Was Charles Barkley worse than Donald Trump, Michael Phelps, Paris Hilton, MC Hammer, Justin Bieber or Lindsay Lohan?
Even when "Saturday Night Live" has a strong cast, it can still have episodes that bomb completely because of a bad host. This season saw the return of a three-time offender in this category -- Charles Barkley -- to once again bomb on the "SNL" stage for the fourth time in nearly 25 years. Although he still hasn't gotten any better, the former NBA champ certainly isn't the worst host the long-running show has seen.
For as many wonderful hosts and episodes as we've seen over the past 40-plus years, there have been some hosts that were so bad they have lived on in infamy ... for all the wrong reasons. Sports figures and politicians figure somewhat heavily on this list, which makes sense as these are people who are not actors or comedians, but that doesn't give "SNL" or them a pass. They were cast and they agreed to do the show, which sounds like two strikes. The third strike came with how awful they were when the cameras began rolling.
A little more surprising are the quality actors who nevertheless have earned the dubious honor of being an "SNL" disaster, most of them "serious" dramatic actors and actresses who just can't seem to get the timing right of comedy. And then there are those people with no discernible skills, or those who were clearly phoning it in and had little interest in putting forth any effort for the week they joined the Not Ready for Primetime Players.
Below are the 18 worst "SNL" hosts of all time, ranked by their awfulness from bad to worst:
Charles Barkley (9/25/93, 1/9/10, 1/7/12, 3/3/18) has been back four times, primarily because he's game for anything. And yet, even his most recent stint proved that he's still incredibly awkward and difficult to watch, stumbling over his mumbled lines and seeming uncertain of what's going on at any given moment. His monotone delivery and dazed expressions just make it look like he's in over his head every time.
George Steinbrenner (10/20/90) even being asked to host is proof that sometimes "SNL" is too New York for its own good. Outside of the Big Apple, Steinbrenner was best known for the "Seinfeld" parody of him, but that was an actual comedic performance. The actual Yankees owner was a sports businessman ... and that's about it. He's just not a funny guy, and even though he clearly had affection for the show, he was proof that the show should vet these hosts at least a little bit.
Frank Zappa (10/21/78) couldn't be bothered to take the show seriously, undermining the cast and crew at seemingly every turn. Yes, this is comedy, but these people work hard to make quality entertainment and they don't need a musician heckling the cue card guys live during a sketch and trying to break the fourth wall constantly like he's too cool for this gig, man!
Nancy Kerrigan (3/12/94) was America's sweetheart on the ice in the early 1990s, but that doesn't mean she was an actress of any particular caliber or talent. In fact, she was quite atrocious as an actress, giving a flat performance. Clearly out of her element and hired only because of the heights of popularity she had achieved both on the ice and for getting her knee plugged prior to the '94 Olympics, sometimes cashing in on the hot popular craze isn't worth it.
Rudy Giuliani (11/22/97) was a charismatic and beloved guy, but he was also the acting mayor of New York ... and this was back when political figures were expected to act with a certain level of decorum and professionalism at all times. That meant that Giuliani was somewhat limited in what he could do for the sake of comedy, neutering the potential of the show. Add to this the fact that he's not an actor or comedian, and you've got an awkward performer on "safe" materail, which just adds up to a disastrous night.
Al Sharpton (12/6/03) had the misfortune of hosting during one of the show's down periods, but it doesn't excuse his over-the-top and somehow still completely lost performance technique. Sharpton looked alternately like he'd rather be anywhere else than Studio 8H and like he wasn't sure where he was. It was as if someone had convinced him to take the job and he felt obligated to do it, but he was offended by everything happening around him. They'd have been better off having Kenan Thompson play him.
Justin Bieber (2/9/13) was the biggest pop star on the planet and it showed in his every utterance, every cooing for the camera, every moment on camera. No one drank the Kool-Aid of their own awesomeness more than the Biebs, making him a nightmare to work with and someone who really couldn't be bothered with the work of learning lines or what he's supposed to be doing in a camera. Have you seen how cute he is? He shouldn't have to work for this!
Lindsay Lohan (3/3/12) returned for her fourth hosting stint, but by this point her career had spiraled beyond the point of no return and the "It Girl" of the mid-2000s was nowhere to be seen. The "Mean Girls" star achieved fame thanks to Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey, so the show was trying to do her a solid, but her line deliveries were stilted and flat, and she was struggling to read the cue cards most of the night.
