Mental Floss

5 Awful Saturday Night Live Hosts of the '70s

Kara Kovalchik
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Since its debut in 1975, SNL has had its ups and downs, most of which were always attributed to the cast du jour (and sometimes the writers). However, even when the show was at its peak both cast- and writer-wise, some shows bombed like Boy George at a tractor pull. A few examples come to mind:

1. Milton Berle

Lorne Michaels was against having Uncle Miltie host the show from the get-go, but the network Powers That Be pressured him, saying "How can you not have the comedian known as Mr. Television host the hippest TV show of the 70s?" Berle's 1979 appearance was a train wreck from Day One. No matter what instructions the director gave him, he'd mug for the camera, do broad spit-takes, and ad-lib jokes directly to the camera. He took it upon himself to give direction to the stagehands and lighting crew, since he'd been working in television since before they were born. Worse still, his lewd backstage behavior did little to endear him to the staff. He insisted on walking around in his boxer shorts and "proving" the oft-whispered Hollywood rumors about his physique to anyone who ambled by. (Gilda Radner happened to walk into a dressing room at the very moment Berle was proudly displaying himself to one of the show's writers.) The proverbial straw that broke Lorne Michaels' back, however, was when Uncle Miltie advised him just prior to the show's finale that a standing ovation was "guaranteed." Berle had used his allotted tickets to fill the audience with friends and relatives who obediently stood and applauded when he sang a dreary version of "September Song."

2. Louise Lasser

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3. Frank Zappa

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4. Jodie Foster

In 1976 Jodie Foster was many years away from winning her first Academy Award, but she had racked up some impressive credits as a child actress in films like Taxi Driver, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, and Bugsy Malone. Her resumé caught the attention of the SNL producers and they enlisted the 14-year-old actress as a host. Sadly, the writers were caught unprepared and had written sketches based around the worldly characters Foster had played. They didn't realize that Jodie was actually a typical tomboy-ish 14-year-old who'd only been performing under a director's instructions in that very adult film. Foster was so nervous about her hosting gig that she'd spilled an Orange Julius on herself just prior to taking the stage. She took it personally as skit after skit fell flat, and with the natural self-consciousness of an early teen she grew more awkward as the show progressed. When the camera cut back to her for the finale after the last commercial, the audience was so silent you could almost hear crickets chirping. After an uncomfortable pause, Foster simply said "thank you" and the credits rolled.

5. Chevy Chase

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