The Best and Worst of Saturday Night Live

- wadE

Live from New's Saturday Night!!!

(for an updated version of this post, go here)

I remember when I was growing up waiting patiently for the 10:00 news to end so I could hear those words. I looked forward to every Saturday so I could stay up late and watch Saturday Night Live.

I also remember hating when the first musical act came on. Why? Because it meant the first third of the show was done, and the first third was always the funniest; with the second third being hit and miss; and the last half hour just absolutely sucking.

I distinctly remember watching episodes as far back as 1983...but thanks to Comedy Central's incessant repeats of SNL, I have an appreciation for all 28 years of the show.

Anyway, the reason I bring this all up is that I heard an interesting question on the radio a few weeks ago. Name your top three SNL cast members. I paused, "Hmmmm, who would that be..." Almost immediately the idiots I was listening to blurted out that it has to be Chris Farley.


Some other idiot gave mention to Steve Martin. While Steve Martin appeared several times on SNL (hosted 12 times), he was never a cast member.

To figure out who are the top SNL cast members, one must first learn who ARE the SNL cast members. Below is a list and description/critique of the cast members of SNL, appearing in alphabetical order.

NOTE: There are several cast members who spent time as "Featured Players" before becoming an official "Cast Member". Most notably is Mike Myers who was a Featured Player from 1988 - 1992. For purposes of this list, I will only include Featured Players who eventually became cast members. So no Ben Stiller, no Damon Wayans, and no A. Whitney Brown. Sorry. Hey, even Al Franken is left off this list...


Dan Aykroyd .... (1975-1979)
One word, Bass-o-matic! Dan Aykroyd was fantastic on SNL, but really made himself a household name for his movies. Even those old re-runs make me laugh. It's also amazing how he's been able to live off the character of Elwood Blues for more than 20 years.

Morwenna Banks .... (1995)
I gotta be honest...I have no idea who this is, and even after an internet search, I still don't know. Upon further digging, turns our Morweena was a late season replacement in '95 and was part of just 4 shows. At least that explains why I had no idea who she was.

James Belushi .... (1983-1985) (as Jim Belushi)
Nowhere near as funny as his brother. Best known for staring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Heat, and opposite a dog in K-9. He even now has his own sitcom...but it's on ABC...which is slowly sliding behind FOX into 4th place among the networks!

John Belushi .... (1975-1979)
The original Chris Farley, and saying that insults John beyond imagination. He was an original. The guy was absolutely crazy...and that was when he was sober!

Jim Breuer .... (1995-1998)
Best known for his "Goat Boy" character. Or in some circles for his stand-up routine that completely revolves around weed. I never found him very funny.

Dana Carvey .... (1986-1993)
Two words, "Choppin' Broccoli". I think George H.W. Bush said it best when he said that Dana Carvey does a better 'me' than I do. There were so many great characters that he did on the show, but I think my favorite has to be Carsenio (Johnny Carson changes his look and body to be more like Arsenio Hall). "Joan Embry is in my house!"

Chevy Chase .... (1975-1976)
Short put sweet...Chevy set the bar for Weekend Update, but truly known for his work after SNL

Ellen Cleghorne .... (1991-1995)
For some reason I never really liked Ellen...though her impersonations of Puerto Rican and Dominican women were pretty funny.

Billy Crystal .... (1984-1985)
"You look Mah-vel-ous", Billy's "Fernando" put that into the American vernacular. It was his only memorable character, but it was a good one. Quite an impact for only one year on the show.

Jane Curtin .... (1975-1980)
Although she revived her career with 'Third Rock From The Sun'...if you can call that "reviving your career", but Jane was tremendous on SNL. I know most would disagree, but I thought she was funnier than Gilda Radner.

Joan Cusack .... (1985-1986)
I forgot Joan was on SNL...again, someone known much more for their post-SNL work.

Denny Dillon .... (1980-1981)
Who? What? Hello? Ohhhh! I had to look it up, but I know her as Toby Pedalbee, Marty Tupper's secretary in the fabulous HBO comedy 'Dream On'. That was a great show. Marty Tupper was my personal hero during the early 90's. How that ugly guy got so many hot chicks...ahem...well, anyway... Denny didn't make much of an impression during her SNL days.

Robert Downey Jr. .... (1985-1986)
Ugh... the '85-'86 season was just a lost year for SNL... All nine of the cast members that year were brand new. Only three of the nine would be around the next year. Robert wasn't one of them... maybe it was this rejection that put him on the path of drugs, sleeping in neighbors' houses, and Ally McBeal appearances. I'm not sure which of those is the worst.

Brian Doyle-Murray .... (1979-1982)
Call me crazy, but me thinks Brian got this gig because he was Bill Murray's brother. You probably know Brian best as Buster from Groundhog Day...he was either the Mayor of Punxsutawney or at least the head of the groundhog committee. He's the guy who later in the movie is choking and Bill Murray saves his life. You've seen Brian in a lot of movies (he's also Noah Vanderhoff in Wayne's World). But his SNL career is a blank on me.

Rachel Dratch .... (1999-)
Probably best known for her character Sheldon, who is the co-host of a middle school TV show. I think that character is pretty funny...but that's about it.

Robin Duke .... (1981-1984)
Oddly I am forced to look up certain people in this list, they seem to be in a lot of SNL cast member movies. Robin plays Doris the waitress in Groundhog Day. If you don't know who she is by that, then you'll never know. I vaguely recall her from SNL. Pretty funny...but nothing that sticks with you. emailer Don informs me that Robin Duke played Wendy Whiner (wife of Doug Whiner played by Joe Piscopo), not Mary Gross like I had previously written. Thanks Don!

Nora Dunn .... (1985-1990)
I personally love Nora Dunn. I think she's hilarious...of course I am a bit biased towards the late 80's SNL cast members. Best known for her impersonation of Joan Baez and Liza Minelli, she also did a great bit with Jan Hooks as the Sweeney Sisters who sang like lounge lizards... you remember... "Clang, clang, clang went the trolley. Ring, ring, ring went the bell."

Christine Ebersole .... (1981-1982)
Trying hard to remember who this is by pictures I can find on the internet, it seems she was the blonde hottie from back in the day.

Chris Elliott .... (1994-1995)
Chris Elliott... great writer (he wrote and performed some hilarious skits on Late Night w/ David Letterman in the early years...yeah, back when Letterman was funny). Hollywood just seems to love this guy, but the public doesn't. He keeps appearing in TV series and in movies, and they all flop. You might remember Chris as the star of the movie 'Cabin Boy', and the short lived TV show, 'Get A Life?' Chris was also in 'Groundhog Day'...he was Larry the cameraman. He was also part of that horrible '94-'95 cast, more on that later.

Jimmy Fallon .... (1998-)
Ohhhh he's so cute... How in the hell did Jimmy Fallon become even moderately famous? He must be Lorne Michaels' bitch.

Chris Farley .... (1990-1995)
Considered a comedy god by any beer-drinkin' frat boy who went to college between '90 and '95. Ok, the motivational speaker who lived "in a van...down by the river!" was funny. After that...nothing. Just a lot of falling down, breaking tables, and wild incoherent rants...and people didn't think this guy was on drugs? Maybe I like my comedy just a little smarter.

Will Ferrell .... (1995-2002)
Once David Spade left the show, Will Ferrell developed into the best guy they've had recently. It seems over the past few years the only recurring skit you could count on were the Spartan cheerleaders. Will was a lot like Phil Hartman, he could play just about anyone. His straight-man performance of Alex Trebek was also fantastic. Although his George W. Bush wasn't the best, he set the tone for the classic satire of our 43rd president. One word, "Strategery".

Tina Fey .... (2000-)
Tina is also the current head writer of SNL. My advice...she should have stayed behind the camera. That isn't a knock on her looks, in fact she's kinda a dorky sort of way. I also didn't like her resurrecting Chevy's "Have a good night and a pleasant tomorrow" signoff for Weekend Update. While others have used it, and I can understand the nod towards the master, "imitation" is the sincerest form of flattery, not "plagiarism".

Janeanne Garofalo .... (1994-1995)
Janeane did not even last a full season. Rumor has it that Janeane left because she felt there were biases against the women on the show. Either way, much better known for her stand-up and acting work.

Ana Gasteyer .... (1996-2002)
I like Ana Gasteyer. The problem is that none of her characters really stand out, but she fits in so well. She is a role player who you would miss if she was gone.

