There are few gigs in modern TV more fraught with the potential to out yourself as a massive asshole than hosting Saturday Night Live. Pretty much every factor—the rush, the pressure, the presence of the live camera—is almost guaranteed to bring out the worst in people, whether it’s deciding to bust out their “funny” Jamaican accent for some godforsaken reason, doing whatever the hell it was Justin Bieber did to piss Bill Hader off so much, or just being all-around bad human being Steven Seagal.
As one of the original Not-Ready-For-Primetime Players, Jane Curtin had a lot of chances over the years to watch famous people fuck this particular gig up, something she got into a bit on a recent episode of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live. Asked by a caller who was the worst host she ever had to deal with during her five-year tenure at the show, Curtin let out an immediate, slightly despairing, “God, there were so many.”
Eventually, she settled on the diplomatically dead Walter Matthau, who hosted an episode in the show’s fourth season. (Also the year that saw Frank Zappa get himself banned from the series for constantly mugging and making jokes about reading from cue cards.) Matthau pissed Curtin off with a similarly unprofessional vibe, approaching his guest-host stint as a playful lark, and not, ya know, like a meticulously timed network television program that has to run live in front of millions of people. “It was disrespecting our space, and it really pissed me off,” she noted.
Not that the show didn’t have its own problems, even without the weekly interlopers: Curtin also told a story about the total breakdown of communication between her and Lorne Michaels, noting that, after he refused to intervene in John Belushi’s persistently self-destructive and disruptive behavior, she stopped talking to the show’s leader entirely. “So what would happen is, if he wanted me to do something, he would tell Gilda. And Gilda would ask me to do it, and I’d say ‘Sure!’” So, you know: A totally healthy working environment all around.