Dawson Casting: Many sketches in which the cast members play teens or children (usually if they're making fun of a live-action kids' show or have a sketch featuring a family with kids or a sketch about kids or teens). Obviously unavoidable, but it has become prevalent in latter-day seasons where most of the cast members currently hired are younger than the show itself (starting with Kenan Thompson, who was born three years after SNL premiered).
Fridays, despite being initially panned by critics for being a less funny carbon copy of SNL, did manage to find success with audiences when SNL was struggling with its 1980-81 cast. The show has been cited by critics and viewers as the only sketch show that could have easily surpassed Saturday Night Live in terms of humor and quality. Unfortunately, Fridays ended up suffering from a timeslot change and a failed attempt at trying to beat Dallas in the ratings as a primetime sketch show. It was canceled after its second season. The show did rerun on the USA Network in the late 1980s, but got pulled for reasons unknown and for a while, there were no video or DVD releases of episodes (as of 2013, Fridays is available on DVD thanks to Shout! Factory — in both a "Best Of" collection and a "Complete Series" collection). Fridays sketches are also available on YouTube (including the banned sketches "Diner of the Living Dead" and "The Ronnie Horror Picture Show").
The New Show: Once upon a time in the mid-1980s, while Dick Ebersol was struggling to keep his version of Saturday Night Live afloat after Eddie Murphy left for a movie career and Joe Piscopo left due to exhaustion, Lorne Michaels decided to create a new version of SNL for NBC. The show included a lot of '70s-era SNL hosts like Buck Henry and Steve Martin, but sadly, even with Steve Martin at the helm, the show was a failure. It only lasted two months (January 1984 to March 1984) and made Lorne rethink his decision of leaving SNL, prompting an initially shaky, but overall satisfying return to the show in November 1985.
In Living Color was Screwed by the Network from Executive Meddling over censorship and eventually died when the Wayans siblings left and Jim Carrey pursued a movie career. A revival was planned for 2012, but due to negative test audience reactions, it's been shelved until the show can be fixed, the project is scrapped, or another network decides to pick it up and air it.
House of Buggin, Saturday Night Special, and Hype weren't received warmly by critics and ended up being canceled as quickly as they premiered.
MADtv — serving 14 years as SNL's worthiest late-night sketch show rival — was canned in 2009 due to low ratings and budget constraints. There was word of MADtv coming back as a cable show, but, unless one were to count the Cartoon Network sketch show MAD and Comedy Central's Key And Peele, MADtv as viewers know it is gone.
Almost Live lasted 15 years and kickstarted Bill Nye's television career, but got cancelled as ratings dropped heavily in later years, and a new company bought the hosting station in Seattle.
Edited for Syndication: Sometimes the 90-minute NBC reruns will either have sketches or segments edited out due to a current event that turned the sketch into a "Funny Aneurysm" Momentnote (a rerun of the episode hosted by Blake Lively cut the Weekend Update segment where Abby Elliot impersonates Brittany Murphy due to Murphy's sudden death fifteen days after the episode's premiere) or censorship complaints note (i.e. the Sinead O'Connor incident on the Season 18 episode hosted by Tim Robbins; Martin Lawrence's raunchy monologue from Season 19 was shortened and replaced with a series of cards telling viewers that his monologue was so controversial that it almost got everyone on SNL fired and it can never air on TV again). Other times, parts will be edited (or replaced with dress rehearsal versions) because of miscues, accidental use of the F-(or S-)word, or just the simple fact that the dress rehearsal version was done better (and includes funnier jokes that were either botched on-camera or omitted due to time constraints).
SNL when shown in syndication on cable (Comedy Central, E!, VH-1, and VH-1 Classic) are all cut down to an hour, trimming out all the sketches and Weekend Update jokes that are considered weak and paring down the musical performances to one (though some also cut the musical performances, like the Lucy Lawless episode from season 24 that doesn't have Elliott Smith's sole performance). The NBC reruns of the season 38 episodes that air at 10:00pm (eastern time) are shown the same way.
Netflix has all the episodes of SNL from season's one to 38 (with 39 sure to follow), though the episodes included in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s collections are pared down to only the best segments and sketches (and the musical performances have been cut due to copyright issues).
