On Sunday night following his near-flawless—and rage-inducingly scored—short program at the figure-skating team event at the Olympics, Adam Rippon gave an iconic interview, replete with its own viral micro-moment.
Asked by NBC’s Andrea Joyce if his Olympic experience thus far has been what he expected, he gave a labored, histrionic, and haughty sigh. Then, channeling Miranda Priestly by way of Jack McFarland, he purred a dramatic, “Andrea…”
It was the gayest moment in U.S. sports history.
We’re being hyperbolic, sure. But it was unabashed. It was sassy. It was a little flaming, and it came after a badass display of undeniable—yet still slightly effeminate—athleticism and strength. All that, and it went viral. People loved it! That’s important!
Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson wrote about the meaningfulness of Rippon’s status as not only America’s first openly gay figure skater at the Olympics, but a folk-hero superstar at that—for our money, the masterfully landed triple in a sea of fallen quad essays on Rippon that have been written in recent weeks.
“Watching Rippon have his triumphant moment on Sunday night—and give a funny, frank interview afterward—I felt the kind of yearning for a celebrity that I haven’t felt since I was 17, half my life ago,” he wrote. “How strange to experience that while watching sports, an area of culture I’m usually pretty alienated from unless it’s Olympics time.”
Rippon is breaking boundaries not just because he’s an out athlete, but because he’s a star, one who is doing it on his terms with not an ounce of shame or expressed insecurity. It’s so clear to me what the boundary is that he needs to break out. For the love of God and Kristi Yamaguchi, book Adam Rippon as host on Saturday Night Live. The sooner, the better.
It’s a bit of a soft tradition for athletes to host Saturday Night Live soon after major sports accomplishments. Since 2000, John Cena, Charles Barkley, Michael Phelps, Eli Manning, Ronda Rousey, LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Jeff Gordon, Jonny Moseley, and Derek Jeter have all hosted, though freestyle skier Mosely is the only winter sports athlete.
Still, that’s 11 different athletes that have hosted. Collectively, they have less charisma than Rippon has in one of his (perfectly groomed) eyebrows.
The “Andrea…” interview could be its own SNL moment, should the sketch show decide to pay loving tribute to Rippon’s delightfully gregarious demeanor. Hell, why are we tip-toeing around it; he doesn’t. We’re talking about his gayness. Finally, we can talk about a sports star’s intrinsic gayness. We can joke about it. He jokes about it. Let’s do it from Studio 8H.
Literally everything he does burns across the internet with the fire of a flame-breathing unicorn. Tweets with Reese Witherspoon? Iconic. Shuts down a hater while citing RuPaul’s Drag Race? Legendary. Challenges Mike Pence? Hero. Interviewed by The New York Times and uses the opportunity to put ass-truthers on blast? Queen. Cites the desire for a Xanax and a drink while on a televised Olympic interview? Adam Rippon, you are all of us.
Hell, the guy merely sighed and it went viral.
He’s turned all of American into armchair experts in the specific lunacy of figure-skating scoring, owed to the communal fury over the fact that the two skaters who scored above him both fell doing jumps, in comparison to Rippon’s exquisitely clean program—a quirk owed to the fact that more points are earned for attempting botched quad jumps than landing perfect triples.
(We’ve vented about it before and we’ll do it again: If you fall doing a quad you should not get more points than the guy who landed a flawless triple! You shouldn’t get rewarded just for saying you’re gonna do something you can’t do. “Dang, I guess I messed it up but that was definitely supposed to be a septuple toe loop.”)
NBC’s ratings have been unexpectedly strong these games, an Olympic feat in its own right in the days of peak TV and borderline nonexistent live viewing. The lion’s share of that is owed to audiences tuning in for the star power of the athletes, and no American in Pyeongchang is more worthy of his name on a blinding neon marquee than Rippon.
Of course, the reasons why this is tough sell are perhaps just as obvious as why NBC should already be negotiating his booking.
SNL’s track record featuring openly gay hosts is as dismal as any entertainment entity’s track record is on such things, made even more difficult to gauge without deeper research into when hosts actually came out publicly. Going back just 10 years, Kristen Stewart, Jim Parsons, Miley Cyrus, Jane Lynch, Elton John, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ellen Page all hosted, though some, like Page, before they were publicly out.
It’s not that we’re presuming any sort of anti-gay bias in the late-night institution. It’s just that it’s talent pool does reflect a mainstream swing that tends to deny opportunity and visibility to LGBTQ performers.
That said, the show has become increasingly queer. Kate McKinnon, of course, is gay. Chris Kelly, who was head writer from 2016-2017, was the show’s first openly gay scribe to hold that top position. Recent segments have paid homage to the Real Housewives star Erika Jayne and RuPaul’s Drag Race, while perhaps the show’s biggest rising star is actually behind the scenes, up-and-coming writer Julio Torres. In fact, in Torres the show has the perfect pairing of writer to hone material worthy of Rippon that manages to lean into Rippon’s queerness with being insensitive or offensive.
There’s another roadblock to consider, too. As TVLine’s Michael Ausiello outlined at the end of 2016, SNL has a measurable bias against booking TV stars as hosts, with, at the time, only 20 percent of guests coming from the small screen. (Of the 25 episodes that aired since that article published, only three have been hosted by TV stars.) That matters because, as much as he’s a famous athlete, Rippon might be the biggest star on NBC right now. Would that bias extend to him?
Listen, Rippon hosting will be fun. There’s politics to weigh in on, with his sparring with Pence. (Imagine some sort of homoerotic sketch between the two of them.) There’s a willingness to laugh at himself, too. It’s just time we’ve had a night of TV like this. After all, can there be true equality on television if the gays talents aren’t squandered on faux-edgy sketch comedy? We deserve the right to that, too.