Gilbert Gottfried .... (1980-1981)
Ack... do I need to say any more? I think I'll always remember Gilbert best for hosting "USA Up All Night" movies on Friday nights. Of course most guys my age remember Rhonda (the host of Saturday's "UP All Night" movies) better.

Mary Gross .... (1981-1985)
Mary isn't a household name, but you would recognize her if you saw her. You'd also remember her voice, sort of 'nasally', if that's a word (but not like Victoria Jackson). For the old school SNL-ers, you'll remember Mary from the Buckwheat days when she played a fantastic Alfalfa.

Christopher Guest .... (1984-1985)
You may know him better as Nigel Tufnel (Lead Guitar, Vocals) of Spinal Tap, "This one goes to eleven!" Or Count Rugen from The Princess Bride? Or the doctor from A Few Good Men... the one that Tom Cruise grills on the stand and tries to prove that the doctor overlooked a problem with young William Santiago? Anyway, he is an excellent character actor whose skills were best suited for movies.

Anthony Michael Hall .... (1985-1986)
He was great in National Lampoon's Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club...but once he moved out of that geeky 14-year-old phase and became a geeky young man it just didn't work. He was awful. Consider this, since SNL his best role to date has been playing Bill Gates in Pirates Of Silicon Valley. Oh, as it that wasn't bad enough, he was in Freddy Got Fingered...big minus points there!

Brad Hall .... (1982-1984)
Brad Hall is probably best known for being the husband of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (we'll get to her in a minute). You might recognize him is you saw him. Considering IMDB only has him in 7 other roles besides his time on SNL, you probably won't recognize him. I seem to remember him as tall, geeky, with Michael Bolton-esque hair. I'm guessing he is living off of Julia's money.

Rich Hall .... (1984-1985)
Now 'Rich' Hall on the other hand you might remember from "Not Necessarily the News" a hysterical HBO show...that was basically a half hour version of SNL's Weekend Update. Rich is also the originator of Sniglets, which was a series of books containing "words that don't appear in the dictionary, but should". Like: Meganegabar - the line you draw after writing out the amount on your check, so someone else doesn't add "and a million dollars". Anyway, Rich tried to launch himself into an Al Franken type of roll as a general satirical social commentator, but he wasn't quite as clever and well-spoken...and the Al Franken role was already filled by Al Franken, so he just disappeared.

Darrell Hammond .... (1995-)
I think I like him best for his Bill Clinton impersonation. Although his Sean Connery on Jeopardy makes me pee my pants. "I'll take 'The Rapists' for 400 Alex!" "That's 'Therapists', Mr. Connery" With Will Ferrell gone Darrell is the best talent they've got.

Phil Hartman .... (1986-1994)
I'm not ashamed to admit it, when I found out Phil Hartman was killed, I shed tears. Phil is by far and away my favorite from SNL. It may be because I miss his voices from The Simpsons and his role on NewsRadio too, but his SNL performances were unforgettable. During his 8 years on SNL he did it all. He did the announcer voice for almost every skit during that time (include the intro for all of the 'Deep Thoughts'). He did Admiral Stockdale, Bill Clinton, Barbara Bush, Ronald Reagan, Andy Griffith, Gene the Anal Retentive Chef, Ed McMahon, and Frank Sinatra just to name a few. Why couldn't the SNL curse have happened to Adam Sandler? At least we learned one thing from his death, never get involved with psychotic crack-addicted matter how hot they are!

Jan Hooks .... (1986-1991)
I always liked Jan Hooks. Her role on 'Designing Women' (and 'Third Rock From The Sun') tarnished my view on her after her SNL days, but looking back to her time on SNL, she was very funny, especially when teamed up with Nora Dunn. Her best characters were: Tammy Faye Bakker, Hilary Clinton, Kathie Lee Gifford, Sally Jesse Raphael, and Sinead O'Connor.

Melanie Hutsell .... (1991-1994)
I can't seem to find any corroborating evidence on the internet, I believe Melanie is the girl at the beginning of Sir Mix-a-lot's Baby Got Back video, you know, the one saying... "Oh my God! Look at her butt. It's so round!" Anyway, most of Melanie's characters were variations of a whiny valley girl. Her only memorable character was Jan Brady, which apparently she performed in some sort of Brady type play before being on SNL. Although I never disliked her, how did she stay on SNL so long?

