In the four decades since it premiered, hundreds of celebrities have hosted NBC’s Saturday Night Live. From Oscar-winning actors to Grammy-winning musicians, stand-up comedians to presidential candidates, all manner of guests have taken the stage at 30 Rockefeller Center. Among this select group, professional athletes have been some of the most popular. As SNL’s 41st season continues, here are six legendary Super Bowl champions who said the magic words: “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”
John Madden’s Super Bowl-winning career as head coach for the Oakland Raiders helped earn him a hosting gig during SNL’s 7th season. The episode began with a funny sketch featuring Madden in the Cincinnati Bengals locker room interviewing players after a defeat. Wearing football gear, Eddie Murphy blames the mafia for their loss, but gets shot by teammate Joe Piscopo, who accuses him of fumbling during the game. Madden appeared twice more throughout the program, first to deliver a short anecdote about a player who ran into trouble in a bathroom stall, and then in a taped segment set on a train to New York City after the previous week’s Super Bowl.
Joe Montana & Walter Payton
Quarterback Joe Montana and Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton co-hosted an episode of SNL that aired the night before Super Bowl XXI. The show began with Montana delivering a darkly funny monologue about a concussion he received the last time the 49ers played in New York. Later, Montana and Payton appeared in a very funny skit where they try to convince Dana Carvey’s Church Lady that football isn’t the devil’s sport. However, the funniest sketch of the night starred Montana as an overly sincere guy who says whatever’s on his mind, no matter how ridiculous. Using Montana’s affable stiffness as part of the joke, the segment built to a hilariously raunchy punchline that must’ve taken some guts to deliver.
One month after winning his first Super Bowl ring, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Deion Sanders hosted a much-maligned episode of SNL, which is considered by many to be among the worst in the series’ history. Part of the problem came from Sanders’ decision to perform two tracks off his 1995 rap album “Prime Time,” despite the fact that Bon Jovi was the episode’s musical guest. A sketch that featured Sanders accepting lucrative endorsement deals during a baseball strike did little to warm the audience to the host. Things got even uglier when cast member Chris Farley accidentally lost his pants during a sketch, exposing his bare buttocks and grossing out millions of TV viewers in the process. Ultimately, it was Sanders’ off-putting blend of egocentric bragging and poor comedy skills that doomed the episode.
“I’m used to performing live, under pressure, in front of millions of people,” said four-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady during his opening monologue on SNL. Unlike many pro athletes who often seem unwilling to make fools of themselves, Brady embraced the role, gently mocking his wholesome image throughout the episode. Whether singing about killing a horse with his bare hands, or wearing a turban and swami costume in an absurd sketch called “Tom Brady’s Falafel City,” the Patriots quarterback took the whole thing in stride. And even though the episode wasn’t particularly hilarious, at least he was a good sport about it!
Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning hosted a memorable SNL episode on his 31st birthday in 2007. Spoofing his clean-cut persona, the quarterback appeared in a bizarre fake commercial for a car that cooks meatloaf and has toilets for seats. The episode’s greatest sketch was a digital short that showed Manning coaching a group of young children about the meaning of teamwork through football. Though things start off smoothly, Manning eventually begins nailing the scrawny 8-year-olds in the head with passes, forcing them into porta-potties as punishment, and teaching them how to steal cars. The moment when he tattoos his grinning portrait on one of their legs ranks among the funniest gags in SNL’s history.