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It’s hard to believe that Saturday Night Live has been on the air for 40 seasons. During that time, cast members have come and gone, many different types of sketches have made people laugh and a few memorable traditions have come to pass. One of these is related to the 5-Timer milestone that few SNL hosts ever get to be a part of. In short, any host who steps onto the stage for the fifth time enters a secret 5-Timers club. It’s a wonderful little wink that’s referenced now and again, and rather than a writer or longtime showrunner Lorne Michaels, the concept was apparently invented by Tom Hanks.
Excerpts from a recent interview with Lorne Michaels were posted by the NY Times, including Lorne's revelation that it was Hanks’ idea to create the club ...
The Five-Timers Club started with Tom Hanks. It was his idea, actually, that there was this private club where only the people who had hosted five times just met up and spent time.
That probably won’t come as a shock to hardcore fans who remember the original sketch from all the way back in Season 15 when Tom Hanks entered the club. Still, it’s always a bit thrilling to find out a host devised something so brilliant. Reading between the lines, it has always seemed like a good percentage of weekly guests don’t do a whole lot other than complain and push for sketches that are awkward or unfunny.
You can remind yourself of the brilliance below…
In recent years, the 5-Timers Club actually returned to prominence when Justin Timberlake hosted. The sketch happened in March of 2013, the musician was set to host his fifth episode on the popular series, and during his monologue, he entered the exclusive club alongside Paul Simon, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Candace Bergen (the first female member), Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd playing the bartender (the best he could do having only hosted once). It was a great moment, and it holds up really well.
Check it out below…
Lorne Michaels went on to tell the Times that the show is constantly being shaped and reshaped by cast members and hosts.
I think the influences become part of the show, and you see that the traditions just live on.
From the mind of Tom Hanks and the nerdy SNL devotion of Justin Timberlake, the idea has carried on. Recently, Ben Affleck joined the club, although no one bothered to be on hand to celebrate, poor guy. Instead Bobby Moynihan offered to sing the “5-Timers Club” theme song, which was nonsense. But if you need a refresher.
The key to Saturday Night Live is how it both evolves and stays the same. The basic format never changes. A host. A musical guest. “Weekend Update”. Even the way the show has put together in terms of the writing and the rehearsing are basically the same, but the material and the sense of humor evolve. It grows and changes with each generation, with each president and with each economy. That’s why the 5-Timers Club means something because even if Justin Timberlake and Candance Bergen don’t have much in common, their contributions and importance to the show are just as timeless.