Saturday Night Live may not have Sarah Palin to kick around anymore, but it clearly has another election-proof secret weapon. First-timer Paul Rudd was the host on Nov. 15, but it was Justin Timberlake who stole the show, Tina Fey-as-Sarah Palin style, in two uproarious cameos. On ”Weekend Update,” he blew through a two-minute rendition of what he would have done if he’d hosted the pre-Thanksgiving show (”Step one, you cut a hole in a turkey…”). Later, the 27-year-old Timberlake — done up as a leotard-and-high-heels-sporting backup dancer — managed to outshine Beyoncé herself in a cheeky parody of her ”Single Ladies” video, which quickly became Sunday’s must-see Web obsession.
SNL isn’t the only recent project to get a boost from Timberlake: He pops up with Rihanna in her new video for ”Rehab” (which he wrote and co-produced), and again in a vocal cameo on a new remix of T-Pain’s ”Can’t Believe It.” But given his massive success when he flies solo, all this semi-exposure begs a bigger question: When will he stop teasing us and just get on with releasing a full album, or starring in his own movie? Not just yet, it seems. Timberlake hasn’t started planning a follow-up to 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds, instead choosing to work behind the scenes. He signed deals to produce a sitcom for NBC and a reality show for MTV, and is overseeing albums by protégés Esmée Denters and Matt Morris, whom he signed last year to his Tennman Records label at Interscope.
As for his appreciable acting skills, Hollywood is certainly salivating for him to bring sexy back to something. ”He’s talented, fun, up for anything, and has a huge audience,” says one casting agent who called Timberlake’s manager post-SNL to ask about his film availability. For now, the singer’s only upcoming movie role is as the estranged son of an ex-baseball player played by Jeff Bridges in 2009’s The Open Road. In the meantime, he’s on the very short list of SNL’s strongest go-to’s, like Alec Baldwin and Christopher Walken. Our dream? A Fey/Timberlake collaboration of any kind — especially if it involves that Michael McDonald impression he showcased on ”Weekend Update.” — With additional reporting by Nicole Sperling and Simon Vozick-Levinson