Victoria Jackson .... (1986-1992)
Ok, I'll be honest, I think the only reason I liked Victoria is because she was blonde, chesty, had pouty lips, and could do the splits. Now what 14-18 year old guy wouldn't like that? Her voice was moderately annoying, but she was usually pretty funny. Her most memorable skits were various performances on Weekend Update...showing off her gymnastic ability.

Chris Kattan .... (1996-)
Honestly, the guy kinda freaks me out. He's sort of elfish...very weird. Anyway, he is at his best when he's in a strange character...whether it's one of the "Night at the Roxbury" guys, Azrael Abyss (the co-host of the cable access show 'Goth Talk'), or Mango (the enigmatic exotic Dancer). There is something quite funny about Garth Brooks and Alec Baldwin dreaming and pawing at Mango. He might end up being the next Tim Meadows (i.e. a guy who stays on SNL for 10 years), I just can't picture him doing anything else and be taken seriously.

Tim Kazurinsky .... (1981-1984)
You would know him if you saw him. He was Sweetchuck in the Police Academy movies. Short guy, dark hair, glasses. Very funny guy...I wouldn't even hold his Police Academy role against him.

David Koechner .... (1995-1996)
This guy sucked. He was fired after one season, he created characters like Gary MacDonald, Fagan Callow, and Gerald Tibbins. His impressions included Charlie Sheen, Pat Buchanan, and Mike Ditka.

Gary Kroeger .... (1982-1985)
He looks familiar...but I really don't remember him well. Considering his latest gig is announcer for the "All New Press Your Luck" (I'll rant about that another time), I'm guessing he isn't the most talented guy out there.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus .... (1982-1985)
We all know Julia as Elaine from Seinfeld. It's actually really strange to see her on SNL re-runs. She was very unpolished back then...truly embodied the "Not Ready For Prime-Time Players" motto of SNL.

Jon Lovitz .... (1985-1990)
You love him, or you hate him. At the time, I happened to love him. When he played Mr. Mephistopheles, or Michael Dukakis, or his pathological liar character who was married to Morgan Fairchild...yeah, that's the ticket!

Norm Macdonald .... (1993-1998)
I think Norm Macdonald might have the least amount of talent of any SNL cast member of all time (wait, you haven't gotten down to Colin Quinn yet)! When he did Weekend Update, I honestly didn't know if he was drunk, stoned, or both. Strangely enough, Norm is Chevy's favorite Weekend Update anchor. Anyway, Norm's saving grace is his one good character, Burt Reynolds. Fantastic!

Gail Matthius .... (1980-1981)
Who? It seems Gail has done mostly voice-over work since leaving SNL (The Snorks, Bobby's World, Animaniacs, and The Tick to just name a few). Apparently from the very few pictures I came across, she looks like a former girl friend of mine (Molly). I think that counts against her. :-D

Michael McKean .... (1994-1995)
You probably know Michael best as Lenny of Lenny & Squiggy fame on "Laverne & Shirley". You might also know him as David St. Hubbins of "Spinal Tap"... or Gibby from "Dream On", or Mr. Green in "Clue". Either way, when I saw he joined the cast in '94, I knew it was nothing but trouble. Nothing against the guy, I've enjoyed him in many of his other roles, but a 47-year-old veteran actor joining the cast of SNL? Doesn't that seem weird?

Mark McKinney .... (1995-1997)
You might know Mark best from his Kids In The Hall days. He was much better on Kids In The Hall. Whenever I saw him I kept thinking in my head, "Dude, you're on the wrong show!!!"

Tim Meadows .... (1991-2000)
Wow, Tim was on SNL for 10 seasons. You just gotta feel bad for the guy. He sat and watched as a revolving door of other people came in and then moved on to bigger and better things. Finally, late in his SNL career, he found a character that people seemed to like. So he left SNL to take "The Ladies Man" to the big screen. Now he had a better chance of succeeding than the "Night at the Roxbury" characters (hell, Massive Head Wound Harry had a better chance than the "Roxbury" characters); but you just knew the movie was going to suck. Tim then bounced to "The Michael Richards Show"...Oy! Tim just can't catch a break. Anyway, his longevity counts for something, and I always thought he was pretty funny in his skits.

