Justin Timberlake hasn't hosted "Saturday Night Live" near as many times as Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin. But news that he's back at the helm for the fifth time in a decade is enough to elicit the same smiles of anticipation as a stint by either prolific host (Baldwin’s logged 16 guest shots to Martin’s 15).
Timberlake, who first appeared on "SNL" as a teenager with N' Sync, has proved himself adept at comedy – from his co-starring role about an unexpected gift in a box to his falsetto turn as Robin Gibb to chronicling the history of rap with Jimmy Fallon on “Late Night.”
Now, with his first album in seven years about to arrive, Timberlake is headed for double duty as host and musical guest on "SNL" Saturday, to be followed by a weeklong residency
on Fallon's show. Timberlake, coming off his much-ballyhooed Grammys duet with Jay-Z, is primed to reestablish himself as a multi-threat artist with talents that even a mother – and a motherlover – could love. While he might not be everyone's cup of tea musically, it's a good bet that to comedy fans that he's become a favorite cup of soup.
The spectacle of Timberlake as a rapping, dancing fool in a Styrofoam Cup o’ Soup costume, trying to out-hustle a Salvation Army Santa on "SNL" in 2006 (“Give it on up to Homelessville!”), sums up what makes him an unlikely funny force. He's not afraid to look silly or satirize the musical milieu that initially launched him to fame.
Timberlake projects a rare combination of likeability and a smug-free confidence that’s led him to dare to hone his humor chops during five "SNL" hosting gigs and about twice as many cameos. While Timberlake is far behind in the hosting stats to Martin and Baldwin (another performer who found a latent comedy calling) he's only 32.
As Timberlake gets set to release “The 20/20 Experience
” and prepares to join the “SNL” vaunted “Five-Timers Club,” revisit some of his funniest bits below:
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.
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