Betty White an unlikely SNL fit, but could do well with backups

One of the latest Internet campaigns that seems to be gaining traction is a push to get comedienne Betty White to host an upcoming episode of “Saturday Night Live.” While she showed some toughness and strong comedic chops in a Super Bowl ad, I don’t know if the 88-year-old would want to go through the grueling, week-long gauntlet of live television.
The discussion kicked on Super Bowl Sunday when White appeared in a Snickers ad as a player of a rough game of pick-up football. She gets bullied about until she eats a Snickers candy bar and turns into a younger player. The spot, which also featured a Pleasant Valley High grad, ranked highly by USA Today’s Ad Meter.
Since then, people have been pushing for “Saturday Night Live” to offer White a hosting gig. A Facebook fan page had more than 441,000 fans, as of this writing. Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker imagined how the show might go.
The effort seems to be gathering strength, according to EWs Michael Ausiello.
I’m kinda excited about her getting this opportunity, but I was initially leery about her shouldering the entire show herself. Thankfully, it seems like SNL may give her a bench of relief pitchers, so to speak.
Ausiello reports that SNL producers are close to a deal with a possible catch — that White is teamed up to host with a “Women of Comedy” dream team. Names bandied about include Molly Shannon, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — all good choices, but I hope they cast a wider net than just former SNL alumni.
Having a dream team co-host with Betty makes a lot of sense. It could be better than my idea of just having her pop up in a few Digital Shorts (which I think could still be funny and work well as viral video).
Betty is a trooper — she deserves to be the starter and should be the star attraction. However, hosting the show can be a grind. This is based on what I’ve read of the production — including the epic book “Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live” by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. NPR’s “Fresh Air” also apparently has an interview with Tina Fey discussing behind-the-scenes of the show.
During any given show week, there are days of work of turning ideas into tangible sketches for broadcast. On Saturday, there are rehearsals leading to an 8 p.m. dress rehearsal filmed before a live studio audience. Based on that rehearsal, executive producer Lorne Michaels determines which sketches will air live at 11:35 p.m.
If Betty hosts, she would need to be “on” for more than 6 hours on Saturday (the two performances and additional morning rehearsals). That’s a lot to ask of anybody, but if anybody can do it, White can.
What White may lack compared to the pretty faces hosting this year, she makes up for with moxie, a proven history of performing in live situations, and sharp sense of humor that has stayed fresh over the years.

  • Garrett

    Miskel Spillman hosted solo in her 70s during SNL’s third season after she won the “Anyone Can Host” competition. I think most of her roles involved sitting.