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Hot (?) Take: I Love When Athletes Host SNL

The wondrously infamous  promo featuring Charles Barkley and Nirvana, being incredibly awkward.

So. SNL’s current season. We’ve had a lot of highs, as well as a lot of lows. Recently, we thought we were on a good streak, up until Woody Harrelson’s hippiepublican spiels made us all shift uncomfortably in our seats. And now, we’ve got a football player, Travis Kelce, scheduled for this weekend’s episode.

Look, I understand that most fans of the show, especially those who frequent our website, probably don’t expect any decent “funny ha ha’s” from a professional athlete. American sports culture is largely loathed by anyone who doesn’t actively participate in it, and for many good reasons (sports programs being funded more than other programs, sketchy ethics in sports, etc.). But here’s where I’ll play, and forgive me for using this term, Devil’s Advocate: I think athlete hosts can be utterly insane, in the best ways possible.

Think about it. Picture that one linebacker in high school who was really nice to everyone, built like a brick, and only ever knew how to bro down, even with 5’1″ nerd girls like me. No, he is not a trained comedian, and yes, the Biz might have inflated his ego some, but goddamn he knew how to break the tension in some of the worst classroom moments. Put that sort of raw jovial energy into a structure like SNL’s, and you’ve got the makings for something truly delightful.

Observe: J.J. Watt, Professional Football Boy, portraying both The Bachelor AND a porny pizza boy.

These are two of my favorite sketches of all time, and in large part because of Watt’s awkward big-boy acting. Clearly, he isn’t a “professional comedian,” but he brings his own kind of sauce, and it’s great! He’s not leaning into the bit, so much as riding the waves as they come to him. With every “I love that” he put into the world, I cry-laughed a little more.

Then, of course, we have John Cena, who proves that funnymen can have meathead origins:

But my absolute favorite athlete cameo, who’s also one of my top 5 hosts of all time, is none other than beloved sweet papa Charles Barkley:

What I think works regarding athlete hosts is when they don’t kill the cast’s vibes. That is to say, these are professional comedians and writers who have a whole routine, and knocking them off their flow will very quickly ruin an entire sketch. Ultimately, any host could do that, but athletes in particular often don’t have the sort of training that’d attune them to comedic timing.

However, if they do respect the timing, respect the flow, and don’t allow their nerves to mute their own senses of humor, then the result is truly something beautiful. I really mean everything I said above with these three past hosts, I loved seeing them cook.

Now, I don’t know that much about Travis Kelce as a person, but apparently, he’s already had a stint in comedy via a cameo in the 2020 screwball comedy Moonbase. He performed along the likes of Tim Heidecker and Fred Armisen, so it’s not like SNL will be completely away from his comedic wheelhouse.

Plus, the promo he did with Marcello Hernández is pretty adorable, and bodes well in my opinion:

All in all, I’m looking forward to this episode! And I sincerely hope I don’t eat my words! Either way, let’s hear it for funny athletes, yahoo!

(Featured Image: SNL)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. Her prior experiences with media have taken her down many different roads, from local history podcasts to music coverage & production. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.