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A Taxonomy of SNL's Five-Timer's Club

Into which branch will this weekend's new member Will Ferrell be inducted?
  • Former cast member (and one-time host) Dan Aykroyd tends bar at SNL's exclusive Five Timer's Club, where on any given night you'll  see the likes of Candice Bergen, Justin Timberlake, Tom Hanks and Alec Baldwin. (Photo: NBC)
    Former cast member (and one-time host) Dan Aykroyd tends bar at SNL's exclusive Five Timer's Club, where on any given night you'll see the likes of Candice Bergen, Justin Timberlake, Tom Hanks and Alec Baldwin. (Photo: NBC)

    This weekend marks another milestone moment for Saturday Night Live as Will Ferrell, one of the show's most successful and beloved former cast members, returns to host. He's hosted four times before, and if you know how to add small numbers, you know what that means: Will Ferrell has officially joined SNL's Five-Timers Club.

    What began in 1990 as a monologue bit when Tom Hanks hosted the show for a fifth time has become an actual thing over the years (although we can't verify whether those inducted actually receive the iconic club robe).

    So why exactly is 5 times hosting the benchmark to celebrate? Mostly because it's pretty rarefied air. Before the year 2000, there were only 11 hosts who'd made 5 or more appearances. And they were the heaviest of hitters: Baldwin. Goodman. Hanks. Gould. Murray. Number 12 into the club was Christopher Walken in May of 2001. After him, the list stayed unchanged for almost six years, until Drew Barrymore made it #13 on February 3, 2007.

    Since then, the floodgates have opened. Including Ferrell, we're now up to 21 members, and what was once a coterie small enough to fit into an actual clubhouse now feels like it has the makings of a Hall of Fame, with different wings for different flavors of hosts. Breaking down the 21 members of the Five-Timers Club gives you some insight into the 45 year history of the show. So, where does Will Ferrell fit in this gathering of talent? Read on...

    Breaking Down the SNL 5-Timers Club

    The Legends

    Alec Baldwin — 17 times as host
    Steve Martin — 15 times
    John Goodman — 13 times
    Tom Hanks — 9 times

    If there were there a Mount Rushmore of Saturday Night Live hosts, these would be the faces on it. It's not just that these four are the most frequent hosts in show history — Buck Henry has one more appearance than Hanks, actually — but that all four men have made their mastery at the SNL game a part of their brand in at least some small way. To be honest, it would be nice to get Hanks back into the swing of this show a bit more often. He's an underrated comic talent, as evidenced by his last hosting appearance, in 2016, resulting in not one but TWO all-time classics: David S. Pumpkins and this pre-election edition of "Black Jeopardy":

    The Former Cast Members

    Chevy Chase — 8 times as host
    Tina Fey — 6 times
    Bill Murray — 5 times
    Will Ferrell — 5 times

    It's surprsing that there are only four former cast members who have hosted at least five times (and actually, until Saturday, only three). Chase's 8 times as host are always interesting since they're usually accompanied by a handful of stories about his prickly personality and how nobody can stand him. Ferrell's return brings with it the potential to revisit boatloads of his beloved recurring sketches and characters from "Celebrity Jeopardy," to the tambourine-playing member of Blue Oyster Cult, to, of course, George W. Bush.

    The Distressingly Few Women

    Drew Barrymore —6 times as host
    Scarlett Johansson — 5 times (soon to be 6)
    Melissa McCarthy — 5 times

    Expect McCarthy to top this list by a good margin before long, even as it doesn't include her many return trips to cameo as the likes of Sean Spicer. Barrymore's hosting gigs go back to her days as a child star, and she holds the distinction of the longest time between her initial SNL gig and her fifth time. The fact that only five women (these three, Tina Fey, and Candice Bergen) have ever hosted the show five times is an embarassment, and something that the show should be looking to remedy. (Just invite Cameron Diaz back on for no reason whatsoever: she's stuck on four!) It's worth noting that all three of the women in this section have delivered all-time great sketches, from Barrymore in "Body Fuzion" to ScarJo in "Mike's Marbleopolis" to McCarthy in too many sketches to count. (I'm partial to the Old Hollywood exploits of Lulu Diamonds, below.)

    The Vintage Hosts

    Buck Henry —10 times as host
    Elliott Gould — 6 times
    Candice Bergen — 5 times

    These are the hosts who will likely never host again and who are probably unfamiliar to the majority of the show's under-30 audience. These days, Bergen is best known for being Murphy Brown, and Gould for playing Ross and Monica's dad on Friends, but back in the '70s they were movie stars on the cutting edge of the American new wave, starring in films like Carnal Knowledge and MASH, respectively. Buck Henry holds the greatest gulf between early SNL notoriety and present-day anonymity. Back then, he was he show's go-to host, even though he was best known for being a screenwriter (The Graduate) and director (Heaven Can Wait). These days, if you recognize him, it's likely for playing Liz Lemon's dad on 30 Rock.

    The Technicality

    Paul Simon — 4 times as host (officially)

    So if Paul Simon has only hosted officially four times, how does he get to be in the Five-Timers Club? Is the club at his house? Is this how he gets cool people to hang out with him? Does he provide really great snacks and booze and music, like a less-murderous Ma? No, it's just a technicality, since there was officially no host of the 100th episode in 1980, though the show credits musical guests Simon, James Taylor, and David Sandborn as co-hosts.

    The Rest, Ranked in Order of Likelihood That They'll Host Again

    Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson —7 times as host
    Justin Timberlake — 5 times
    Jonah Hill — 5 times
    Ben Affleck — 5 times
    Christopher Walken — 7 times
    Danny DeVito — 6 times

    As long as Dwayne Johnson keeps getting cast in major studio movies, he's gonna keep returning as an SNL host. As will Justin Timberlake, though we can all hope he records another hit song soon to justify it. Walken's case is interesting, since he's mostly a cameo and character actor these days. But he was a close second-tier to the legendary hosts at one point (he even got a DVD compilation of his best sketches), though that does seem like a long time ago. Remember "The Continental"? That modern-day Pepe Le Pieu who would invite women up to his hotel room, try to get romantic with them, and then block the door as they tried to leave? I imagine we've seen our last Continental sketch. "Colonel Angus," however, is one off-color sketch I hope we can continue to enjoy.

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    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, The Herald Sun, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Saturday Night Live, NBC, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck, Bill Murray, Buck Henry, Candice Bergen, Chevy Chase, Christopher Walken, Danny DeVito, Drew Barrymore, Dwayne Johnson, Elliott Gould, John Goodman, Jonah Hill, Justin Timberlake, Melissa McCarthy, Paul Simon, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Martin, Tina Fey, Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell