7 'SNL' Hosts Who Were Surprisingly Good

Sometimes, life can really catch you off guard. Hell, who knew there was such a wide variation even of storm trooper tattoos out there? And while most surprises are truly awful, sometimes, they can be pleasant. That’s why the following SNL hosts catching us off guard with their talent was a good thing!

Taylor Swift

Driving PSA (Saturday Night Live)

Watch Saturday Night Live: Driving PSA online.


They didn’t give her the best material to work with, but Taylor Swift has shown a surprising ability to do character work on SNL. Not only that, but I actually have a theory that musicians who really put on a show do well in live sketches because they’re already familiar with riding the energy and enthusiasm of an audience.

Peyton Manning

SNL Digital Short: United Way (Saturday Night Live)

Peyton Manning gives his time to the United Way…maybe that’s not a good thing.


Athlete episodes of SNL are never good, but Peyton Manning’s have probably been the best. He’s not Tom Hanks or anything, but Peyton Manning just lacks the intense self-awareness of so many other superstar athletes that prevents them from being able to act like goofs on the show. That’s not to say that he isn’t incredibly protective of his image, considering he has for decades slandered the reputation of a woman he sexually harassed in college, but it it to say he’s not bad at sketch comedy.

Christopher Walken

Googly Eyes Gardener (Saturday Night Live)

Indoor gardening tips from a man who’s very scared of plants


Yes, at this point we’re all familiar with Christopher Walken as a comedic presence. Hell, there was a stretch in the 2000s where it felt like he was in every comedy. But back in 1990, Christopher Walken was probably best known for his intense roll in The Deer Hunter, so everyone was blown away to discover that he was also very, very funny.

Tim McGraw

Bond Casino Showdown (Saturday Night Live)

007 gets a lucky dose of trailer trash.


Here’s another musician with a big stage presence who translates that into being incredibly charismatic on camera. Tim McGraw really didn’t get a ton to work with, but his one really big showcase piece, a Casino Royal parody, is the rare time where the guest does a better job than the two seasoned sketch performers.

The Rock

Mr. Peeper’s Father (Saturday Night Live)

A doctor introduces the estranged father of Mr. Peepers.


The first time Dwayne Johnson hosted SNL, he was not Dwayne Johnson; he was still The Rock, and the episode was heavy on wrestling content. But it was fine, because that was the height of wrestling’s popularity, and also those wrestlers were all charming as hell. Wrestling fans had already known he was funny, but The Rock churned out one of the best episodes of the season, even willing to do a damned Mr. Peepers sketch. That’s commitment.

Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi Monologue (Saturday Night Live)

Steve Buscemi demonstrates his prowess in improvisation, but he can’t seem to break from his former roles.


Yeah, he could be the funny character in action movies, but this episode of SNL demanded so much more of Steve Buscemi, and he showed he could straight up tell jokes. It’s hard to tell jokes, since they require much more precise timing than just being big and charismatic on camera. But he did it. Damn it, he did it…

Ray Romano

Sports Center: Ray Romano (Saturday Night Live)

Watch Saturday Night Live: Sports Center: Ray Romano online.


Just because you’re a comedian doesn’t mean you can do sketch. Over the years, Ray Romano has shown that’s actually a really great actor — he’s great in both Parenthood and Men of a Certain Age. But this episode… he essentially anchors the damn thing, down to being the best part of one of the all-time great SNL sketches, the SportsCenter anchor who doesn’t understand catch phrases.

Surprises in life are so nice. Which SNL host surprised you? Let us know on Twitter @Smosh!

Will Weldon
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