Betty White: Hosting ‘Saturday Night Live’ Was a ‘Terrifying Proposition’ She Rejected 3 Times

Late television icon Betty White once revealed she rejected offers to host Saturday Night Live three times before something special changed her mind. What made her decide to take on the gig she called a “terrifying proposition”?

(l-r) Betty White, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Ana Gasteyer on 'Saturday Night Live'
Betty White on ‘Saturday Night Live’ | Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Betty White feared she’d be like a ‘fish out of water’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’

White is a television legend but she felt she had certain limitations when it came to performing for SNL. Some of that had to do with where she was from — California. In her book, If You Ask Me, she wrote how she feared she’d be “like a fish out of water on such a New York-oriented show.”

So, she turned offers down three times and said she never gave the decision another thought. That was until 2010 when a collective demand for her to host the show caught the attention of her agent.

Betty White accepted ‘Saturday Night Live’ hosting gig because fans and her agent wanted it

The Golden Girls star couldn’t say no to the offer any longer once she found out that fans were politely asking for her to be a host of SNL. A Facebook campaign called “Betty White to Host SNL (Please)” gathered almost half a million votes between January and March in 2010, as she noted in her book.

Soon, her friend and agent, Jeff Witjas, brought her another offer from Lorne Michaels to host the show. Flattered as she seemingly was, she still objected to the idea for the same reasons she had before. But she said Witjas wasn’t taking no for an answer that time.

Eventually, she was off to New York over her own “strong (and desperate) objections.”

Betty White worried about the cue card ‘eye switch’ on ‘Saturday Night Live’

One thing White pointed out as a bit of an immediate obstacle was the cue card process used on SNL. “That only added panic,” she noted in If You Ask Me. According to her, the week of hosting started with about 40 sketches that were gradually narrowed down to the small selection that actually aired.

“Normally, I memorize my lines. But with forty plus sketches to weed out, that was impossible, and I was told we’d be using cue cards,” the beloved icon shared. Unfortunately, she said the notion was “anathema” to her — or something that she strongly disliked.

She was concerned that reading would create a distraction. “Even some of the most accomplished actors around have that eye switch that is so distracting,” she wrote. “And these are stellar actors!”

On top of the cue cards, White admitted that moving around for frequent, rapid costume changes was a bit overwhelming. This prompted her to glare at Witjas as she could in the process of making the show. “I didn’t know you could look that fierce,” she said he told her of the looks she gave him.

However, in the end, she admitted that it was an “exciting and incomparable experience” that brought her a seventh Emmy Award. Thanks to the role her agent took in making it all happen, she concluded, “Truth be told, [Witjas] absolutely should have accepted the award.”

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