Thank you for being a friend

Betty White hosts Saturday Night Live for the first time in her career

Article by: Jeff Fish

After a career that has spanned over 60 years, bringing her from the age of radio stars to the Internet age, which is beginning to shape the very way television runs, Betty White finally hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8.

The 88-year-old actress has made appearances on countless television shows and movies, always stealing the scene with her sharp wit and acute comedic timing. Her most notable roles were Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nyland on Golden Girls. Some of her most hilarious recurring roles were as Kitty Forman’s back handed and often angry mother on That 70s Show, a crazy old lady who always gets herself into trouble on Boston Legal, and as herself on popular 1970s game shows like The Match Game and Celebrity Pyramid.

While White has always been well liked by audiences young and old, she has been rapidly gaining in popularity as she approaches her 90s. This sudden boom in White’s career may be attributed to her recent role alongside Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal (Touchstone Pictures, 2009). For a woman of White’s age to still be so active is truly inspiring. Not only can she still act, but she’s remained relevant and is as hilarious as ever, which is why America has fallen in love with her all over again.

This swelling of the Betty White band wagon resulted in a Facebook group called “Betty White to host SNL (Please?)!” which pushed SNL to get White to host the show for the first time ever in her long career. It’s baffling to think that she had never hosted before, but she finally got her chance.

White hosted the Mother’s Day episode in which veteran female cast members Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratch all returned. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work with White, especially when the circumstances were so historic? This is the first time Facebook has made such an effort, which really speaks to the ever growing influence of social networks.

White didn’t disappoint in her performance, which garnered the show’s highest ratings since the 2008 presidential election, (when SNL is always at its best.) White walked out to huge applause and acknowledged that Facebook was what got her there, but added that, “it seems like a huge waste of time. At my age if I want to catch up with old friends I need an ouija board. In my day, looking at pictures of people’s vacations was a punishment.”

White’s performances were shockingly, yet delightfully inappropriate at times. In her first skit after the monologue, White played a baker named Florence Dusty, who was interviewed by NPR hosts (played by Gasteyer and Shannon) in an Alec Baldwin-“Schweddy-balls”-style-sketch about her “dusty muffins.” White made cracks about most bakers of her generation having “yeasty” muffins, telling the hosts “my muffin hasn’t had a cherry since 1939.”

One of the funniest skits was one in which White and Keenan Thompson played a grandmother-grandson convict team, part of a scared straight program that made numerous references to being sodomized in prison, and ended with White shouting “WIZARD OF ASS!”

Another funny skit involved Tina Fey playing a census working trying to get information from White, a crazy old lady, who claimed her name was “Blarfengar Blarfengar, spelled L-e-e-S-m-i-t-h.” Her pronunciation of Blarfengar was reminiscent of her Golden Girls character Rose Nyland telling stories of her childhood in St. Olaf, Minnesota, in which she would often hilariously pronounced Norwegian words.

In the digital short, the SNL players sang the Golden Girls theme, “Thank You For Being A Friend,” to White, who then did her own hardcore rendition which ended with her saying “Happy Mother’s Day, mother****ers!”
Some skits, like the one in which Poehler played an early 1900s tomboy was only funny because of White’s repeated use of the word “lesbian.” There were several funnier skits that were only shown on the web, like a Debbie Downer skit that the revealed the origins of Debbie’s cynicism; her grandmother played by White. It would have made more sense to put that skit in the show rather than some of the other ones that fell flat.
One skit that didn’t make it online because of licensing issues was one in which White played David Caruso’s great aunt in “CSI: Sarasota.” She wore a red wig and took her sunglasses off in dramatic manner that has made CSI: Miami a favorite show to mock.

Jay-Z was the musical guest and dedicated his performance of “Young Forever” to White. This sentiment was appropriate, considering how young at heart she is.

At the end of the show, White thanked the cast that was “so dear to a very scared but happy host.” At White’s age, hosting a 90 minute show at 11:30 p.m. could not have been easy, and they had her sitting in the majority of the skits. But White’s comedic brilliance shined through in what was one of the best SNL episodes in years.