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article imageBetty White celebrates Mother's Day hosting 'Saturday Night Live' Special

By Earl Dittman     May 7, 2010 in Entertainment
To host this year's Mother's Day edition, Saturday Night Live enlisted Betty White, the 88-year-old comedienne, to entertain several generations of SNL fans. And the iconic White is ready to jam with Jay-Z and chat with the Church Lady for her SNL debut.
From her gigs on live game shows and prime-time variety series in the '50s and '60s and her legendary performances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls to her unforgettable, critically-acclaimed and scene-stealing role in this past summer's Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy, The Proposal, Betty White is still making audiences laugh in her sixth decade in show business.
And, on Saturday, May 8, Betty White brings her own unique brand of comedy to a very different audience – fans of Saturday Night Live. “Believe me, I've been around so long I don't think there’s much I haven't done,” Betty says with a laugh. “But doing Saturday Night Live is definitely going to be a challenge for me.”
However, hosting SNL's Mother's Day Special (with Jay-Z as the special musical guest) wasn't White's first idea of how to enjoy a relaxing weekend night. “I was asked a couple of times years ago, and I said, 'Thank you, but no thank you,'' she recalls. “This time my agent put a firm hand in the middle of my back and pushed and said, 'You've got to do it.'”
It wasn't until her longtime agent jokingly threatened to divorce her as a client that Betty agreed to do the late-night show. “Oh, believe me, I would have loved to just be able to continue to watch it and never have to do it – it’s an intimidating assignment let’s put it that way,” White says of her hosting duties.”With Saturday Night Live, first of all, it’s so New York and I'm so California, so I kind of a fish out of water.” But after meeting the cast and getting a feel for the material, White is now more than ready to take on the challenge of appearing on SNL. “As long as I'm committed to do it, I’ll be there and I want to make it a fun adventure,” says White, whose new sitcom, Hot In Cleveland, begins in June. “I'm going to make it fun. But, between us, I'm scared to death.”
During a conference call from her Los Angeles home, just last week, White talked about her initial hesitancy in doing SNL, her growing excitement over hosting the show, her feelings about The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, using her fame to assist her animal charities, her thoughts about pal Sandra Bullock's break-up and where she picked up her bawdy sense of humor.
Betty White with castmate Kristen Wiig on the  SNL  set
Betty White with castmate Kristen Wiig on the 'SNL' set
What are your feelings about doing live television like Saturday Night Live?“ Well, I grew up in live television. So that’s no problem. I was on 5-1/2 hours a day, six days a week for four years when I started my career in Los Angeles. So I love live television.”
You said that your agent said he would divorce you if you didn’t agree to host Saturday Night Live. Why do you he think it was so important that you take advantage of this opportunity? “Well, at my age, I’m an old broad. And at my age, to be invited to do a show as current and choice as Saturday Night Live he thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a different direction to go in. And I said I’d rather watch it than do it. And he said 'No, no, no!' So I trust his judgment. He’s done a wonderful job for me. So here I am, going to do it and scared to death.”
Jay-Z is going to be the musical guest while you host Saturday Night Live. Are you excited to have him on the show with you? “Oh, I’m thrilled to meet him and thrilled to hear that he’s going to be on the show because he’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. I've listened to his music and really like it, so I know I will certainly enjoy him. I hope that we get along well.”
Were there any subjects that producer Lorne Michaels of SNL ran by you, just to see if there was something you absolute didn’t want to do on the show? Or is everything fair game? “All I know is I have veto power if it’s something I really don’t want to do. And they promised me I wouldn’t have to do any nudity.(laughs) There is one thing I won't do, I don't do dope jokes. I don't think dope is funny or fun or whatever.”
I've been told you'll be perfect for Saturday Night Live because I understand you have a risque sense of humor. Is that really the real you? “I’ve always had a bawdy sense of humor. My father was a traveling salesman and he would bring jokes home and he’d tell and they’d never explain them to me. If I got them, that was fine. If I didn’t that was fine. (laughs) But he’d say, 'Honey you can take that one to school, but I wouldn’t take that one to school.' (laughs) And so but it was always both my mom and dad had a wonderful sense of humor. And we would even get through some of the grim times by at least keeping a little sense of humor. It sure beats the alternative.”
Betty White at home
Betty White at home
Is there anybody from the history of Saturday Night Live that you would love to do a skit with? “I love the church lady (Dana Carvey). I don’t know why. She always just tickled me pink. But I’m thrilled that they are bringing back the gals who have hosted before. It means I’ll have wonderful people to work with.”
Did you go through any special regimen or preparation in order to be in a fighting spirit for a late night Saturday night show. Are you’re doing anything special to get in shape to just make sure that your body clock is ready for the long hours? “Oh, I’m a stay up late or get up early kind of gal. If I get four, five good hours a night is all the sleep I need. I’m blessed with good energy, thanks to being blessed with good health. So the physical part of Saturday Night doesn’t worry me at all. It’s just the hoping I can do justice to all those other great people who were on there.”
You have had such a long and successful career and you’ve worked with so many amazing people. Many of of them aren’t with us anymore. If you could bring someone back to do some scenes, segments or scenes with on SNL, who would it be? “Allen Ludden.” (The late, longtime host of Password and her husband of 18 years).
Would you be in favor of a Golden Girls remake at some point? And if so, who do you think should play Rose? “Oh isn’t that funny? Who? Well, Mae West is gone. (laughs) I really have never given it any thought. But it’s an interesting question, and I’ll brood on it. And I’ll try to come up with somebody. But I can’t right off the top of my head.”
Are you surprised with the appeal you have with such a young audience, people that weren’t even born when Golden Girls was still on the air? “Well the amazing thing is, and with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, too, some of the kids grew up with me, but their parents also grew up with me and in many cases their grandparents grew up with me. I’ve just sort of been around as a fixture. When I do a book signing or anything like that, the kids come up and they weren’t born when Mary Tyler Moore came on. And now as you say, even when Golden Girls was on the air they hadn’t been born yet. But that’s what comes of good writing. The writing on both those shows were great. That’s what keeps bringing them back and makes them work for any generation because it’s funny.”
Since you and Sandra Bullock are such close friends and had a great time this summer doing The Proposal, I was just wondering what is your your reaction to Sandy filing for divorce from Jesse? “I love her dearly. And her personal life is her business, not certainly mine and not anybody else’s”.
What do you think is more important to you, your actual celebrity or the fact that you’re able to use your celebrity to contribute to your animal charities? “Oh, I think helping the animals is - that’s the lovely upside of any celebrity that happens. Because people tend to listen and you can spread the word about, you know, loving animals and treating them properly and caring for them. I'm not an animal activist. I'm not into anything political or demonstrations or anything like that. I'm just into animal health and welfare. And have been with the Morris Animal Foundation, a health organization for 45 years and with the Los Angeles Zoo for 45 years. So over the years of enjoying show business we've been able to help the animals. That’s great.
Being such a icon, what does non-stop adulation do to a person’s system? “Well, it’s not to my system. It blows my mind. No I’m blessed with good health and I’m grateful for it. And my energy level is very high. But I can’t get over at my age (89) what all is going on. So all I can do is roll with the punch and enjoy it thoroughly and be grateful for it.”
Betty White and Jay-Z on the set of  SNL
Betty White and Jay-Z on the set of 'SNL'
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