Hey, It's That Guy!/Retroactive Recognition: Did you know that Gilbert Gottfried was a cast member (and probably more jarring, Gottfried's voice had some semblance of volume control. You can hear the screechy, obnoxious voice he's currently known for, but for the most part at that time, Gottfried actually was soft-spoken)? How about Anthony Michael Hall (SNL's youngest cast member at 17 years old), Harry Shearer, Randy Quaid, Robert Downey, Jr. (his uncle is Jim Downey, a one-time feature player and one of the current writers on the show), Joan Cusack, Sarah Silverman (who sadly, wasn't given a chance to showcase her sweet, yet horribly un-PC humor when she was on SNL), Janeane Garofalo (who left the show due to backstage tensions and refuses to talk about her time on the show), Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ben Stiller, and Damon Wayans (who was fired from his short stint as feature player due to making a minor character he was playing sound Camp Gay, of which Lorne Michaels didn't approve. Coincidentally, that Camp Gay voice he used for his character is the same one he would later use on "In Living Color"'s "Men on Film" sketches)?
MADtv fans might be surprised to discover that Jeff Richards and Taran Killam (two feature players who only spent one year on MADtv before leaving) were/are on this show. Jeff Richards was on MADtv from 2000-01 before crossing over to SNL, where he stayed from 2001 to the early half of 2004. Taran Killam also appeared on MADtv in 2001 (becoming the youngest cast member on that show at age 19) and was let go a year later. Nine years after appearing on MADtv, he became one of four new feature players for SNL.
Killam had started in sketch comedy even before that, appearing as Spalding in the The Amanda Show sketch Moody's Point.
Yes, 1980s-1990s kids' show lovers. The Kenan Thompson who is on SNL is the same Kenan Thompson who was on Nickelodeon's All That and Kenan & Kel.
Featured player Kate McKinnon, much like Erica Ash on MADtv, used to be a cast member on Logo's The Big Gay Sketch Show and did voiceowrk on a lot of animated shows, including Ugly Americans and Robotomy (on Robotomy, she was the voice of Miss Crunshine, the Sunshine Class teacher).
Jim Cummings (1980s and 1990s voice actor for many of the cartoons you probably remember from your childhood: Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, Taz-Mania, Goof Troop, etc) voiced Gargamel on the TV Funhouse cartoon parodying The Smurfs and The Anna Nicole Show.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: It's been speculated that the episodes produced by Jean Doumanian and Dick Ebersol (which span from November 1980 to April 1985note That's from the first episode of season six to the last episode of season 10 will never be commercially released on DVD, beyond the use of occasional clips in documentaries on SNL's rocky history during the first half of the 1980s. The reasoning for this varies from rights issues (usually related to musical guests) to a direct decision by Lorne Michaels not to release shows he himself didn't produce (and audience reaction to those seasons, which range from outright hate to a lukewarm love).
Missing Episode: In its 38 years, there have been times where the show was put on hiatus due to the Writers' Guild of America going on strike (specifically in 1981, 1985, 1988, and 2007-08). Because of this, a lot of planned episodes were never written — or were written but never performed. One particularly sad example is a planned 1988 episode that was supposed to be hosted by Gilda Radner from the original "Not Ready for Primetime Players" cast. Sadly, because of the strike and Radner's death from ovarian cancer, this episode has never been made and never will be.
One missing episode that was actually produced was Chevy Chase/Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, which aired in April 1981. Originally intended to start the revised second half of season 6 (after Jean Doumanian was replaced by Dick Ebersol, and a number of her cast members were fired), a writer's strike cut the season short. This episode has gone unseen in its original form since 1981. Its lone Comedy Central airing was heavily re-edited, and contained material from other season 6 episodes in place of a few original sketches.
For reasons unknown, the season 27 episode hosted by Alec Baldwin with musical guest P.O.D. only aired once. Some of the sketches from that episode were seen, however, on the SNL clip show episode, "The Best of Alec Baldwin." The episode is on Netflix streaming, albeit edited to remove P.O.D.'s performances.
The 12 episodes produced by Jean Doumanian during the 1980-81 season has been barred from syndication (in America, barring the Bill Murray episode that aired on Comedy Central in the 1990s and the Jamie Lee Curtis episode that aired on NBC in 2005; Canada's Comedy Network has aired all of Jean Doumanian's episodes) in America due to how poorly it was received by viewers and the network.
Season 11 (the 1985-1986 season) is also a season everyone would like to forget, most especially for the writers at the time (who would go on to write for The Simpsons during its Golden Age) who simply didn't know how to create funny material for the cast hired at the time.
