NOTE: Once again, Spacing & formatting issues got the best of me…I apologize…
SNL—not unlike MGM—can boast that they have “More Stars than the Heavens”. Not just in terms of the hosts who pass through their doors every week, but also in the up & coming cast members who try to make their presence known as well. Some cast members become instant successes, some take their sweet time to become successes, some seem to fade away from the public view altogether. And then, there are those rare breeds who make a seemingly significant impact in the brief time they’re on the show…only for the Hammer to unexpectedly drop on an otherwise deserving talent. These are people who—for the most part—wound up getting the last laugh in their Post-SNL career, and eventually look back on their flash in time with more fondness than bitterness in hindsight. That’s the subject of this list; those who only appeared on the show for a limited time, and at the same time they deserved better than what they were given—hence the umbrella name I’m giving them; “Limited Cast Members”…which also explains the picture I used for the cover, in that sometimes the talent on SNL has the frequency of walking through a revolving door………yes, that’s a stretch.
*The rankings will be based on the following factors: How memorable their SNL tenure was, how much success they had after they left, and whether or not that success has sustained itself since that departure. For Instance; if they were fondly remembered on the show but had a lackluster career afterward (or vice versa), they might not score as well as someone who was a hit out of the box and continued to thrive after their brief appearance. Of course, all these factors pale in comparison to actual personal opinion, but they’re still a big deal. With that pretext, my pick for number one may actually shock some of you—stay tuned.
*The Cast Members in Question have to have appeared a MINIMUM of 6 episodes, and a MAXIMUM of 2 years. So this means people like Laurie Metcalf (1 ep in ’81) & Emily Prager (Photo in the Montage, ’81), Morwenna Banks (4 eps in ‘95), Ben Stiller (4 in ’89), and a handful of other featureds from the 80s who were only there in the blink of an eye are Disqualified.
*Also Disqualified, any Ringers—I.e. People who already had a well-established show biz career before joining the cast; so this means see ‘ya later to the ENTIRE 1984-85 Cast (Yes, even you Ms. Stephenson, you were in a Mel Brooks movie for God’s sake), A Good Chunk of the ’85-’86 cast (Cusack, Downey, Hall, Quaid), Michael McKean (’94) and Harry Shearer (’79-‘80, ’84-’85) among others I may have conveniently forgotten about. Other than that, everybody else is fair game.
So, Let’s start…
- CASEY WILSON (2008-2009) – Not gonna lie, I LOVE a woman with curves; and not since Laraine Newman has a cast member ever been as “Attainable” as Casey was on the show. Now that I got the objectifying stuff out of the Way, Casey is Still probably one of the funniest people I’ve seen on Television in recent years (Thanks, “Happy Endings!”). On SNL, she tried her best to garner a little attention—even going so far as to play a quadriplegic stripper (yes, I know this is NOT the SNL version); which on paper may not sound like the best idea, but in the end it’s all about the execution. I put her (and the next entry) low on the list because—quite honestly—it’s a little too soon in her career to tell just how far she’ll go. If it were 10 years later, trust me, she would be somewhere in the middle of the list.
- JENNY SLATE (2009-2010) – The sweetest girl Ever to slip out a swear word. Like I said on the long-ago “Bloopers” list, I honestly thought Slate had what it took to play with the big boys…and Then, “Biker Chick Chat” happened, and that one mistake cast a gloomy cloud for the rest of the year. But even if that gaffe was Never a factor, her sketch performances elsewhere ranged from “Questionable” to “meh”. So why Bother putting her on the list? Because like a number of flameouts, Slate managed to pick herself up, dust herself off, and attach herself to a cult classic (in her case, “Marcel the Shell”). She’s doing fine now–falling in with the IFC crowd–and she looks back on the gaffe as an unfortunate but still an important lesson…Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that she’s also responsible for probably one of the funniest talk show anecdotes I’ve seen in recent years.
- JAY MOHR (1993-1995) – As I mentioned back in the season 20 Analysis, Jay Mohr (to me, anyway) was one of that year’s silver linings thanks in part to his Christopher Walken impression. Unfortunately, a certain plagiarism scandal is what’s keeping him from cracking the top 5 of this list as well. But regardless of that, Mohr still held his own for the most part. Next time you come across his book “Gasping for Airtime”, he’ll say that his time on the show wasn’t all it was cracked up to be…to which I say, maybe Jay is being a little hard on himself. After all, if it weren’t for SNL, he wouldn’t be one of the most durable Character Actors/Comedians of recent years (“Action!” Truly was ahead of its time…just aired on the Wrong network). He sort of embraces SNL as a Stepping stone now, but back then………well…….read the book, I don’t want to spoil anything.
