15 Years Ago: Jon Bon Jovi Hosts ‘Saturday Night Live’
In the best sketch of the third episode of Saturday Night Live’s 33rd season, cast member Amy Poehler takes us back to her teenage bedroom for the cold open. That’s where Poehler, sporting 1986-appropriate mile-high spray-can hair complains to her diary (in a Burlington, Mass.-appropriate teen accent) about how much her life sucks. Thankfully, that’s when the life-size Jon Bon Jovi poster on her wall comes to life after Poehler overdoes it with an emergency Aqua Net touch-up cloud.
Bon Jovi, that night’s host, appears in all his mid-'80s throwback glory — flowing, feathered locks, headband, torn Slippery When Wet T-shirt and all — consoling the overwhelmed young Poehler that not only will she one day become a cast member on Saturday Night Live, but she’ll also meet her rock 'n' roll idol again when he hosts the show in 21 years. “Wait, you’re gonna be the host?” the smitten young Poehler asks, puzzlement momentarily breaking through her adolescent hormone haze, before shaking off her surprise with an unconvincing, “Oh. No. OK, no — that makes sense.”
That shock (along with Bon Jovi’s assertion that he will have cut his glorious mane by that point) aside, the singer’s prediction that the pair would reunite on Oct. 13, 2007, is spot-on, with Bon Jovi, indeed, hosting that night’s SNL, while musical guest duties going to longtime show favorites Foo Fighters (in their fifth appearance). Except that Saturday Night Live’s commitment to getting the New Jersey rock star to take part in comedy sketches also apparently included a promise that Bon Jovi numbers would outnumber Foo Fighters performances two-to-one.
Jon Bon Jovi wasn’t a bad or even especially surprising choice as host in 2007. After all, the singer had been appearing in movies both independent (The Leading Man, No Looking Back) and studio (Moonlight and Valentino, Pay It Forward) since the mid-'90s to respectable acclaim. (His most recent starring role at the time was in something called National Lampoon’s Pucked.) And while Bon Jovi the band’s hair-metal heyday was long past by 2007, the venerable, currently still-touring band had just released its 10th album, Lost Highway, that summer, with the LP eventually going platinum.
Watch Amy Poehler and Jon Bon Jovi on 'SNL'
And yet, Bon Jovi’s hosting stint is peppered with jokes about just why he’s been deemed worthy of hosting, with a trusty audience Q&A monologue segment (including an appearance by bandmate Richie Sambora, who blows his line) restating Poehler’s confusion over the 45-year-old rocker anchoring a live comedy show. And, as it turned out, Bon Jovi, Hollywood experience aside, wasn’t the most confident of hosts, with even his two sketch outings as his younger self coming off a bit hesitant and stiff.
In a later sketch in which the young Bon Jovi argues with his four overlooked original bandmates (played by Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, Fred Armisen and Andy Samberg from this era’s stacked cast) that the band name “Bon Jovi” is the best choice, regardless of whether or not one guy in the band has that for a surname. (The best joke is that neither Bon Jovi nor Sudeikis’ Sambora can remember the names of original bandmates David Bryan and Alec John Such.)
Other sketches play up the singer’s Jersey (a game show where New Jersey types ring in with a Sopranos-esque “Ohhhh!” when host Bill Hader’s questions get touchy), and Italian roots (Bon Jovi busts Hader’s interviewer character Vinny Vedecci for his string of faux-Italian babble).
Throughout, Bon Jovi is always more Jon Bon Jovi playing a character (even when a character is named Jon Bon Jovi) than anything else, making his demeanor more akin to a musical guest dragooned into a cameo rather than a seasoned comic actor.
Watch a New Jersey Game Show on 'SNL'
Ultimately, Foo Fighters fans came away disgruntled that the undeniably more popular and of-the-moment musical guests got to play only a single (if rip-roaring) version of “The Pretender” (from the band’s 2007 release, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace), while the supposed non-musical host got to both open and close the episode with songs from Lost Highway.
After being cajoled into singing from audience plants (including SNL writers Liz Cackowski and Steve Higgins, plus Sambora), Bon Jovi first strode from home base to the musical stage, where he sang the album’s title track. Then, after a surprise intro from Jack Nicholson, of all people, during the goodnights (Bon Jovi reportedly spotted SNL fan Nicholson in the audience and invited him onstage), Bon Jovi belted out a solo rendition of the band’s “Who Says You Can’t Come Home?”
So was the Jon Bon Jovi hosting experiment a success? It certainly gave Amy Poehler a killer outing as her star-struck young Masshole self, SNL and former Upright Citizens Brigade comedy legend turning in another of her vividly committed performances. And even if Bon Jovi was pretty wan and unconvincing all night (even as himself), his presence in sketches allowed the all-star cast to prop him up with some truly funny supporting roles. (Ace impressionist Darrel Hammond does a spot-on Tony Soprano.)
While Foo Fighters did wind up getting short-changed (Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins do get to get punched in the face by Andy Samberg in a Digital Short), the fact that Foo Fighters have been musical guests eight times, while fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Bon Jovi has scored only four should take the sting out of it.