Throw It In: Being always LIVE leaves a lot of things improvised on the set, often with the actors cracking up.
A famous one being a simple costume change for the "More Cowbell" sketch. During rehearsals the cast admitted it wasn't really working out, then for the live performance Will Ferrell changed his shirt to something about two sizes too small and everything just snowballed from there.
Another famous one from the 1970s — Gilda Radner and episode host Candice Bergen are in this sketch that's really a public service announcement for the Right to Stupidity. Bergen accidentally calls Radner "Fern", which is Bergen's character's name. After much cracking up, Gilda flips the sketch around so that way Bergen's character's the stupid one and not her.
On the episode hosted by Jason Lee, there was a "Falconer" sketch where a landowner (Lee) appears and calls Forte's character (the Falconer) a "dickhead" instead of a "dickweed". While Lee corrects himself, Forte ad-libs that he is neither a dickweed or a dickhead.
In a sketch entitled Black History Minute, Eddie Murphy was playing an Angry Black Man giving a hectoring monologue to the camera. At one point he stumbled over some words, and a couple of audience members tittered. Without breaking character, he addressed the crowd: "So I messed up. Shut up!"
During a Scorpion King sketch with The Rock, he accidentally skipped several lines. However, having made his name with his ability with a microphone on live TV, he kept his cool and somehow seamlessly linked his lines back together, then told the audience, "Don't worry, I've got this!"
In the infamous first Matt Foley sketch with Chris Farley, near the end Matt tumbles over and breaks the table. This was purely accidental; Farley tripped and crashed into the table, and it went from there, thankfully managing to continue the sketch uninterrupted. The moment was so memorable though that most later Foley sketches had the character crashing into walls or breaking the furniture.
What Could Have Been: Saturday Night Live was originally supposed to have one person act as a permanent host (Albert Brooks was chosen), but NBC and Lorne Michaels thought the show would be better if it were a little less like Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (which Lorne wrote for before creating SNL) and had a celebrity host every week.
Burt Reynolds himself once talked with Norm MacDonald about a Celebrity Jeopardy! sketch where the real Burt would come out and punch Norm in the face, then the real Burt would take over and be worse than the fake one. This ended up not happening when Norm got fired.
Season six was originally supposed to be headed by Al Franken following Lorne Michaels' departure. However, Franken wrote a Weekend Update segment called "A Limo for the Lame-O," which made fun of Fred Silverman. As a result, Franken left along with Lorne Michaels, the writers, and the remnants of the Not Ready for Primetime cast and NBC hired Jean Doumanian in his place.
Seasons 6, 11, and 20 were all slated to be the final seasons for the show due to how disastrous they were and how much they were hated by fans and critics for being weak and humorless. All three of these seasons were saved from the chopping block by cast and crew overhauls and, for better or worse, SNL is still on the air.
Nick Nolte was planned to host a season 8 episode, but Eddie Murphy took over after he fell ill from a hangover. This decision is what confirmed many people's belief that Eddie Murphy (who was in the cast at the time, making him the first and, so far, only cast member to host without actually leaving the cast) was overshadowing everyone else on the show. Even Joe Piscopo (who was just as overexposed as Murphy was) agreed, and Steve Martin himself came on during the goodnights to call Murphy out on what he did and complain that he wasn't chosen as a substitute host.
Write Who You Know: A lot of SNL's recurring characters are actually based on people that either the writers or the cast members have encountered in life:
Jay Pharoah's Principal Frye, the wheezing high school principal of Booker T. Washington High who constantly interrupts assemblies with news of some kind of disaster happening at the school, is actually based on the principal from Pharoah's high school in Chesapeake, Virginia. The only thing that's changed is the name: the principal's name in real life is James while the character Jay Pharoah plays is named Daniel.
Bill Hader's Stefon character is actually based on two people: a wannabe club promoter John Mulaney (the writer behind the Stefon segments on Weekend Update) met while in New York (and the wannabe club owner's email), and a barista Bill Hader met who actually looked, dressed, and spoke like Stefon. It's one of those stories that you don't want to believe is real, considering Stefon's character, but it is.
Julia Sweeney's adrogynous Pat character was actually based on a woman Julia saw who looked so much like a man that Sweeney questioned her gender.
