As we learned again last year, hosting Saturday Night Live is the ultimate test for a performer. It’s live television with no place to hide. But if you can make it there, as the Sinatra song goes, you can make it just about anywhere, and it’s always fascinating to witness a performer take that leap for the first time. Melissa McCarthy, fresh off an Emmy win and a scene-stealing turn in Bridesmaids, knocked it out of the park when she hosted last October. Similarly, Jason Segel and Daniel Radcliffe felt like part of the cast, like they belonged. (Channing Tatum and Charlie Day? We still like you, but better luck next time.)
And as much as I hope there is a next time — for McCarthy and even Tatum, as well as sure-things like Alec Baldwin and Mr. Saturday Night Live 2012 Jimmy Fallon — I’m already anticipating who will headline this season’s crop of first-timers. This morning, NBC announced that Seth MacFarlane will host the season premiere and Daniel Craig will parachute in — figuratively, I assume — on Oct. 6, marking their SNL hosting debuts.
But who else is on your first-timer wishlist? I’ve got a few ideas…
Ryan Gosling — He kills on talk shows. He fights crime in the streets of New York. He directs. Might his episode be the highest-rated SNL in years?
Joel McHale — He’s great on Community, but it’s his presence on The Soup that makes me think he’d light up Studio 8H.
Elizabeth Banks — The gal is a comedy decathlete! She excels in multiple comedy sub-subgenres — Apatow, Wain, 30 Rock, Modern Family — and she’s the real deal in dramas, too. Even more than Tina Fey, she reminds me of a young Mary Tyler Moore. Why hasn’t she hosted yet?
Joaquin Phoenix — He could be a total dud. But he just might be incredible. After “quitting” acting to become a rapper, and now returning to serious work with The Master, there’s just so much fun to be done. Remember when Sean Penn punched the Church Lady? I feel like Phoenix has that type of performance in him.
Jennifer Lawrence — She’s Katniss after all.
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