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Miskel Spillman (September 8, 1897 - March 30, 1992) was the winner of the first and only "Anyone Can Host" contest on NBC's late-night variety series Saturday Night Live, and hosted the December 17, 1977 broadcast of the show.

Role in SNL historyEdit

An 80-year-old German immigrant and grandmother from New Orleans, Spillman for many years held the record as the oldest host in SNL's history (two weeks older than Ruth Gordon when she hosted). The record is expected to be broken on May 8, 2010 by 88-year-old Betty White. Spillman still remains the only non-celebrity to host the program.

The "Anyone Can Host" contestEdit

The contest was first mentioned on the October 8, 1977 episode (hosted by Madeline Kahn) by producer Lorne Michaels himself giving the rules and address.

Contest rulesEdit

The contest required entrants to submit a postcard (no letters) with a 25-word essay to a designated address by November 1, 1977 stating why they would like to host Saturday Night Live. The five people whose essays were deemed the funniest by Michaels and the cast would be flown to New York for an appearance.

Michaels stated on the October 8 show that absolutely zero bias would be held against entrants, and only required them to have "talent and a strong belief in [themselves]". He further stated that a potential entrant spotting himself or a cast member and handing their essay to them would be immediately disqualified.

First appearanceEdit

Spillman appeared with the four other contest finalists, selected out of around 150,000 essay contest applicants, on the November 19 broadcast hosted by Buck Henry and won the subsequent write-in vote. In her essay she wrote "I need one more cheap thrill, since my doctor told me I only have another 25 years left." Among the other contestants were Richard F. Kneip, then the incumbent Governor of South Dakota.

As the five contestants were introduced, Spillman would introduce herself as "I'm Miskel Spillman; I'm old." This would invoke the biggest audience reaction.

Despite the continued stating of zero bias, Garrett Morris expressed disdain that none of the finalists were African-American during the opening of the November 19 show.

Saturday Night Live starring Miskel SpillmanEdit

Spillman's appearance as host (the Season 3 Christmas episode) began with a joke involving cast member John Belushi and herself sharing a joint, followed by a marijuana-induced obsession with a bowl of fruit (going so far as to swat away Buck Henry's hands whenever he tried to grab the bowl).

As per the norm regarding SNL hosts, Spillman attended rehearsals and appeared in some sketches. She was also paid the then-usual host's salary of $3,000 (promoted during the contest's duration).

Elvis CostelloEdit

Spillman's episode was notable for musical guest Elvis Costello, who aborted his scheduled performance of "Less Than Zero" after thirty seconds and performed "Radio Radio", a then-unreleased song critical of the broadcast establishment, instead.

Life following SNL experienceEdit

In a 1989 interview with People at the age of 92, Spillman stated that she still watched the show and was a fan of the current cast, "especially that fella in the dress" – referring to Dana Carvey's Church Lady character. Spillman further expressed an interest in hosting again, noting that she still had 13 years left to live.

ReferencesEdit

FootnotesEdit

Preceded by
Mary Kay Place
Saturday Night Live Host
December 17, 1977
Succeeded by
Steve Martin

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