Whether she’s onstage or off, Lady Gaga clearly knows how to put on a show. But when it comes to Saturday Night Live, her experience is surprisingly limited. The artist formerly known as Stefani Germanotta has appeared on just two episodes of SNL, in 2009 and 2011 — both times as the show’s musical guest rather than its host.
Still, looking at those old episodes may give a few hints about what to expect when Gaga finally headlines an entire installment of SNL tomorrow night. In each one, Gaga ventured beyond her band to appear in a handful of sketches — showing off different skills (and, er, areas with room for improvement) every time. Which of these sub-Gagas will rule Studio 8H on Saturday’s show? Let’s look at the evidence and start speculating:
1. Awkward Gaga
Oof. Gaga’s very first SNL sketch appearance wins points for bringing her together with Madonna — long before the “Born This Way”/”Express Yourself” controversy that would eventually define their relationship — for a special edition of “Deep House Dish.” But ultimately, it’s a swing and a miss. Both the young songstress and the seasoned pro miss their music cues, sound stilted when they speak, and can’t quite muster the energy to really sell their “fake” feud. Even Andy Samberg’s best “say whaaaa?” face can’t save the bit. Granted, Gaga’s had plenty of stage experience since this unfortunate outing, so odds are good that we won’t see a repeat performance — but maybe it proves that interacting with cameoing superstars isn’t her strong suit.
2. Earnest Gaga
In a short but sweet tag to her first SNL episode, Gaga finds that Andy Samberg is wearing a bubble dress identical to her own — but rather than fight about it, the two instead briefly fall in love. The whole thing’s got a sort of “high school play” vibe to it, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s nice to see Gaga acting recognizably human every once in a while. (Just, you know, don’t make a habit of it, Lady.) Also duly noted: Gaga can do physical comedy!
3. Goofy Gaga
The strutting store mascot who sings popular song parodies while wearing a ridiculous foam costume is one of Justin Timberlake’s things — he does it every time he hosts the show. But when Timberlake donned a new costume for 2011’s “Liquorville” segment, he was joined by a partner in crime: Gaga, totally committing to her ridiculous wine-themed outfit (which, okay, is nowhere near the most bizarre thing she’s ever worn) and belting out lyrics with an enthusiasm that rivals Timberlake’s own. This is the more fun side of Theater Kid Gaga — and absolutely one we should hope to spy come Saturday night.
4. Deadpan Gaga
The Lonely Island’s “3-Way (The Golden Rule)” — which explains that two dudes getting down is totally cool as long as there’s “a honey in the middle” — is utterly ridiculous in almost every way. The exception? Gaga, who basically assumes the role of straight man, despite her dated main outfit and additional Three’s Company-inspired getup. Just look at the say she delivers her big line — “You guys are… still here” — and tell me there’s not a skilled Daria mimic in there somewhere.
5. Hammy Gaga
“What’s That Name?” is a secret dark horse choice for Justin Timberlake’s best SNL sketch ever. Unfortunately, Gaga’s performance isn’t quite as charming. The singer goes full cheeseball in this sketch, speaking every line with a smarmy, affected tone and constantly bobbing her head like a strutting rooster. She’s sort of like a Kristen Wiig character… except she’s supposed to be playing herself. Note to Mother Monster: Please fill up on scenery before the show so that you don’t chew it all up live on air.