TV Article

'Saturday Night' Wild Cards

The best and worst celebrity ''SNL'' hosts -- With LeBron James' hosting gig on the horizon, we consider how other nonperformers have fared

Athletes, politicians, spoiled socialites...they're not known for their comic timing, and whenever they host SNL, we get nervous. How will NBA star LeBron James stack up against the nonperformers who've come before him when he steers the Sept. 29 season premiere? Take a look.

THE BEST

Al Gore Dec. 14, 2002
Beltway types often bomb on SNL (John McCain singing Streisand karaoke? Ooof!). But from his spot-on Trent Lott impression to a self-effacing skit in which the presidential also-ran refused to leave the Oval Office, Gore proved that he knew how to make a joke — and how to take one, too.

Peyton Manning March 24, 2007
The Indianapolis Colts QB was delightful as an irritated party guest in the inaugural ''Penelope'' sketch. But it was a faux United Way ad in which he teaches little ones about teamwork by cursing at them (and even banishes one to a Porta Potti) that raised him to MVP status.

Michael Jordan Sept. 28, 1991
A good sport who mingled with the Superfans and sold feminine products with a smile. At the peak of his career, Jordan wisely left his ego at the stage door, even when Stuart Smalley got him to accept that he didn't always have to ''dribble the ball fast'' or ''throw [it] into the basket.''

THE WORST

Paris Hilton Feb. 5, 2005
It could have been surprisingly funny or a total disaster. Shocker: It was the latter. Paris couldn't even channel Barbie in a sketch that one assumed would exploit her robotic-bimbo persona to hilarious effect. To quote Hilton herself, she was screwed. The cast didn't care for her, either. Tina Fey later told Howard Stern that Hilton was ''awful'' and ''proud of how dumb she is.''

Nancy Kerrigan March 12, 1994
Everything a host shouldn't be: awkward, stiff, and (worst of all) unable to be the good-natured butt of a joke. Most painful: a recurring sketch where Kerrigan voiced her frustration with Disney World visitors. It wasn't funny when she did it in real life, and it wasn't funny here, either.

Lance Armstrong Oct. 29, 2005
Lampooning himself as a celeb triathlete who couldn't run or swim was a cute idea. Too bad Armstrong lacked the enthusiasm for this ride. We weren't expecting Emmy-level work for suffering opposite Horatio Sanz in drag, but c'mon, Lance! Actstrong!

Originally posted Sep 21, 2007 Published in issue #956 Sep 28, 2007 Order article reprints