Betty White Rejected 'SNL' Three Times Before Iconic 2010 Hosting Gig, Which She Ultimately 'Loved,' Agent Recalls

"It was one of the most incredible experiences — it truly, truly was," agent Jeff Witjas told PEOPLE following White's Dec. 31, 2021, death

A Facebook petition famously piqued Lorne Michaels' interest in getting Betty White to host SNL in 2010 — but it wasn't the first time the producer had the beloved actress on his radar.

In a 2010 chat with EW, Michaels recalled asking White to host several times between the '70s and '90s. "After three rejections, I stopped asking," he said.

Longtime agent and close friend Jeff Witjas finally convinced White to say yes in 2010, and once he got the green light, Michaels went all out, securing alumnae Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer and Maya Rudolph to join the fun on a Mother's Day Eve show.

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"It was one of the most incredible experiences — it truly, truly was," Witjas told PEOPLE following White's Dec. 31, 2021, death. "Betty didn't really want to go to New York to do it, but I said to her, 'You have to do it.' I mean, how could she not? And she trusted me."

RELATED PHOTOS: Why 2010 Was the Year of Betty White

Remembering the often brutal hours of the week — "I got tired watching her," Witjas shared — she was "an absolute pro," he added. "It was hilarious watching her in rehearsals go from one clothing change to another, because you have to do it within minutes, you can't take your time," he said. "But she loved it. She got into it, she embraced it, and they were great to her."

Betty White and Jay-Z
Betty White and JAY-Z ahead of May 8, 2010, SNL episode. NBC

JAY-Z was the musical guest that evening, and dedicated his performance of "Young Forever" to White, then 88 years old.

"We thought, this is an interesting mix," Michaels recalled to EW of the host and musical guest pairing. But "JAY-Z was excited about the idea of working with Betty — further proof that her influence is pervasive and enormous," he added.

In his tweet remembering White, former SNL writer and cast member Seth Meyers wrote she was "the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end."

Witjas corroborated that account.

"She stayed for a good long time because she really enjoyed her experience," he told PEOPLE. "We were up til maybe two, three o'clock that morning. It's a memory Betty and I would talk about a lot after."

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One specific memory Witjas had from the week was "a moment in her dressing room on Thursday night, after a long rehearsal, and still more rehearsal to go," he told PEOPLE. "Betty looked at me in a way I've never seen her look at me — just a look that said, 'Never again.' She didn't explain it, but I kind of thought I knew what she meant. I said, 'Okay,' and a minute after that, she went back to Betty White and never discussed it again. And she went on for the rest of the rehearsals and the rest of the week and had a fabulous time."

"It was one of the greatest weeks that Betty had, and that I had with her," Witjas continued. "You couldn't really top what she did. When we were flying home on that Sunday on the plane together, she said to me, 'Thank you. It was fabulous.' And as a friend and an agent, that was the best thing she could have said."

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