- GILBERT GOTTFRIED (1980-1981) – He would be a LOT higher on the list if he actually did anything memorable on the show aside from his self-deprecating “Who is Gilbert Gottfried” film. But not unlike another pick later in the list, his career skyrocketed (slowly but surely) after being one of the many sacrificial lambs to the slaughter that year. Thanks in large part from being a “Jerry Seinfeld Lite” on the Stand-up circuit, to amping up his voice about 10000% and making a viable living doing so. Between voicing Iago in “Aladdin”, his time as the Afflac duck, and his savage appearances on various Comedy Central roasts (among the Other things he’s done), Gottfried’s time on SNL is pretty much an afterthought…Though not a big enough one that he was included prominently in the “SNL in the 80s” special a few years ago, speaking about the dreaded Season 6 almost with fondness…almost.
- DAMON WAYANS (1985-86) – I was debating to myself whether or not to include Wayans in this compilation considering I already spoke at great lengths about him in previous editorials. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he HAS to at least be mentioned (Especially since I could use this moment to cheaply plug that he’s now the star of the inexplicable “Lethal Weapon” reboot on FOX, Wednesdays at 8PM/7PM Central)—after all, he & his family changed the playing field when it came to sketch comedy in the 90s. So at the risk of being redundant, just do yourself a favor and take another look at my entry on Wayans in the “Season 11” list…Moving On…….
- (TIE) GAIL MATHIUS & DENNY DILLON (1980-1981) – As I mentioned time & again, Season 6 of the show wasn’t entirely bad despite the many things that were OBVIOUSLY bad. The new cast members that joined that year certainly had no idea what they were about to get themselves into; but for the most part, they still made the best of a bad situation. Consider these two the honorary #7 on the “Season 6 Silver Linings” list. Unlike Gottfried who barely got anything done in 1980, Matthius (who quite honestly should’ve been given another chance under Ebersol) was the deFacto Laraine; not for Sex appeal—though she was (and still is) cute–but because she kept most of her roles versatile & various that year. While Denny was more of the clutch utility player in the mold of Jane & Gilda, who despite being a tad abrasive at times still managed to get the job done; even with weak material. Both of them did well after the show; Matthius became probably one of the best known voiceover actors to work in the industry who’s NOT named Tress MacNeille, Melanie Chartoff, Cheryl Chase or the late Christine Cavanaugh. While Denny makes a comfortable living as a character actress—including a memorable tenure on HBO’s “Dream On”. I’d like to think both of them knew they were on a sinking ship at the time—Even though the ship eventually failed to sink, they opted to take a lifeboat anyway
- DAVID KOECHNER (1995-1996) – In a Season that brought us the “birth” of Will Ferrell, the rise of Molly & Norm, the Renaissance of Tim Meadows, and the spawning of a pair of mosquitoes named Oteri &…….Kattan…(*THUNDER RUMBLES*)…It honestly confuses me that they would cut David Koechner loose after just one year of doing things no different than anybody else…But then again, maybe that was WHY Koechner got the Ax after that year—there was no need for Two Will Ferrells. Fortunately, Koechner’s departure from SNL was Literally Only the beginning for him—as of this writing, his IMDB page lists a total of 157 additional credits to his name since 1996; some are small parts, others more prolific (Including “Another Period”, “American Dad!”, and some little indie flick called Anchor…………something…which also had a sequel of some sort.). Not unlike other one & done-er’s, SNL was (Say it with me now) a Stepping stone for Koechner—and we’re all glad that the legacy of Gerald “T-Bones” Tibbons continues to grow.
- CHEVY CHASE (1975-1976) – We HAVE to include the alpha “One & Done-er”; after all, he was the show’s first big Star, and he went on to become an even bigger star…until the Late 80s/Early 90s when either one pratfall, one pain killer or one Really Bad Talk Show too many wound up pissing all that goodwill away—To say nothing of all the allegations in the Shales/Miller book of just how big a dick he was on subsequent hosting appearances (Which is probably keeping him from grabbing the #1 Spot). Yet despite all that he’s gained/lost since he was on the show, he STILL only did the show for a Year & 1/4th. He didn’t deserve better on the show because he was already the star, and he didn’t deserve better post SNL because his SNL fame already opened the door for all the other stuff to happen. So the only OTHER reason why I put him on the list at all is because—if nothing else—he provided us with a template for future use for some of the names that followed. Nothing wrong with being a cautionary, educational tool…especially if that person himself becomes a massive one years later.
2. CHRISTINE EBERSOLE (1981-1982) – I feel the need to say this first—NO, she is NOT related to Dick Ebersol, nor did she tack on the Extra “E” to make sure there was no Nepotism; They are two SEPARATE people. Now that we got that out of the way, it’s a pity that most of the roles she had during the first full Ebersol season were a number bimbos & damsels—save for one unheralded breakout performance early in that season where she plays a lonely barfly and performs the musical equivalent of a dramatic monologue in a song called “Single Women” (A song which was written—shockingly—by Michael O’Donoguhe, was then morphed into a legitimate chart-topping song by Dolly Parton, and THEN turned out to be the springboard for a Tony Danza movie). Ebbie’s version may not have been the most ideal fit for a comedy show, but it certainly acts as a calling card for a would-be Broadway Icon. Ebersole not only used her year on SNL to become one of the most durable character actresses of our time later on, but she also wound up winning several Tony Awards for her roles on Broadway in “42nd Street” and “Grey Gardens”. Maybe because Ebersol (with no Extra “E”) was still trying to fine tune things and/or giving the ball to Murphy & Piscopo too often, Christine wound up getting lost in the shuffle…a shame really, since the show could use (and could’ve used) a little class once in a while—Ebbie was a Diamond in the rough back then, but she certainly took it all in stride—and What a Voice, too.