Dennis Miller .... (1985-1991)
"What can I tell ya..." During the late 80's Dennis was hip, his Weekend Update was nearly as good as Chevy's. After SNL Dennis took the same bit over the HBO and made a nice career out of it. He also had a quick stop over in the MNF booth (I really wish they would have kept him one more year just to hear him and Madden have a conversation...)

Madden: "Ya see, right here he put the hoom-pa move on and BOOM, he's in to sack the quarterback!"
Dennis: "You got that right Maddenuski, it was like Sherman and Pershing running the Pincer Maneuver out there. Know what I mean babe?"
Madden: "Umm, yeah, but, well, I, who, BUS!, Boom, Turducken, Touchdown"
Dennis: "Hey Albeeno, I think I broke the Maddenator"

Um, anyway, yeah I thought Dennis was great doing Weekend Update.

Jay Mohr .... (1993-1995)
Jay...sucked. The only thing I remember about him liking was his "Good Morning Brooklyn" skit. Besides that, he had no game. I like him even less on his Mohr Sports show.

Tracy Morgan .... (1996-)
My favorite time period for Tracy Morgan was about 5 years ago when he was still the "other black guy" on the show and occasionally showed up on Weekend Update as Dominican Lou. His best stuff was when he and Lorne Michaels would randomly appear during the opening monologue skit and Tracy would treat Lorne like his bitch. Good times. I know Wade really enjoys more recent stuff like Brian Fellow's Safari Planet, but I think his best character lately is Star Jones from The View. "I know this because I'm a Law-yer!"

Garrett Morris .... (1975-1980)
In the old re-runs Garrett just seems to be a very angry man. I think my favorite Garrett Morris skit was one when he traded racial epithets with Dan Aykroyd (I think). He is 1 of 2 cast members from the first 2 years that didn't go on to bigger and better things.

Eddie Murphy .... (1980-1984)
If I were ranking the careers of SNL cast members, Eddie would have to be number one. The guy is just so damn funny. He even made the movie 'I Spy' funny...ok, that's pushing it a bit...nothing could save that movie from Owen Wilson. Anyway, Eddie's impersonation of James Brown and his Mr. Robinson character are all-time classics. I also just love his Stevie Wonder impersonation...that skit with him and Joe Piscopo as Frank Sinatra is hilarious!

Bill Murray .... (1977-1980)
When it comes to ranking, it will be hard to factor out post-SNL work...especially Bill Murray. He was very funny, but his movies after that are just so much bigger than anything he did on SNL. I especially loved his lounge lizard character.

Mike Myers .... (1989-1995)
Will he be able to right the Austin Powers ship and make the next one as funny as the first? Or will he ditch the character and find something new. Either way, the guy was damn funny on SNL. Although he become wildly famous for playing Wayne Campbell of Wayne's World, and for Linda Richman; I always like him more for his Scottish characters. "Welcome to All Things Scottish where out motto is: If it's not Scottish, it's CRAP!"

Kevin Nealon .... (1986-1995)
Kevin Nealon did an pretty good job taking over for Dennis Miller on Weekend Update, but appeared in little else. He never was found a character he could do on a regular basis. He did play Franz of "Hans & Franz" fame, but I can't remember him in much else.

Laraine Newman .... (1975-1980)
Along with Garrett Morris, Laraine never made it big after her first 5 years on SNL. She's always good in those early skits, but seemed like much more of a role player than a main character.

Cheri Oteri .... (1995-2000)
Before appearing on SNL Cheri appeared... nowhere. Since SNL she has appeared as a bit player in several movies. However she was very funny in her skits, standing out best as a Spartan Cheerleader. Unfortunately I have a feeling we have seen the last of Cheri Oteri.

Chris Parnell .... (1998-)
If you aren't familiar with the opening credits of SNL, in that last decade they went from a quick shot of each character somewhere in NYC to what seems to be shots of them all in the same club. Whenever I see the quick shot of Chris Parnell, I can't help but think, "there is the definition of 'hipster doofus'". His Tom Brokaw impersonation is hilarious, his George W. Bush is decent (better than Will Ferrell in some ways, and not as good in others). At any rate, he is far too new to the cast to truly be loved or hated.

Joe Piscopo .... (1980-1984)
Back in the early 80's Joe was huge (literally)! He peaked in 1984 when he appeared in Johnny Dangerously, but as so many actors do, after one movie he thought he was ready to be a star in Hollywood. He left SNL and by the end of 1986 he had pretty much disappeared from the mainstream. I think I liked Joe more for his beer commercials back in the early 80's than his SNL characters.

