While under Lorne Michaels, Saturday Night Live has been one of the most influential comedy series on air. The show has launched some of the greatest comedic actors of all-time and even gave Gilbert Gottfried work. Now against my better judgement I’ve decided to put together the ultimate SNL ensemble. The list will consist of 10 cast members with the addition of a Weekend Update anchor(s).
Now I’m going to be upfront with you Brooks Wheelan didn’t make the final cut, I know it’s pretty shocking. If it’s any consolation he was my #11 choice, but I just couldn’t find the room for him. Also I know what the obvious lead in is, but if you’ve read these type of lists before you’ve come to expect it so I’m not going to do it.
Weekend Update Team
Tina Fey & Seth Meyers
Years: 2000-2006 Years: 2001-2014
I’ve always been a fan of the Weekend Update tandem vs solo host. While people like Jane Curtin, Norm Macdonald & Dennis Miller were great, I prefer the ability to playoff one another. Now Tina Fey and Seth Meyers never actually hosted the segment together I feel like they’d have no problem putting out the best product. The two are arguable my 1a & 1b when it comes to the best to sit in the chair, with Norm Macdonald & Chevy Chase in their rear view.
From 1980 to 2005 there wasn’t a female performer who delivered on camera like Kristen Wiig. Often compared to Gilda Radner, Wiig was able to bring that same lovable charm to her characters. Her facial expressions were next to none and helped her embody the slew of high-strung basket cases she would play during her run on SNL.
Has there ever been a cast member like Dan Aykroyd? Honestly the guy did just about everything he could on the show. He had a level of seriousness to him that would allow his wackiness to mean more when it would come out. A lot of people say his sketch as Jimmy Carter talking a kid down from a bad trip is among his greatest, but with a catalog of characters that include The Blues Brothers, Coneheads, ½ of Two Wild and Crazy Guys, Bass-o-Matic Salesman & Irwin Mainway, it’s hard to pick just one.
This is the spot that I fought the hardest with, the “glue guy” role. There were two utility players that created a real Sophie’s Choice for me, Bill Hader or Phil Hartman. I loved everything Hartman did, but Stefon might be my all-time favorite Weekend Update guest and Herb Welch is one of the most underrated characters from the show, so Hader won out. Reality either guy would fit perfectly among any variation of SNL.
McKinnon is the only current cast member to make this list and for good reason. While the current cast has been really good over the last few season, McKinnon has been great. Her portrayals of Hilary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway has been dead on, but it’s her characters that really set her apart. What she brings to the table with Russian peasant Olya Povlatsky & aged starlet Debette Goldry is truly amazing.
There is something about Gilda Radner that makes you instantly fall in love. The only cast member to come close to having that lovable factor was Kristin Wiig. The early cast members all had this level of range, which has been lost on the cast as a whole, where they could play just about anything/one. Rader however did it with a level of believability that’s still uncanny. Roseanne Roseannadanna, Lisa Loopner & Emily Litella were all real to me and you can’t tell me otherwise.
Honestly every sketch show should have the guy who isn’t afraid to go out on stage in a diaper and sing Britney Spears “Baby One More Time” and for this imaginary cast that role will be filled by none other than Will Ferrell. Aside from not being afraid of embarrassing himself, Ferrell was one hell of a straight man as he showed us with his portrayal of Alex Trebek in the “Jeopardy” sketches. Forget More Cowbell, we needed more Ferrell.
I’ve never seen a cast member do comedy as gracefully and as violent as Chris Farley. It amazes me still to this day that he was able to throw his body around with such finesse, but make it look so uncontrollable. Very rarely is there a comedian that can be as loud and aggressive yet still come off sweet & lovable. Farley might have been the greatest physical comedian the show has ever had.
Bill Murray has this uncanny ability to feel like the biggest deal in a room, yet still come off as an everyday guy. There is no doubt that Murray is one of the top three greatest SNL cast members ever behind Eddie Murphy & John Belushi. Unlike Murphy & Belushi, Murray had the ability to take a backseat and allow others to be the star of the scene without overshadowing them.
Honestly there is no list imaginable that would leave off John Belushi and Eddie Murphy (Spoiler he’s next). Both men have been argued as the single greatest cast member of all-time and rightfully so. Old clips of Eddie Murphy is what hooked me in on SNL, but there’s something about Belushi that embodies Saturday Night Live. He seemed to give the show a certain edge, that otherwise wouldn’t have been there. I’ve never seen a sketch that involved Belushi where I didn’t laugh. His ability to work the crowd without even speaking is something few people have been able to accomplish.
The reason I started watching SNL and honestly the reason I’m still able to watch it, Eddie Murphy. We all know the history, during the 5 years in which Lorne Michaels had left the show it was hot garbage just awaiting its cancellation, but the young sketch gawd Eddie Murphy single-handedly saved it from extinction. I remember seeing clips of Eddie Murphy’s Gumby sketch as a kid and becoming hooked on the show. I’m almost positive there will never be someone as great as Murphy, his ability to stand out and own the camera will most likely never be duplicated.