Q&A with Alec Baldwin 16-time host of 'SNL'

Alec Baldwin

Peter Kramer

LOS ANGELES -- Alec Baldwin, 53, might just be NBC's hardest-working employee:

He appears in his Emmy- winning role as network executive Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock" and is in for another stint as host on "Saturday Night Live" tonight for a record-setting 16th time.

Q. When you hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 1994, you said you could do it with your eyes closed. Does that remain true today?

A. "SNL" and I are like a well-oiled machine. I find the one issue is to save your energy.

It's an intense week of prep.

By Saturday night at 11:30, I want to say, "Can I just lie down and you can start without me?"

But they throw cold water on me and slap me across the face.

Q. You recently said you gave up sugar. Where's all that energy going to come from?

A. When you climb the Himalayas, you can't pack your backpack full of Twinkies now, can you? This is my 16th climb on the comedy

Kilimanjaro, and I will have no Twinkies in my backpack this time. Every time I do it, I say to myself, "is this it?" I want to make sure, if this is my last one, that it's going to be good.

Q. It can't be the last one! What if Steve (Martin, who has hosted many times) takes your title?

A. Steve is what -- about 20 years older than I am, isn't he? I'm 53, so Steve is almost 80. I think I have the edge in terms of the clock.

Q. And he doesn't have an ice-cream flavor to brag about. (Ben and Jerry's recently launched a flavor named after a Baldwin "SNL" skit.)

A. I'm sure he's coming up with some banjo-related flavor or some bluegrass bonbon flavor. He's always thinking.

Q. Did you know you're a question on those NBC tours because of all the "SNL" hosting?

A. I'd like to think that I have some place in the fabric of NBC's history. I'm not Johnny Carson or Katie Couric, but I've done ("30 Rock") for six years and "SNL." I actually started my career (there) doing a soap opera, so I have a lot of NBC on my resume. For me to now be a question during a building tour, it makes sense.

Q. Do you think the on-your-toes aspect of "SNL" has been good training for your political aspirations?

A. On a serious note, that's something I've always thought about doing. ... When you do a show everybody likes, when it's successful critically, it's almost like everyone forgets everything else that you do. A lot of what's done on "30 Rock" and "SNL" is silly and vulgar and outrageous.

When you go into public office, you've got to say to yourself, and to the public: Now begins the period where what I say is on the record as a public official as opposed to a public figure.

When you get paid from taxpayers and you have your finger on a budget that is taxpayer money, there's a different responsibility than what I do now.

If I were to get in politics, I always envision people replaying scenes in an attempt to characterize me and unsubstantiate me.

You have to kind of scrub all that off you and present yourself with a fresh coat of paint.

Q. You've mentioned in previous interviews that while you love acting, you want a different life at some point.

A. I am doing the show for one more year. When that's over, I want to give myself a period of time to really just think about what I want to do. Because everything has been so predetermined. I had a six-year contract with the show.

When I think about the future, sometimes the process is not just A, B or C. I'm allowing for a D, which is, "Who knows?"

I know that acting and being in the public ... and having what you do be judged all the time is something I don't see myself doing for a lifetime.

The acting is fun -- it's everything around it that's a lot less fun. All the things that come with having a public life have become a lot more precarious.