*originally published in March 2013
One of the things Saturday Night Live fans love most is that commercial break right after the first skit. You know the one- where they show the name of the upcoming host and musical guest. There are a few names that have come to invoke a different reaction than others. A feeling of familiarity, of joy, and of confidence in knowing that will be a great episode.
Names like Alec Baldwin. Tom Hanks. Steve Martin. Christopher Walken. Justin Timberlake.
That’s right, Justin Timberlake has entered the ranks of the most anticipated and dependably hilarious recurring hosts. How did this happen? How did a kid from a boy band with a successful solo career end up amongst the best SNL hosts of all time?
Simply put, he just gets it.
Timberlake has a natural timing and delivery that you can’t teach. He’s got an uncanny ability to make you feel like you can relate to him, even though there isn’t a whole lot that you and Justin Timberlake have in common. He’s got an amazing rapport with the SNL cast. You can see how much fun they’re having every time he appears, even in pre-recorded skits.
He’s created more marketable recurring characters in the last ten years than any other host (Robin Gibb, Omeletteville/Homelessville/Whatever-ville guy, half of the “Dick in a Box”/”Mother Lover” R&B group- which should totally record a full length album, by the way).
Paul Rudd is a difficult person to steal any show from, but Timberlake did it in 2008. He made an unannounced cameo appearance on the episode Rudd hosted, popping up on Weekend Update (explaining what a Timberlake-hosted SNL ep would look like in two minutes) and then in a parody of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video, one of the best SNL skits of the last decade.
He puts his ego aside every time he hosts. The 2009 skit “Immigrant’s Tale” was basically built around a Timberlake/Britney Spears joke and was a mini-roast of Justin’s career.
Let’s stop for a second. We’re talking about a singer with some acting experience. Not a professional comedian. He has no comedic background. Saturday Night Live is his comedic background.
But it doesn’t matter. Timberlake is consistently funnier than most of the stand up comedians that host SNL. He’s the only supporting character that was ever able to hang joke for joke with Kristen Wiig’s “Target Lady”. He never seems out of place or in over his head, whether it’s physical comedy, subtle humor, playing himself on Weekend Update, or in pre-recorded Digital Shorts. Nothing overwhelms him, and no comedic detail escapes him.
When Justin Timberlake hosts the upcoming episode of SNL on March 9, we’ll no longer be expecting a good musical guest who can “sorta hang” in the sketches. We’re watching one of the great ones solidify his place among the best hosts of all time.