When “Saturday Night Live” announced its final hosts of the season, it included one surprise.
Two of them – Keegan-Michael Key on May 15, Anya Taylor-Joy on May 22 – fit the usual mold. He’s an actor/comedian; she’s an actress.
But first, on May 8 (with Miley Cyrus as music guest) is Elon Musk, of Tesla and SpaceX fame. And that breaks a long trend of using only singers, actors or comedians.
The last layman (as we’ll call him) hosting was football’s J.J. Watt; that was 15 months ago. Before that, the last ones were basketball’s Charles Barkley in 2018 … and, alas, Donald Trump in 2015.
The idea of layfolks as hosts used to be more commonplace. Look way back and you’ll see a presidential press secretary (Ron Nesson, including a sketch that mocked his boss, Gerald Ford) … a presidential son (Ron Reagan, dancing in his underpants) … and a civil rights activist: At holiday time in 1977, Julian Bond intoned that he was “your chocolate Easter bunny.”
And back in ‘77, “SNL” had the ultimate layman. For its “anyone can host” contest, it asked people to say why they wanted the job (in 25 words or less); it put several candidates on-air and chose Miskel Spillman of New Orleans. Her essay said: “I’m 80 years old. I need one more cheap thrill, since my doctor told me I only have another 25 years left.”
(Her doctor was fairly close. She died at 94, still an “SNL” fan.)
But glancing through the 2000s, we see less of that. A three-month stretch in 2002-3 did have two politicians (John McCain and Al Gore) and a racecar driver (Jeff Gordon). A six-month stretch in 2005 had a football player (Tom Brady), a cyclist (Lance Armstrong) and a reality-show person (Paris Hilton). But overall, layfolks are rare. In the 2000s, we find:
–Political figures – Al Sharpton (2003), McCain, Gore and Trump.
– Reality-show people – Hilton, plus Trump again in 2004, when he was just “Celebrity Apprentice” guy.
– A newsman, Brian Williams (2007).
– Football players – Watt, Brady, Eli Manning (2012) and his brother Peyton (2007).
– Basketball players – Barkley (2018 and 2012) and LeBron James (2007).
– Also, a martial-artist (Ronda Rousey, 2016), a swimmer (Michael Phelps, 2008), a cyclist (Armstrong) and a baseball player (Derek Jeter, 2001).