Few shows in television history have had the lifespan of “Saturday Night Live.” The sketch-comedy show has been a fixture on Saturday night for 46 years, boosting the careers of Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Tina Fey, Kate McKinnon, and John Belushi.
A unique feature of the show has been its celebrity guest host. SNL has had a different guest host every week since it first aired in 1975. While not every guest host has worked out — with some so fractious that they were banned from the show — others resonated with television audiences.
To determine the best SNL hosts of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed audience ratings and other data for all Saturday Night Live episodes from the Internet Movie Database. SNL hosts were ranked based on an index composed of two elements: the average IMDb user rating for all episodes hosted by a guest and the total number of episodes hosted by that guest.
Guest hosts have been comedians, singers, politicians, future presidents, sports figures, actors, and reality-show stars. When a guest host clicks, it’s usually because he or she is able to poke fun at themselves, is on the same page with the comedy troupe, and enjoys the process of doing sketch comedy. The guest host also has to understand his or her role in the sketch and be willing to take chances, no matter how outrageous the skit is. (Find out if any of the best guest hosts also appeared on the best sitcoms of all time.)
Some guest hosts have been such a hit that they appeared numerous times on SNL. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin have between them guest-hosted SNL 31 times. Baldwin appeared in such famed SNL skits as “Canteen Boy” and “Schweddy Balls,” and has memorably caricatured Donald J. Trump. Martin first guest-hosted SNL in 1976 and last hosted in 2009. (Some SNL alums and guest hosts also play in the best comedy movies available to stream right now.)
“Saturday Night Live” alums Tina Fey, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, and Eddie Murphy successfully returned to their comedy roots as guest hosts. Fey’s impersonation of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was one of the highlights of the 2008 television season.
Former quarterback Peyton Manning distinguished himself by playing against his squeaky-clean image in skits that showed him teaching kids how to break into cars and not rat out their friends.
Actor Christopher Walken lampooned his unsettling screen persona on the show, which he has hosted seven times. Daniel Glover provided comedy and musical talent — he was the musical guest Childish Gambino — when he guest-hosted in 2018. Glover had appeared on the sitcom “Community” and was a member of the sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy.
Betty White, who passed away several weeks before her 100th birthday, brought her charm and decades-honed comedic timing to the show in 2010. NBC reaired the program on Jan. 1.
Successful guest hosts on SNL have embraced the challenge of performing on live and sometimes controversial television.
To determine the best SNL hosts of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed audience ratings and other data for all Saturday Night Live episodes from the Internet Movie Database. SNL hosts were ranked based on an index composed of two elements: the average IMDb user rating for all episodes hosted by a guest and the total number of episodes hosted by that guest. Average user ratings were calculated using the number of user votes as a weight. While the average user rating for each host was given full weight in the index, the number of episodes hosted by each guest was given a half-weighting. IMDb ratings data was collected on December 29, 2021.