Here’s something I almost forgot to think about: Saturday Night Live‘s new season has kicked off with two female hosts in a row, Tina Fey and Miley Cyrus. That’s damn rare. Last season, only 23% of the show’s hosts were female, and all of those women except one (Jennifer Lawrence) were returning emcees. Cue my Debbie Downer sigh.
This brings us to today’s topic: selecting the best 10 female hosts in the history of the show. As an added hurdle, I’m eliminating former cast members from eligibility. This means no Tina, no Amy Poehler, no Kristen Wiig, no Molly Shannon, no Maya Rudolph, and not even Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And let’s face it: Tina is probably the greatest female host the show has ever seen. If we can’t include her, who ranks in the top ten? Here are my hilarious and very qualified choices.
10. Betty White
Betty White‘s Emmy-winning hosting turn in 2010 was one of the quainter turns in recent years, and that alone makes her episode memorable. Her appearance (brought on thanks to a Facebook petition with over 500,000 signers) included a monologue where she talked about her first live TV appearance in 1952 on Life With Elizabeth (“Back then, we didn’t want to be live. We just didn’t know how to tape things.”) and collaborations with a bunch of returning SNL vets including Molly Shannon and Ana Gasteyer on “The Delicious Dish” and Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph in a very crowded Lawrence Welk Show routine.
9. Natalie Portman
SNL’s Digital Shorts are often funny, but in the heyday of the Lonely Island, they felt like the products of a boys’ club or the same sort of male comic institution that drove Jane Curtin crazy back in the ’70s. With one amazing short in 2006, host Natalie Portman outrapped Andy Samberg with a raucous, vulgar declaration of independence. It is a very rewatchable clip, and one of the biggest moments of aggro female intensity in the history of the show, right up there with Curtin’s shirt-ripping bra exposure at the Weekend Update desk.
8. Jennifer Aniston
All hail Jennifer Aniston for leading one of the great SNL openings of all time: an all-female tribute to Fight Club (a movie that starred her then-pal Brad Pitt) featuring Ana Gasteyer, Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon, and “new meat” Rachel Dratch as fight-clubbing SNL broads who beat the crap out of each other. Rule #1? Don’t talk about Fight Club. Rule #2? Don’t tell Lorne about Fight Club. Aniston was also a blast as Carrie Bradshaw in a Sex and the City sketch with Mr. Peepers (Chris Kattan) and she murdered us as a spokeswoman for genital herpes medication Privolin who is trying to hawk her product to a camera as her coworkers engage in a boardroom meeting next to her, puzzled. No wonder Aniston was almost a real cast member of the show.
7. Jane Lynch
Our beloved Sue Sylvester powered through spotty material in her 2010 appearance to be an absolute knockout of a host: She parodied Phyllis Diller in a Password-type game show sketch and Faith Hill in a much-needed lampooning of her NFL anthem. Lynch’s well-known improv chops made her a natural on the show, and she even outshined Kristen Wiig during what was maybe her greatest season on air.
6. Emma Stone
Emma Stone is basically the “new” version of the woman who comes in at #2 on this list (cheat ahead if you must): She thoroughly relishes the SNL experience and uses it as an opportunity to be bold, fun, bizarre, and surprising. When promoting The Amazing Spider-Man, the two-time host dissed Mary Jane Watson and played the insanely misinformed bridal shower attendee Wallace, who invites a “human toilet” to entertain in lieu of strippers. Best of all? At the end of her second hosting gig before the credits, she gave a slight nod to Roseanne Roseannadanna. This is how you steal an SNL superfan’s heart.