Amy Poehler .... (2001-) has this bit of trivia about Amy: "Was promoted from featured player to full cast member on 'Saturday Night Live' (1975) in the middle of her first year on the show (2001-2002). The only other SNL cast member to have this distinction is Eddie Murphy during the 1980-1981 season." Something tells me this is NOT a sign of big things to come for her.

Randy Quaid .... (1985-1986)
What? He was on SNL? I don't even remember him. Guess that's why he ended up in all the Vacation movies... "Shitter's full!"

Colin Quinn .... (1995-2000)
For the love of did he stay on SNL this long? Seriously? Were they that hard up for someone to do Weekend Update? The guy sucked on Remote Control, he sucks as a stand-up comedian. Maybe you just have to be from Boston to like this guy. His Weekend Update was horrible, with his lame "That's my story and I'm stickin' to it." endline. Ack! However, I did read an interview with him recently and I found his answers actually funny...maybe it is just his terrible delivery style that ruins it for me.

Gilda Radner .... (1975-1980)
I know this is going to be blasphemous, but I really didn't find Gilda as the funniest woman on SNL. Her geeky high school character (that Bill Murray was always making fun of) was funny, but Rosanna Rosannadanna... I just found annoying. Along with her other frequent Weekend Update character of the old lady whose catch phrase at the end of her misguided rants was "Ohhh....nevermind." On there is a SNL cast rating. Gilda is listed as number 1, so I guess I am alone on this one. (Of course this same list has Steve Martin on it, and we've already established that he was not a cast member) I'm not saying the woman wasn't funny...I'm just saying I thought others were funnier.

Ann Risley .... (1980-1981)
Who? I can't find anything on her at all. The highlight of her post-SNL work on IMDB seems to be "El Diablo (1990) (TV) .... Woman #1." Ouch.

Chris Rock .... (1990-1993)
Hard to believe the Chris was only on SNL for 4 seasons. His best-known character is probably Nat X. It seems the Chris discovered his angry outspoken self while on the show, and left to base a comedy routine around it. It worked out pretty well for him. :-D

Charles Rocket .... (1980-1981)
He hosted Weekend Update during his one season. Ok, if you are big on video games you might recognize him as the voice of Nym in "Star Wars: Starfighter" and "Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter". His SNL claim to fame is that he was fired for using the f-word on air.

Tony Rosato .... (1981-1982)
Wow...after looking at IMDB, I haven't even heard (let alone seen) anything he's been in since SNL.

Maya Rudolph .... (2000-)
Some people think she's really hot. Some people think she's not. Either way, I like her character Megan who is the host of a middle school TV show (along with Sheldon)...although minus points to her character having a crush on a guy played by Jimmy Fallon.

Adam Sandler .... (1991-1995)
I think we all know my opinion on this guy. I thought he was funnier on Remote Control when he played "The Stud Boy". Good lord...did you know he's going to turn 37 this September!?! Anyway, to me Cajun Man sums up his comedic ability. Simple and stupid. No bonus points given for The Hanukkah song either!

Horatio Sanz .... (1998-)
I like Horatio Sanz. He just seems like a guy you could hang out with and have a good time. He seems to be a guy who is at his best playing a strange characters...but lately he's been playing the father roles too.

Rob Schneider .... (1990-1994)
It's amazing this guy was able to take, "Hey, the Jim-ster...making copies!" and turn it into a career. He's got that lovably loser aspect to him...which is the only reason that "The Hot Chick" could have made as much money as it did. Even though he didn't have any other big characters on SNL, Rob was very funny in any role he was given.

Molly Shannon .... (1995-2001)
I don't know why...I can't explain it but I always thought she was so hot. My friend Jason thinks so too, so at least I'm not the only freak out there. Molly had several memorable characters, but the best was Mary Katherine Gallagher. The character was so beloved that they made a movie about it. Molly's not aging particularly well, but I'll always remember her as a 'Superstar'!

Harry Shearer .... (1979-1980; 1984-1985)
You might know Harry as Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap (funny how all of them either started or ended up on SNL). Harry has a great announcer voice...and a great voice in general (he voices several characters on The Simpsons). I find it odd that he had two separate 1-year stints on SNL.

