Friday, April 2, 2010

'SNL' rewrites the rules

With its two recent hot choices for upcoming hosting duties, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” is proving you don’t have to be a spring chicken — or be built like one — to get a gig on the show that may be the best reason to stay in on Saturday night.

On Thursday the Marquee Blog at confirmed, through a NBC spokeshuman, that Gabourey Sidibe, the Oscar-nominated sensation of Lee Daniels’ highly and justly acclaimed “Precious,” is set to host the comedy sketch show on April 24. It will be Gabby’s first-time hosting gig on SNL, now in its 35th year. (Look at its longevity another way: the show was eight years along when Sidibe was born.)

Howard Stern, where is thy sting?

That news drops a few weeks after it was announced that Betty White, the octagenarian hottie star of TV, movies (“The Proposal”) and Snickers Super Bowl ads, will host ‘SNL’ on May 8 (that’s the day before Mother’s Day. Don’t forget.).

“SNL” jefe Lorne Michaels told USA Today the Mom’s Day appearance by White, 88 years young, was just the right thing to do. "She's the mother of us all in comedy," he said. The massive outpouring of popular support — more than 135,000 people approved of the idea in a recent Facebook poll — might have had a little bit to do with it too.

The casting picks show “SNL” continuing to break new ground. When Gabby stars on the show, she’ll be one of the few African American celebrities to host a program that’s come in for criticism of its often all-white cast, and its monochromatic hosting history. But hold up: TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley did the hosting honors on Jan. 9 and former cast member Tracy Morgan (a mainstay of NBC’s “30 Rock”) did it on March 14. We got a trend thing working here.

And White will take the stage at Studio 8H as the oldest “Saturday Night Live” host ever — a refreshing departure from pop culture’s tendency to focus on the Bright Young Thing of the Moment.

All props, then, to “Saturday Night Live” for continuing to step outside the box —like it did in the past.

Next up: Mickey Rourke?

Image credits: Gabby: Via The Huffington Post. Betty: Lifeline Program/Mike Ruiz Photography, via The New York Times.

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