Saturday Night Specials: 15 Great Female 'SNL' Hosts - Rolling Stone
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Saturday Night Specials: 15 Great Female ‘SNL’ Hosts

From Britney Spears to Betty White, we pay tribute to the ladies who’ve made the most of hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’

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"Women…they're just not funny." So we're officially done with this ridiculous argument now, yes? After Tina Fey and Amy Poehler's Golden Globes performances, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus making the HBO's Veep a must-see political satire, and new Rolling Stone cover star Melissa McCarthy parlaying her impeccable timing, her way with a foul-mouthed insult and her gonzo physical shtick into a bona fide movie-star career, we can finally put the misbegotten, misogynistic notion that estrogen somehow negates comedic chops behind us now, right? Great.

Melissa McCarthy: Fearless and Funny on the Cover of Rolling Stone

Nowhere has the myth about female comedians being an oxy-moronic term been debunked more than Saturday Night Live, which has long offered ladies a chance to crack wise and crack people up. (Granted, women of color haven't always had it quite as easy cast-member-wise, though the show is working on it.) In fact, McCarthy's SNL hosting duties have gone a long way towards establishing her as a comic force to be reckoned with. So in honor of the Bridesmaids star's cover story, we're highlighting 15 other female hosts who've done wonders with the gig. Some are ex-Not Ready for Primetime Players, some are comediennes, and some are pop stars or actresses better known for their dramatic skills. All of them, however, have left audiences laughing themselves silly on a late Saturday night.

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Candice Bergen

The daughter of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen was the very first female host of Saturday Night Live; they were so impressed with the job she did that they invited her to do it again a little over a month later. She'd eventually log in five stints as host, and after watching her play straight man to wild cards like John Belushi and Chevy Chase (not to mention Toonces the Driving Cat), it's easy to see why they kept asking her back. Many fans point to her "Consumer Probe" duet with Dan Aykroyd as an early SNL high point, but we have a weakness for her "Right to Extreme Stupidity League" sketch with Gilda Radner, in which Bergen fights to hold it together.

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Amy Poehler

We don't need to sell anyone who's ever seen Poehler during her 2001-2008 run as a cast member; she was the dictionary definition of a utility player. So we probably do not need to convince you that her single turn as a host was, of course, a season highlight, especially since some of her old cohorts showed up to lend a hand. Bring on the "Bronx Beat"!

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Sissy Spacek

Forget the awkward meta-bits about the director of the show "dying" before the start of the show; go straight to Sissy Spacek's turn as Presidential daughter Amy Carter, a skit about three women suffering from the infantilizing "Gidget's Disease" (one of the second season's funniest moments) and Spacek and John Belushi's poignant sketch about a working-class married couple. You don't normally think of comedy when you think of Spacek — you tend to think of either Loretta Lynn or someone in a blood-covered prom dress — but she more than holds her own here.

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Maya Rudolph

"You don't know what you've got til it's gone," a wise woman once sang. Most SNL fans knew what they'd be missing when Rudolph left in 2007, and her numerous cameos in later years simply made us pine for Maya's contributions to the show all the more. That Maya Angelou impersonation! The return of Bronx Beat! Her Beyonce!!!

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Jane Lynch

From her supporting turns in Christopher Guest comedies to her role as the take-no-shit coach in Glee, Jane Lynch has made a career out of a singularly sharp-tongued, aggressive comic assault. Her hosting gig naturally took advantage of that, even if the requisite Glee parody felt a little thin; head right to the digital short featuring Lynch and Andy Samberg engaging in a, shall we say, different kind of relaxive therapy. 

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Hired at the age of 21, Julia Louis-Dreyfus became the youngest female cast member of Saturday Night Live; she's spoken openly about the rough time she had on the show, and many of her sketches regrettably tend to get short shrift. (Our personal favorite is her Ghostbusters chat show, in which she utters a gloriously goofy line we've quoted often: "Do it, and be successful with it!") Thankfully, that did not stop her from coming back to host after her post-Seinfeld success, and the confidence she exhibits — not to mention the perfect sense of timing she had always had in spades — makes this feel like a victory lap. Also, that PSA sketch is a hoot.

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Tina Fey

You can't underestimate Tina Fey's significance as a Saturday Night Live cast member, the first female head writer and one of the top three best "Weekend Update" anchors in the show's history. Sure, she was never the sort of SNL-er to do goofy characters or a myriad of impressions — a fact she points out during her monologue when she hosted the season premiere last year. But the 30 Rock star is responsible for a lot of the high points of her nine-year tenure (1999-2006), and Fey's hosting gigs brim with the sort of smart, biting wit we associate with her reign. Case in point: That incredible Girls parody, which simply would not be as laugh-out-loud brilliant without her playing the confused new best friend Blerta. Simply genius.

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