Martin Short .... (1984-1985)
Color me surprised...but on the SNL cast rating, Marty is number 2 behind Gilda Radner. Pretty good for a guy who was on for one season. Marty had a big following going into SNL from his SCTV many people were already familiar with Ed Grimley, Jackie Rodgers Jr., and his Jerry Lewis impersonation. SNL gave him the opportunity to take those well-polished characters to a larger audience. One of my favorite characters was the chain smoking, sweating, nervous lawyer (Nathan Therm) being interviewed by Mike Wallace (brilliantly played by Harry Shearer). Although he was only on for one season, you can't deny the impact he had on America. Hell, Ed Grimley even got his own Saturday morning cartoon show!

David Spade .... (1991-1996)
You know, at the time he was on SNL, I thought he was great. Watching the re-runs, I find him pretty annoying. I think most people feel the same way since he's all they down to 27 on the list. Ouch! But actually, the more I think about it, what did he do that was really great. The "Buh-bye" flight attendant? The receptionist (...and you are?). Ok, his Michael J. Fox was really good, but that really only came in handy when Michael J. Fox actually hosted. Otherwise he got some notoriety for his Hollywood Minute when he ripped on celebrities...I still think Eddie Murphy would kick his ass if given the chance. At least David was smart enough to understand he wasn't marquee material...he played second banana to Chris Farley in their movies, and is part of an ensemble cast in "Just Shoot Me".

Pamela Stephenson .... (1984-1985)
She must be attractive since one of her IMDB credits is host of an Australian TV show called "Sex". With some further digging it turns out she married comedian Billy Connelly and is now a psychotherapist in L.A.; like L.A. needed another psychotherapist.

Julia Sweeney .... (1990-1994)
I thought Julia Sweeney was pretty funny. She is best known for her Pat character that spawned (surprise) a movie cleverly titled, "It's Pat!"; but that was really all she had.

Terry Sweeney .... (1985-1986)
Thankfully I found a website to help me out with this one: "SNL's only openly gay cast member, Terry's first sketch had him playing a gay man, and most of his roles throughout the season too were gay related. Most of his impressions were of women too, including Nancy Reagan, Joan Collins, and Joan Rivers. Since then, we believed he locked himself in a shed." Ouch, that seemed a little harsh. I vaguely remember this guy. He was mostly a writer for the show before his one year in front of the camera.

Danitra Vance .... (1985-1986)
Sadly: "SNL's first female black cast member, Danitra played a small role in the cast. She created her unique character, Cabrini Green Jackson. She died in 1994 of cancer."

Nancy Walls .... (1995-1996)
Nancy has no entries prior to SNL on IMDB. I remember her better from a year she spent on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show". She seems to have dropped off the planet, I did find some info about her on a site that determines how annoying someone is.

Wow...are you still with me? After making it through 79 members, I'm not sure where to begin. Since we live in America, we'll do what comes naturally, we'll rank everyone. Keep in mind these rankings are based on SNL performances only.

Let's start with the worst cast members (Number 1 being the absolute worst):

10. Melanie Hutsell - Every character was an annoying valley girl.
9. Jim Breuer - I hated Goat Boy. It just suck-eeeee-awwww-ucked.
8. Mark McKinney - Much better on Kids In The Hall.
7. Michael McKean - Much better in everything else he's ever been in.
6. David Koechner - Anyone remember his Gerald Tibbins character (slack jawed idiot) me, he sucked.
5. Jimmy Fallon - Acts like a 12 year old, the cute thing can only take you so far.
4. Jay Mohr - This guy is almost as annoying as Jim Rome.
3. Colin Quinn - I still don't know how he even got on SNL, especially at age 36.
2. Gilbert Gottfried - I don't even need to see him in any re-runs, I know he sucked.
1. Anthony Michael Hall - no one was worse than this guy. He personally destroyed the '85-'86 season.

