If there were ever a show that got the “simple is best” memo, it’s Hot Ones. The hilarious series is little more than host Sean Evans interviewing a celebrity over a tray of increasingly spicy chicken wings.
Fourteen seasons strong, Hot Ones has become something of a YouTube sensation. Like Between Two Ferns or some of the best episodes of Seinfeld, the show derives its comic gold from seemingly nothing it all. There’s spontaneity, surprisingly interesting small talk, and occasional revelation or two, all set to the requisite watering eyes and nose blowing that come with eating hot wings. Guests routinely forget the questions that are posited, thrown off completely by the intensity of the hot sauces.
With such a foolproof foundation, there really are no bad Hot Ones episodes. But because it’s so guest dependent, certain shows stand high above the crowd. Here are the best of the bunch, so far.
Most people find JT quite likable and this episode fully solidifies that. Timberlake is candid and charming and even rates his own albums after a few bites of some spicier chicken. Watching him try to hold it together towards the end is what Hot Ones is all about.
It’s tough not to throw Will Ferrell in any list involving laughter. While this episode starts out a bit cagey, it really opens up a few wings in. Ultimately, Ferrell is his freewheeling self and clearly can’t cope with some of the spicier wings, sipping milk often. “I’m glad I’ve already had all three of my children,” Ferrell says before patting some XXX sauce on a wing. “Because this will render you impotent.”
In fairness, Shaquille O’Neal would probably be funny even if he was just sitting in front of a camera reading Chaucer. Regardless, this episode from season eight is fantastic, fit with Shaq packing his own gallon of milk on to the set. The former basketball star’s faces while devouring the chicken are priceless and the guy is clearly a well-trained ham, built for the camera. Sadly, the big fella can’t get through all ten wings, which places him on the show’s hall of shame list.
Viewers know they’re in for a good episode when Johansson begins to feel the kick from the hot sauce just a couple of bites in. You come away just wanting to have a beer with the actress (in fact, she slams one in the show). She even drops one of the greatest lines in all of Hot Ones in “it’s like Christmas in my mouth, all that explosive cheer.” Her bites get increasingly smaller and by the end she has the full on spicy wiggles.
It’s nice to see Trevor Noah in the hot seat, as The Daily Show host is usually the one doing the interviewing. Noah drops some serious knowledge — and opinions — trash talking beef jerky, championing political satire, and encounters with Chrissy Teigen. There’s even a great anecdote about being stuck on a rollercoaster. Oh, and he admits that his favorite kind of spicy food is the kind that dances across his tongue like Fred Astaire.
Some guests are so good they came back for seconds. Russell Brand’s first appearance on season three of Hot Ones is delightful, touching on a whole galaxy of topics and showcasing the actor as the brainy, witty rock star that he is. Evans and his guest shoot the shit about soccer, Trump, Diddy, fatherhood, shagging, and much more.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is a tremendous Hot Ones guest. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of space talk, set to funny quips about the various sauces. Tyson is as convivial as they come, chatting about fine wine and dropping some glorious science en route. Never would you expect the guy to say something like, “I took two bites, bitch!”
Comedian Pete Davidson admits right from the get-go that he’s not cut out for spicy food. The wings deliver one blow after another, in between riffs about Keanu Reeves, paparazzi, weed, and baseball. By the end, Davidson is clearly struggling, in knee-slapping fashion.
Comedian Wanda Sykes has a brilliant strategy for getting through the wings, cooling herself with a small fan. You learn a lot about the guest’s background, including her former stint as a government employee. The wings tend to sneak up on Sykes and the way she deals is so relatable (you can practically taste it as she soldiers through) and so watchable.
Having Steve O on the show makes perfect sense as the guy has made a fortune dealing in self-inflicted pain. The former Jackass star tells some mind-boggling stories that make you wonder how the guy is still walking and talking on planet Earth. He even gets a call from Johnny Knoxville while on set, while eating vegan wings.
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