with a couple of “Love-Ahs,” put a Christmas twist on his “Glengarry Glen Ross” character, and rocked out as the fourth Jonas Brother. Even if you ignored all the episodes Baldwin hosted, his Emmy-winning turn as Donald Trump would still secure his “SNL” legacy.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Larry David
This Host Makes us Feel the Bern

Donald Glover
Because, Of Course, Childish Gambino Was Born for “SNL”

Natalie Portman
Who Knew Natalie Was Such a Boss Rapper?

Betty White
Arguably the Best Thing to Come Out of Facebook

Eddie Murphy
A Return 35 Years in the Making

#1: Tom Hanks

This Oscar winner has hosted ten times and while only three of those episodes debuted this century, they contained many of his best bits. Some of them even rank up there with the funniest “SNL” sketches of the past twenty years. The one that immediately comes to mind is “Haunted Elevator,” which introduced the world to a new Halloween icon in David S. Pumpkins. Hanks shined once again as an unlikely contestant on “Black Jeopardy.” Hanks was also the first host of “SNL at Home,” a fitting choice since he was one of the first household names to be diagnosed with COVID-19. It was comforting to see America’s Dad recovered and ready to make the world laugh during such a difficult time.