Lance Armstrong (10/29/05) had yet to be fully disgraced, but was embroiled in the doping scandal that began his downfall. Mostly, though, he was still beloved as the cancer survivor who became a cycling legend, but he was quick to prove that just because he can stay upright on a bike doesn't mean he can navigate sketch comedy with any charm or charisma. Armstrong was stiff and painfully difficult to watch.
Deion Sanders (2/18/95) was charming and likable in interviews, had a great sense of humor and had that cool factor on max. This totally should have worked. But then he decided he wanted to be his own musical guest (even though Bon Jovi was already there), because Deion can rap. Didn't know that? That's because he really can't; he just used his clout to force the issue and forced everyone to endure two tracks on top of his lackluster comedic skills.
MC Hammer (12/7/91) was a big deal for such a short span his star was already fading by the time he hosted "SNL." He'd just ditched the "MC" part of his name to try and stay relevant, but it was his lackluster acting and desperate attempts to look hip and cool. It was clear that Hammer knew things weren't looking good for him in the world of hip-hop, so this might be his last chance at staying relevant. He blew it.
Donald Trump (4/3/04, 11/7/15) does one thing well and that's be Donald Trump. His tremendous ego is too fragile to allow him to step outside of his carefully crafted persona and poke fun at his foibles or even show an ounce of humility. His first appearance was all "Apprentice" hype, and his second was even more "safe" as he was running for president. In other words, he wasn't willing to get down and dirty and even try to be funny. It showed.
Michael Phelps (9/13/08) had about as much charisma on camera as a dead fish. His performances were uncomfortable to watch as he struggled to read cue cards throughout the night, meaning he wasn't even remotely emoting or presenting the material as written. Think of the poor readers in middle school who bogged down in-class reading material and killed the narrative as they fumbled through their lines. That was slightly better than this.
Adrien Brody (5/10/03) was riding high off of his Oscar win, and on-stage sexual assault of Halle Berry when he forced her to kiss him, and he brought all that arrogance to "SNL." Brody clearly thought he was not only having a big career moment, but that he had arrived and would be Hollywood's biggest star for years to come. He was painfully unfunny on the night, and sealed his fate with an unapproved and tone-deaf introduction of musical guest Sean Paul, complete with dreadlocks and a bad Jamaican accent. He thought he could do no wrong, but it turned out he could do no right.
Steven Seagal (4/20/91) was a pretty one-trick pony in his movies; he could kick and punch people and growl through squinted eyes. That's about all he had as an action star, and he didn't have much more to offer on a sketch comedy show ... less, in fact. Seagal didn't have a funny bone in his body, but he had plenty of confidence nee arrogance, leading to a performance that was both off-putting and painfully unfunny.
Paris Hilton (2/5/05) was vapid and empty-headed on "The Simple Life," and according to the cast of "SNL," she was proud of her stupidity. It translated into a terrible hosting gig, as Hilton couldn't be bothered to learn any of her lines and really epitomized the stereotype of a no-talent socialite looking to cash in a paycheck.
Andrew Dice Clay
Andrew Dice Clay (5/12/90) was the biggest comedian in the world because he told dirty nursery rhymes and sad shockingly offensive things. A cartoon caricature of a real person, the "Dice Man" didn't have much depth to his crass stage persona, and he had nothing fresh to offer on "SNL." In fact, every sketch was a variation of his "Dice" persona, because he was just too cool to offer anything else. It was painfully unfunny then, and has aged even worse.
January Jones (11/14/09) looked both bored and confused throughout her bland line deliveries; she was every bit Betty Draper of "Mad Men" and she simply didn't have time for this ... or memorizing her lines ... or even realizing this was a live show (she asked which camera at one point). This is where we learned that Betty is maybe less of a performance than we realized, as January had nothing else to offer, botching just about every sketch.
Tom Green (11/8/00) is a product of a very specific "Jackass" generation that found laughter in gross-out humor, not requiring anything other than people hurting themselves and being awful. And that's all Green was capable of. He wasn't a comedian, an actor or really anything other than someone who was willing to do shocking and uncomfortable things. He tried to bring that to "SNL," but it was oil and water with what a real comedy show is all about, and it was awful. Congrats on being the absolutely worst, Tom!