When it comes to hosting Saturday Night Live, there are degrees of greatness. Sure, there’s the Five-Timers Club, that posh and exclusive club that meets every year in Gstaad to anoint late-night kings, plot ways to blackmail Bill Murray into making Ghostbusters III, and otherwise control the comedy world — except for NBC’s primetime lineup. But you can sneak into the Five-Timers with one great show and four B- performances. No need for names, but it’s possible to get by on reputation and before you know it, you’re exchanging the club’s secret handshake with Lorne Michaels.
To be named Mr. Saturday Night (or Ms. Saturday Night, of course), on the other hand, requires something special. Everything has to go right on a certain night of live television. It’s the equivalent of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a basketball game or Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game. On one given night, they were simply unstoppable, and no matter whether they become all-time greats or shooting stars of momentary brilliance, there is nothing quite like watching a performer rise to the occasion.
Last year, EW crowned Jimmy Fallon as the first-ever Mr. Saturday Night, an appropriate recipient not just because Fallon killed it during the show’s Christmas episode, but because of his long history with the late-night institution. This year, the competition to succeed him has been fierce, and during weekly online polls, voters have eliminated 15 hosts, leaving us with six finalists. Finale host Ben Affleck had the easiest path to the final, and his show will be freshest in voters’ minds. But he faces a murderer’s row of entertainers: Martin Short, Justin Timberlake, 2012 runner-up Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, and Seth MacFarlane, who was rescued from elimination in our recent second-chance vote.
Timberlake is the favorite to take the crown, judging by recent polls, but anything can happen on the Internet. Before you vote, though, ask yourself three questions:
1. Which host’s sketches were you still watching days or weeks after the episode originally aired?
2. Which host could join the cast tomorrow and hold his or her own, week-in and week-out?
3. Which host do you most want to see on Saturday Night Live again?
Click below to see the tale of the tape for all six finalists, and cast your vote for a Mr. or Mrs. Saturday Night we can all be proud of.
Date of episode: Sept. 15, 2012
Number of times he’s hosted: First time
On the show to promote…: Family Guy
Musical guest: Frank Ocean
TV ratings: 4.8/12
Special guests: PSY, John Mayer
EW Odds: 20/1. A dark-horse threat, should the fans that resurrected him for the final stay plugged in. He was a solid contender all season long, and he has a vocal online fanbase that could make a difference.
Date of episode: Dec. 15, 2012
Number of times he’s hosted: Three
On the show to promote…: Christmas
Musical guest: Paul McCartney
TV ratings: 5.1/12
Special guests: Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon, Paul Shaffer, Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl, Krist Novolesic, Pat Smear
EW Odds: 25/1. The old-school sentimental favorite. If your parents suddenly became internet savvy, watch out.
Date of episode: March 9, 2013
Number of times he’s hosted: Five
On the show to promote…: The 20/20 Experience
Musical guest: You’re kidding, right?
TV ratings: 5.9/15
Special guests: Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, Alec Baldwin, Martin Short, Paul Simon, Chevy Chase, Candice Bergen, Jay-Z
EW Odds: 3/5. He’s the heavy favorite to join pal Jimmy Fallon as a Mr. Saturday Night. Only an internet coup could derail it.