Now for the 10 best:

10. Nora Dunn - "Welcome to the Pat Stevens show, I'm your host...Pat Stevens."
9. Will Ferrell - The only reason I watched SNL in the last 5 years. "Mr. Reynolds, I hate you."
8. Dan Aykroyd - "Jane you ignorant slut!"
7. Chevy Chase - He created Weekend Update, and was SNL's first breakout star.
6. Bill Murray - "Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars, if only you could bar wars, let this one stay..."
5. Dana Carvey - How could I forget to mention the Church Lady?
4. Eddie Murphy - Buckwheat, Gumby, Velvet Jones, Mr. Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Cosby, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown!
3. Martin Short - Imagine his SNL legacy if he had stayed more than just one season.
2. Mike Myers - There isn't anyone else who I personally have stolen more comedy from on SNL than Mike ("CRAP!")
1. Phil Hartman - Considered the comedic genius of SNL. Phil was an excellent voice-over actor, a versatile sketch performer and had over 70 impressions in his repertoire.

The top 3 worst seasons:

Number 3:
This year ('02-'03). I'll be honest, I haven't seen too many shows this year, but I have seen the Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) show twice. This weekend Christopher Walken is hosting. I'll either watch or record it. If they can ruin a show with him hosting it, I might move this cast up to Number 2!
Rachel Dratch           Fred Armisen 
Jimmy Fallon            Dean Edwards
Tina Fey                Will Forte
Darrell Hammond         Seth Meyers
Chris Kattan            Jeff Richards
Tracy Morgan
Chris Parnell
Amy Poehler
Maya Rudolph
Horatio Sanz

Number 2:
The '94-'95 cast. The stage was set the previous year when Lorne Michaels saw the show starting to sink, and brought in Michael McKean. He'd brought in veterans before to stabilize the show (like bringing in Martin Short and Billy Crystal after Eddie Murphy left the show in '84), but this year really went in the toilet with the additions of Morweena Banks, Mark McKinney, and the departures of Phil Hartman, Julia Sweeney, and the mid-season departures of Janeanne Garafolo and Mike Myers. Nine of the thirteen cast members from the '94-'95 season were fired or left. To add insult to injury, Deion Sanders actually hosted once this season.

Morwenna Banks          Al Franken
Ellen Cleghorne         Laura Kightlinger
Chris Elliott           Jay Mohr
Chris Farley            Molly Shannon
Janeanne Garafolo
Norm MacDonald
Michael McKean
Mark McKinney
Tim Meadows
Mike Myers
Kevin Nealon
Adam Sandler
David Spade

Number 1:
Has to be '85-'86 with the cast of:

Joan Cusack             A. Whitney Brown
Robert Downey Jr.       Don Novello
Nora Dunn               Dan Vitale
Anthony Michael Hall    Damon Wayans
Jon Lovitz
Dennis Miller
Randy Quaid
Terry Sweeney
Danitra Vance

The entire cast was brand new to SNL (except for Don Novello who is better known as Father Guido Sarducci). Only three of the cast members (and A. Whitney Brown) would be around the next year.

Now finally, the top 3 best seasons of all time:

Number 3:
The '77-'78 season was great. It got a lot of help from the hosts that year (Buck Henry (twice), Steve Martin (three times), Chevy Chase, Hugh Hefner, and O.J. Simpson. This season also featured Al Franken in front of the camera.

Dan Aykroyd             Tom Davis
John Belushi            Al Franken
Jane Curtin             Michael O'Donoghue
Garrett Morris
Bill Murray
Laraine Newman
Gilda Radner

Number 2:
The '89-'90 season. It was the 4th season that all 8 cast members had been together. They were a well-oiled comedy machine. It was also Mike Myers second year as a Featured player and with a total cast of only 10, we saw a lot of him.

Dana Carvey             A. Whitney Brown
Nora Dunn               Mike Myers
Phil Hartman
Jan Hooks
Victoria Jackson
Jon Lovitz
Dennis Miller
Kevin Nealon

Number 1:
The '90-'91 season.
This season's total cast (Cast Members and Featured Players) reads like a Who's Who. It was a powerhouse of 16 actors, with all of them had outstanding SNL careers.

Dana Carvey             A. Whitney Brown
Phil Hartman            Chris Farley
Jan Hooks               Tim Meadows
Victoria Jackson        Mike Myers
Jon Lovitz              Chris Rock
Dennis Miller           Adam Sandler
Kevin Nealon            Rob Schneider
                        David Spade
                        Julia Sweeney

Agree? Disagree? Email me your favorites and least favorites. I'll post the best responses in another article. For your own reference and convenience I've downloaded an SNL Guide with the rankings at the bottom. Also, check out Wade's thoughts on the best of SNL.

- 02/24/2003


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