50063856

For comedians and actors looking to showcase their comedic talents, Saturday Night Live has always been the place to go for some guaranteed publicity. But sometimes, Lorne Michaels and the deciding powers that be down at 30 Rock give the almighty hosting gig to an individual outside of the acting or comedy community, like athletes, musicians, or even politicians.

Sometimes the results are disastrous, as one might suspect, when giving live comedic material to someone who hasn’t acted a day in their life (here’s looking at you, Michael Phelps, Paris Hilton and Al Sharpton). But there are other Saturday nights when audiences realize just how right Lorne Michaels can be, even when his booking choices seem a little strange. The funniest people can come from the unlikeliest places.

Here’s five of the best non-traditional SNL hosts.

Justin Timberlake (2003 and beyond)

Now this seems like a strange choice in the present day, but the first time Justin Timberlake hosted SNL, it was 2003 and he was just another member of N*SYNC. Everybody knew the kid could sing, but boy, did his funniness come as a shock. Timberlake proved himself so talented that he’s become a member of the elite “five-timers club” – that’s an exclusive rank achieved by people who have come back to host five times, like Tom Hanks and Steve Martin. He’s spurned a number of his own characters as well, including the Omletteville guy and, of course, the infamous Dick in a Box. Pretty impressive for a pop star (now turned movie star) they probably thought would get a couple laughs ten years ago.

Peyton Manning (2007)

Sports stars don’t necessarily have a fantastic track record on SNL, but NFL great Peyton Manning spun that stereotype on its head when he hosted a phenomenal episode in 2007. Manning was hilarious in many sketches that night, including a memorable locker room number where he danced his heart out with his “coach” Will Forte. But Manning’s time on SNL will be immortalized by his now-classic fake commercial for the United Way, in which he made several children cry through his generous help. Not only the best sketch of the night, but potentially one of the best of the entire season.

Ludacris (2006)

Though Ludacris has had several acting roles, it’s undisputed that he’s much more widely known as a rapper. That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise when he killed it as a host on SNL, where he had previously shown up as musical guest. Even if Ludacris’ music isn’t your cup of tea, you’d have a hard time not laughing at him teaming up with Maya Rudolph for a fake infomercial to sell “The Bitchslap Method,” a behavioral technique for getting people to behave. His turn as the delusional, blindly proud manager of Andy Samberg’s white-boy rapper Blizzard Man is also of note.

Brian Williams (2007)

It’s no secret that the host of NBC Nightly News likes to crack a joke or two whenever he gets the chance. Brian Williams has popped up as a frequent guest star on 30 Rock and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, so a hosting gig at SNL was not too far off the beaten path for the respected newsman. He held his own against Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph as a gruff firefighter on “Bronx Beat,” and took viewers on a hilarious behind-the-scenes look at his preparations for the Nightly News broadcast. It involved leaving himself a voicemail pep talk and dropping pennies on Matt Lauer from the top of 30 Rock. How he hasn’t hosted again is insane.

LeBron James (2007)

Lorne Michaels has often said that athletes can be fantastic hosts because they’re fearless, having performed in front of large audiences before without knowing the outcome. And it was true for NBA star LeBron James, who gave it his all on the Studio 8H stage. James had made headlines several weeks prior for his fantastic performance at the ESPY awards, and people waited to see if he would strike again on SNL. He did, notably with a sketch lampooning Solid Gold that is likely still brought out whenever his teammates want to rib him. If basketball ever becomes tiresome, he’s got a second career in comedy – or a third in dancing – to fall back on.