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How Much Do SNL Hosts Actually Get Paid?

If you're any kind of performer, you've probably wondered what it would be like to host "Saturday Night Live." In fact, even if you're not a performer — even if you're a devoted audience member every time you enjoy any kind of entertainment — you've likely allowed yourself the indulgence of imagining stepping up on that stage and delivering your monologue. You'd kill, too, with support from the talented cast members and the show's creator Lorne Michaels himself. If you're gonna dream, dream big, right?

Following in the footsteps of former hosts, you might get there by having already achieved fame (like Betty White, who became the show's oldest host when she appeared on Season 35, Episode 21, in 2010). Or, perhaps "SNL" might catapult you into the larger limelight (like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, best-known as a pro wrestler when he hosted Season 25, Episode 15, in 2000). Either way, you'd reap the rewards — which you might be surprised to learn include monetary compensation for the appearance.

"SNL" hosts get paid to do a job that tons of wannabes would happily take on for free? Indeed, they do. And that begs the question: Well, how much?

The answer begins back in the '70s

As it turns out, the rate for the position of "Saturday Night Live" host isn't set in stone. Back in 1977, the show held a contest called "Anyone Can Host," inviting literally anyone to enter with a humorously written postcard. A big prize was up for grabs, and Lorne Michaels went on the air to explain how it would work.

"The lucky winner will be flown to New York, put up at the swank Essex House Hotel, and get to meet and work with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players," he said (via NBC). "And you'll be paid the same $3,000 we pay any other host — or even the Beatles if only they'd show up."

$3,000 was nothing to sneeze at in the 1970s, especially for all the noncelebrities considering their big chance to win considerably more than 15 minutes of fame. And it had to be exciting to think Michaels' transparent announcement meant the winner would be paid on par with the likes of recent celebrity hosts Jodie Foster (Season 2, Episode 9), Steve Martin (Season 2, Episode 5), and Ray Charles (Season 3, Episode 5).

In the end, a complete unknown won the honor. 80-year-old Miskel Spillman from New Orleans hosted Season 3, Episode 8, the "SNL" Christmas show, on December 17, 1977. And she got the coveted $3,000 payout, too.

Hosting SNL: Priceless

That was then and this is now, however, and like any other employer, "Saturday Night Live" has had to raise its rates. It seems celebrities these days have to be lured away from other, more lucrative opportunities. And there's a certain secretiveness about it all since rumor has it the pay isn't the same for everyone.

Justin Timberlake, for one, appears to recognize an "SNL" hosting gig isn't all about the money. "It's a great opportunity for an entertainer like myself," he said after his third time hosting (via Entertainment Tonight). "It's the best five grand you can make on television. It's awesome."

So Timberlake earned a little less than double the "SNL" base pay of decades earlier. But is that enough to entice today's billionaire hosts, like Elon Musk (Season 46, Episode 18) and Kim Kardashian (Season 47, Episode 2)? Neither has opened up publicly about their compensation for hosting the show. But $5,000 is still money, after all, even if you've got heaps of it.

Perhaps they really are satisfied with a check that covers only the cost of a small clutch or half the cost of a space flight. With the chance to host TV's most iconic sketch comedy show hanging in the balance, wouldn't you be?