From good old gal Betty White to the youngest Five Timer member Justin Timberlake, the SNL special's guest stars had us gasping for air in between all our giggles

By Lanford Beard
Updated February 16, 2015 05:10 PM
Credit: Dana Edelson/NBC

Saturday Night Live‘s 40th anniversary had enough star power to light up all of Manhattan. Even at three and a half hours long, some of the much-hyped appearances left us wanting more – in a good way. Whether their sketches were sentimental or sidesplitting, five celebrity regulars and five SNL vets stood out from the remarkable pack.


5. Betty White
Feisty and funny as ever at age 93, White swooped into the characteristically uneven “Californians” skit and delivered one of the night’s buzziest moments. The old gal’s still got it – just ask her make-out buddy Bradley Cooper.

4. Zach Galifianakis
Years later, Galifianakis (whose audition can be seen at 3:32 below) has recovered from the fact that he didn’t pass Lorne Michaels‘s initial inspect. In fact, he came back to host and introduce one of the funniest montages of the night – more on that later. Safe to say, those scratch-and-sniff head shots no longer smell “like failure and onions.”

3. Melissa McCarthy
While Emma Stone and Edward Norton offered up great tributes to their favorite characters (Roseanne Roseannadanna and Stefon, respectively), McCarthy’s continued commitment to any and every character or gag puts her a head above her Oscar-nominated “Weekend Update” costars. If there is anyone who can inherit the comedic mantle of the late Chris Farley, it’s McCarthy all the way, and her loving homage to Matt Foley proved it.

2. Alec Baldwin
There’s a reason Baldwin holds the record for SNL hosting stints. Alongside Tina Fey, Baldwin struck a delicate balance while honoring their 30 Rock costar Tracy Morgan, who was involved in a horrific car accident last June that prevented him from attending Sunday’s anniversary show.

1. Justin Timberlake
Step 1: You put this guy on your show …. Timberlake’s charm on SNL is unstoppable – especially when he’s partnered with his kindred spirit Jimmy Fallon. Timberlake is the youngest member of the Five Timers club, which is all the better for viewers since he shows no signs of stopping as he sings, dances and goofs his way toward Baldwin’s record.


5. Jon Lovitz
He’s not dead. Really! Just think about it: Who else had a running gag dedicated to them? Lovitz or hate it, the ornery late-’80s cast member is here to stay.

4. Ellen Cleghorne
Over time, Cleghorne has become one of the more underappreciated utility players from SNL‘s glorious early ’90s. She hasn’t had the success of many of her contemporaries, but she had the unenviable task of once again confronting SNL‘s diversity issue (at 3:38 below). She pulled it off, even in the face of Jerry Seinfeld‘s Sahara-dry Q&A delivery. In a segment that was mostly good for spotting famous faces in the crowd, Cleghorne’s was a welcome sight.

3. Will Ferrell, Norm Macdonald & Darrell Hammond (TIE)
The holy trinity of game-show parody, these three come in a set. They play off each other spectacularly and coined at least a few meme-worthy phrases during the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch. We’ll take Le Tits Now for $200, Alex.

2. Maya Rudolph
Who runs the world? Rudolph. One of the best female impressionists in SNL history, she looked fierce (Sasha Fierce) when embodying Beyoncé. It was nothing less than flawless, and she stole the scene from a to-the-rafters performer like Martin Short (not to mention a parade of actual musicians).

1. Adam Sandler
As a sort of schlub auteur, Sandler has been stuck in a creative rut for years. His appearance on SNL, both reviving the beloved Opera Man and the original “That’s When You Break” in collaboration with Andy Samberg, was a much-needed reminder of the clever shtick Sandler once employed to catapult himself to superstardom.