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Too Big to Fail: In Defense of Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga’s SNL Hosting Gig

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Why two gigantic stars with no comedy experience will be worth watching.

Justin Timberlake will host Saturday Night Live this weekend with Lady Gaga as the musical guest, which is interesting — even for people who loudly claim to have no interest in Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, or even SNL. And if the internet has anything to say about it, you will end up watching a clip from that show, even if some jerk has to splice it into your smarmy torrent of the final episode of Terriers. (Douche move, internet!)

It's happening tomorrow night. And it will probably be good. Don't dismiss Timberlake; that was passé the first two times you did it, and now we don't even know what it is. And don't write off Lady Gaga either — we're pretty sure there's some clause in her celebrity mission statement that makes her invincible to that sort of thing. (Good thinking on her part.) So just enjoy an hour of sketch comedy and music where two absurdly famous people perform live in front of hi-def cameras for millions of people, because even if the writing is shitty this week, even if the costume-to-song quality is askew as usual, it's still good television. Here's why two of our biggest superstars will deliver, in some capacity, on Saturday night.

Justin Timberlake might not actually care.

You were pretty stunned the first time Justin Timberlake hosted and actually delivered. Beforehand, you were all "danceypants" this and "no talent" that. And then he put on an omelet suit and sang a bunch of songs about food and you were sold. Bizarre, right? How many times has someone with actual comedic chops hosted (recent example: Ed Helms) and disappointed — your expectations were too high, or he just fell flat, or the writing wasn’t very good, or they don’t put him in enough sketches for some strange reason. And how many times has SNL taken a mega-superstar like Elton John — whom you also think is too big to fail and who has the added comedy bonus of being super-British and very queen-y — and then only put him in a bunch of gay-queen sketches, so you're just like, "Oh."

But then they tap someone like Justin Timberlake. The first time he hosted, no one thought would be a comic virtuoso, he wasn't going to be made or broken by this appearance, and he was dating Scarlett Johansson. All those factors added up to a recipe for confidence. By contrast, there's nothing less funny than that fearful eye-blinky, visibly-hurt-by-the-audience's-reaction, standing-out-in-front-of-actual-seasoned-comic-actors insecurity that plagues a good many hosts. (There's also the beautiful deer-eyed dolt way of being unfunny, which January Jones showed us last year. Sorry, January!)

The truth is, the guy wears many hats, all stylish. He has his finger in a lot of quality-entertainment pies. Timberlake might enjoy this, but he does not need this. He is an all-around handsome person, and an actor in an Academy Award-winning film. He will wear a leotard and do something gay. He does not give a shit. And that’s why we love him.

Lady Gaga will be utilized and it will be weird.

Remember this not particularly well-acted or well-rehearsed gem from the last time Lady Gaga appeared on SNL? Yes, you do, because she was wearing a see-through shorts-thing and Madonna was in it. It was great, and that’s exactly what I'm talking about: no one wonders if, secretly, Lady Gaga is going to surprise everyone and do a killer Hillary Rodham Clinton or something. Lady Gaga doing Lady Gaga isn't even that convincing. But her alien makeup is pretty neat, right?

Lady Gaga is an arch parody of celebrity, and an actual celebrity, and if you try to point out the holes in her identity, then you have missed the point (or something). But you also don't have to assume that Gaga is creating a constellation of meaning with her dance-stomping and her big, silly costumes. She's more like a military tanker. Don't fuck with it, just assume work is getting done. And if work, to her, is confusing us all with her aluminum body rings, then that's okay! It might not be sketch comedy, it might not even be funny (it'll be kind of funny), but it's definitely good TV.