Justin Timberlake is making his third appearance as host of Saturday Night Live this weekend, and in a development that would have seemed unbelievable five years ago, it is being looked forward to in the same way fans typically anticipate appearances by hosting stalwarts like Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken, and Steve Martin.
Timberlake has used his previous appearances on the show, which have also included cameos during weeks he wasn't hosting, to prove himself as an all-purpose comedic performer, up for almost anything (he isn't even doubling as the musical guest this week, a sign that he's prized by SNL purely as a sketch actor). He has been in more memorable sketches than certain cast members, who shall remain nameless since no one can remember who they were, contributed during their entire SNL tenures. In order to whet appetites for Saturday, here's a look back at some of JT's best moments on SNL.
Dancing Cup O' Soup: Timberlake is at his best in pieces that play off his musical talent, and none have ever displayed it to the extent of the 2006 sketch that pitted him as a hip-hoppy Cup O' Soup collecting for the homeless on a street corner, with an old fashioned Salvation Army Santa (Will Forte) as his outgunned foil. The sight of Timberlake dancing vigorously in his ridiculous outfit (complete with oversized shoes) is the biggest pleasure here -- and watch what happens near the end, when he reacts quickly to a prop malfunction.
D--- In A Box: The most notorious digital short in SNL history, this Christmas present to fans was such a sensation that NBC made available an uncensored version online, since d--- is too racy for airing at 12:30 in the morning. Timberlake and Andy Samberg worked out a dead-perfect parody of the sound and style of the pre-*NSync boy band era, which was funny enough for its accuracy before the men revealed the special holiday surprise they had cooked up for their sweethearts. You know how it goes, right kids? "One: You cut a hole in the box..."
The Barry Gibb Talk Show: What happens when someone in the SNL cast has the ability to do an impersonation, but there's no logical way to work it into the average show? They come up with a premise as nutty as having the Bee Gees legend (Jimmy Fallon) hosting a political talk show in a bad '70s suit, accompanied here by JT as intimidated younger brother Robin. This is one of the few Timberlake sketches where he takes a back seat, to both a manic Fallon and to Darrell Hammond's uncanny portrayal of Jimmy Carter, but it is fondly enough remembered that Fallon and Timberlake briefly reprised the bit on the premiere of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
Justin Condenses An Entire SNL Into Two Minutes: Timberlake was originally scheduled to host the pre-Thanksgiving episode of SNL, but events forced him to cancel. He more than made up for the disappointment during an appearance on Weekend Update the preceding week. Timberlake explained that the cancellation was unfortunate, because he already had it worked out in his head how the show would have gone. What followed was a two-minute distillation of the average SNL, complete with impersonations of announcer Don Pardo and Kristen Wiig's Target Lady, and an opening musical number set to the tune of one of his biggest hits: "I'm bringing turkey back." The bit was a great showcase for Timberlake's versatility, although it also served to illustrate that the series is so formulaic that almost everything he said hit awfully close to home.
Cathy, Irving, and Jessica: Timberlake made an unannounced Weekend Update walk-on in March, in a bit that played off a survey that determined Jessica Rabbit was the sexiest cartoon character. Samberg played the notoriously unsexy comic strip character Cathy (who finished last in the survey "behind Beetle Bailey and Marmaduke"), and Timberlake appeared halfway through the sketch as her long suffering boyfriend Irving (check out the cheers once the audience realizes who "Irving" is. Timberlake girlfriend Jessica Biel made her own appearance as the bounteous Jessica Rabbit, which provoked the logical response from Irving.
Single Ladies: Not content with his Weekend Update cameo, Timberlake proceeded to co-star in a sketch with the night's musical guest Beyonce, Samberg, and the nominal host that week, Paul Rudd, in a spoof of the instantly famous video for "Single Ladies." The three men play the dancers hired to accompany Beyonce in the video shoot. The star is skeptical, and even more so once the men begin writhing around without any attempt to coordinate with the song or with an increasingly frustrated Beyonce. The pleasure here was -- what else? -- seeing men in leotards. Timberlake, an excellent dancer when he's not camping it up, stole the sketch as he ended up stealing the whole episode out from under Rudd.