Steve Carell Was ‘Terrified’ the First Time He Hosted ‘SNL’ Despite Working With the Show For Years

Saturday Night Live is a juggernaut in the comedy world — even for seasoned stars. The launching pad of many fledgling comedy careersSNL also serves as a place for established actors to mount resurgences or communicate their continued relevance in pop culture. Acting as a host on the iconic weekly sketch comedy is often a badge of honor. While the coveted role comes with many perks, it’s also pretty nerve-wracking. Steve Carell was an established comedian with a long SNL-linked history. But stepping into hosting duties for the first time still left him “terrified.” 

Steve Carell first hosted ‘SNL’ in 2005

steve carell snl
Host Steve Carell on ‘Saturday Night Live’ in 2005 | Dana Edelson/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Steve Carell is an established comedic actor who has starred in hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and The Office. He’s also long served as the voice of Gru in the Despicable Me franchise. On his rise to fame, Carell first took on hosting duties for SNL in 2005. The well-timed appearance coincided with a serious increase in his star power that year with both 40-Year-Old Virgin and the first season of The Office

During the show, Carell appeared alongside Seth Meyers (then a regular cast member on SNL) in a bit that lampooned CNN. In the clip, Meyers appears in an impersonation of Anderson Cooper. As the popular news anchor, he provides coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s damage to New Orleans.

As Meyers plays Cooper interviewing various people reconstructing a house following the natural disaster, several other stars get to step in to provide impressions of celebrity do-gooders volunteering to help. Amy Poehler appears as Sharon Stone and Bill Hader (who was brand new to the cast) played Al Pacino. Steve Carell stepped in as Ray Romano. 

Steve Carell was ‘terrified’ to attempt an impression of Ray Romano

Carell and Meyers’ paths passed again much more recently. Now the host of Late Night with Seth Meyers, Meyers invited Carell to promote the release of Minions: Rise of Gru. Along the way, the two men chatted about that SNL skit all those years ago. 

Meyers revealed that the SNL writer’s room assumed Steve Carell would be a perfect fit for the sketch because he would surely have “a million celebrity impressions.” Carell, however, quickly corrected him: “Not the case.” He then added, “I don’t do impressions.” 

After Meyers shared a still from the scene, Carell reminisced. “I was terrified because, you know, I’d never done an impression, and SNL is predicated on impressions,” he explained. He then laughed as he remembered how terrible his first attempts at the role were. Meyers and Carell recalled that it didn’t get much better for the real thing. “I think that was the extent of it, too,” Meyers quipped as Carell attempted to do his best Ray Romano voice. “That was it,” Carell agreed.

Steve Carell’s history with ‘SNL’

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The writers room should be forgiven for assuming that Carell would be able to step into many impressions. After all, he’d had a long-standing history with SNL that involved providing voicework. As IMDb shows, Carell had been working with SNL since 1996 to provide the voice of Gary, one-half of the animated Ambiguously Gay Duo. (Stephen Colbert voiced Ace, the other member of the duo).

The cartoon sketch was a regular feature in the late 1990s. It then saw a few sporadic throwback episodes in later years. The most recent was in 2011.

Despite his terror at trying to do a celebrity impression, Carell stepped back into hosting duties for SNL multiple times. He appeared in the role again in May 2008 and November 2018.