- SARAH SILVERMAN (1993-1994) – So why Her at #1 when someone like Chevy CLEARLY had more Star Power both on & off the show? Well, like I just said on his entry, his star has been on the decline for years—and durability is also a factor here, that’s the short answer. At the same time, how is she any Different from Gilbert Gottfried—who also did next to nothing while on the show? Well, If you were fortunate enough to read her memoir “The Bedwetter”, then a lot of what I’m about to say here should come as no surprise. By all accounts & purposes, Silverman was indeed too young to be taken seriously as a cast member—which would probably explain why her biggest role on the show back then was “Audience Member” during various monologues; something that Silverman would Brilliantly use to her advantage when she hosted some 20 years later. Of course there were other reasons why her tenure on the show didn’t last that long, but thankfully for the passage of time that wound had long since healed both literally & figuratively. Silverman wouldn’t be number one, however, without all the post-SNL success she’s had since her failed attempt to do well at sketch comedy. She became an alpha comedian, an Emmy Winning sitcom star/creator, a political activist for millennials, a viral video sensation, a (sometimes) dramatic performer, a gift to talk show bookers (Except maybe one time…you don’t have to watch the WHOLE thing), and all in all just someone that you would want to hang out and smoke weed with and talk random BS about things until dawn. It almost makes me wonder if “Sarah” is short for “Serendipity”—until I realize just how big a spelling error that is. Silverman certainly did NOT have much of an SNL career, but not only was her star on the rise back then, it continues to rise to this day—and with the political activism under her belt, she just might be one of the most influential SNL alumni right now who ISN’T a Senator (or Congressman if one Mr. Kroger gets his way in a few weeks, Iowa!). Not bad for a Bedwetter from New Hampshire.
THOSE WHO WERE VICTIMS OF “OVERPOPULATED” SEASONS: I know this is a lazy thing to do, but there were just so MANY people who wound up in an oversized cast at one point, and ultimately wound up getting lost in the shuffle when they were on the show; People like Beth Cahill, Siobhan Fallon, John Milheiser, Noel Wells, Brooks Wheelan, Laura Kightlinger, and most recently Jon Rudnitsky comes to mind. They certainly tried to be heard, but they weren’t loud enough among the pre-existing noise makers. I’m sure each of them are doing Something to keep busy these days.
THOSE WHO FOLLOWED IN “THE FAMILY BUSINESS”: Not to take anything away from Brian Doyle-Murray or Jim Belushi (Or to a Far lesser extent, Peter Aykroyd). They continue to appear in things at a steady rate, but something about Nepotism always rubbed me the wrong way—can’t quite put my finger on it.
PAUL BRITTAN: Speaking of Nepotism (on a FAR different end of the spectrum), I honestly feel that it’s a crime against comedy that someone who is a direct descendant of a comedy legend got the ax just as he was beginning to pick up some steam. And even though it happened a lot to a number of people—even some I haven’t mentioned—the fact that it happened to Bob Newhart’s nephew feels incredibly disconcerting…either that, or the comedy gene in him was more recessive than we thought. Aside from some indie flicks and teaming up with Nick Kroll on a couple of things, he’s remained under the radar ever since.
JERRY MINOR: He’s fast becoming one of those “That Guy who was in that Thing” kind of actors—you know, you see him on TV and immediately think “OH! I know that Guy!” That aside, “Grandmaster Rap” was severely under-served by SNL in 2000 in spite of him actually doing things that were legitimately funny.
TERRY SWEENEY: See “Damon Wayans”, but replace “Starting up a comedy dynasty” with “Having the most accurate Nancy Reagan impression the show ever had”. Thankfully, he has a more durable career as a TV writer these days (Ignoring the fact that he also BRIEFLY wrote for Season 6).
JANEANE GAROFALO: Yes, I know, she “saved” season 20 & the show’s future, but nowadays there might be such a thing as being “Too Liberal”…oh well, at least she’s still a cute brunette with an acid tongue.
MICHAELA WATKINS: She certainly has talent to spare, but in the end she might’ve played some of her roles a little Too straight for the show (save for that “Bitch, Please” Blogger character she did on “Update”). As is the case with most on this list, she too is doing fine—check her out on Hulu’s “Casual”.
Pending any future Sports Coverage in the next few weeks, the Next List will be that of
Non-Debate Political Sketches Halloween and/or “Scary” sketches. Until Next Time, I quote the words David Letterman said to Jon Stewart when his syndicated TV show from the 90s ended; “Cancelation should Never be confused with Failure.”