'SNL' Recap: Edward Norton Unveils '12 Days Not a Slave' (Video)
The actor also stars in a Wes Anderson horror film and welcomes surprise guests Alec Baldwin and Miley Cyrus.
Edward Norton can finally add Saturday Night Live host to his résumé.
Norton joked he'd been preparing for 13 years to host SNL, saying in his opening monologue that Lorne Michaels asked him to host back in 2000. The star said he told Michaels he was a method actor and would need 13 years to prepare, and that's what he'd been doing ever since. Later in the monologue, veteran hosts Alec Baldwin and Miley Cyrus stopped by to give Norton some advice, with Cyrus saying sticking one's tongue out is essential to success, and Baldwin wondering if his first time hosting marked a downward turn for his career.
"I was worried the first time I hosted in 1991," Baldwin said. "I was a huge movie star. Now 15 times later I host a show on MSNBC. Did I make a mistake?"
Impressively, Norton was in nearly every sketch, as well as a prerecorded trailer for a Wes Anderson horror film in which the actor played Owen Wilson. The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders featured Norton's character observing psychotic killers stalking his house. And it was all shot in a trademark Wes Anderson style, with references to The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox and other Anderson classics.
Norton also helped lampoon Steve McQueen's acclaimed 12 Years a Slave, with Jay Pharoah playing a former slave who has been free for 12 days thanks to the Emancipation Proclamation. Pharoah's character entered a bar full of white people, thinking they would all be as happy as he was about his newfound freedom, while Norton played his friend, fearful for the freed slave's life as he hit on white women and tried to reconnect with a former master.
At one point, Pharoah began to dance in joy, to which Norton warned: "Do not let white people see you dance. Once they see you dance, they will try to dance like you." Cue the return of Cyrus, clad in 1860s clothing and booty dancing.
SNL's cold open mocked the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (Kate McKinnon) remarking that millions of Americans had flocked to the site, which was a problem because it had only been designed to handle six visitors.
If people had complaints, Sebelius said they could send a postcard to the government, promising they would receive a response in six to eight weeks. She then pulled out some of the items the government would send to help -- a grab bag of 1990s software including a trial version of the 1995 Encarta Encyclopedia and a CD-Rom for 1,000 hours of AOL.
During his opening monologue, Baldwin challenged Norton to perform a number of celebrity impressions, including Woody Allen and Ian McKellen. He later tried his hand at Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man character in a sketch in which he played a savant with a supposedly freakish ability to count.
Saturday Night Live is new next week with host Kerry Washington and musical guest Eminem.