One of Kristen Wiig's characters was "Aunt Linda", who appeared on Weekend Update to review/complain about new movies. Kristen Wiig got the idea for the character from a woman she saw on a airplane, who was very confused by the in-flight movie (The Matrix, in case you were wondering) and very vocal about her confusion.
Mike Meyers' recurring sketch Coffee Talk With Linda Richman was based on his mother-in-law, Linda Richman.
Tina Fey: the first woman head writer on SNL. She holds the record for the longest running Weekend Update anchorwoman on SNL (though Seth Meyers is set to break the overall record, Fey is still considered the longest-running female Weekend Update anchor).
Harry Shearer: the only cast member to be such for two non-consecutive seasons (1979-80 note season 5 and 1984-85 note season 10), making him the Grover Cleveland of SNL. Also the only cast member to be a regular cast member on another long-running American comedy show that heavily influenced modern pop culture, is considered a goldmine of modern satire and memorable catchphrases, memes, and comic moments, and whose humor and quality has been called into question in pretty much every year it's run (specifically the recent episodes vs. the older ones) — The Simpsonsnote (Phil Hartman, while a memorable and endearing cast member of both SNL and The Simpsons, doesn't count since he wasn't credited as a regular on The Simpsons.)
Seth Meyers, the only cast member to have a family member who was on a rival show (Josh Meyers, his younger brother, was on MADtv for the show's eighth and ninth seasons). Meyers is now the longest-running male cast member on the show following Darrell Hammond's departure in 2009 (Meyers has been on the show since 2001, but he didn't become popular until he replaced Tina Fey as Weekend Update anchor). Meyers has now beaten Dennis Miller as longest-running Weekend Update anchor (and is the second Weekend Update anchor after Charles Rocket to alternate between having a female co-anchor and doing the segment by himself).
Eddie Murphy, the first black SNL cast member to be famous, the youngest black male cast member to be hired (Murphy was only 19 when he joined the 1980-1981 cast) and the only host to host an episode while still a cast member — specifically the December 11, 1982 show that was supposed to be helmed by Nick Nolte, but Nolte was too hungover from partying to make it to rehearsals, so Murphy took over...much to the shock and anger of the cast, who felt that Eddie Murphy was overtaking the show (even his overexposed-on-the-show partner-in-crime Joe Piscopo thought Eddie was hogging the spotlight too much). Murphy's star power was obvious enough that he survived the 1981 purge of the Jean Doumanian cast (along with Joe Piscopo), and he quickly became probably the biggest star the show ever created. Murphy left the show in 1984 for a wildly successful film career. Has boycotted SNL ever since David Spade made an unflattering joke about him during a "Weekend Update" segment in the 1990s.
Darrell Hammond, the cast member with the most celebrity impersonations (107, with Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Donald Trump, most of George W. Bush's Cabinet [particularly Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney], Hardball host Chris Matthews, and Sean Connery as his most frequent and most popular)note As of 2013, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, and Kenan Thompson have the highest number of celebrity impressions — Armisen and Thompson have 98 each, Bill Hader has 82, and Jason has 79, though now it's just Kenan Thompson following the departure of Sudeikis, Armisen, and Hader, the last cast member hired in the 1990s to leave the show (Hammond left at the end of Season 34), the oldest cast member to leave the show (Hammond was 55 when he left the show), and the longest-running white male cast member at 14 seasons.
Joan Cusack (from the 1985-1986 season) and Kristen Wiig (who was on show from 2005 to 2012) are the only female cast members to be nominated for Academy Awards; Cusack, twice (for Best Supporting Actress in Working Girl and In & Out), and Wiig, once (for Best Original Screenplay, as the co-writer of Bridesmaids).
Jason Sudeikis (2005-2013) and Paul Brittain (2010-2012): Both are nephews to two sitcom actors who have hosted the show more than once. Jason Sudeikis's uncle is George Wendt (Norm from Cheers), who first hosted during the 1985-1986 season note on a bizarre, fourth wall-breaking episode that had Francis Ford Coppola trying to fix the show and a musical performance by Phillip Glass and made frequent appearances in the 1990s as one of Bob Swerski's "Super Fans"; Paul Brittain is the nephew of Bob Newhart, who first hosted during the 1979-1980 season note The fifth season and the last season featuring the remnants of the original cast — and Harry Shearer before he became a cast member on The Simpsons and hosted again during the notoriously awful 20th season.
Al Franken: The first — and so far only — SNL cast member who is now a U.S. Senator.
John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Michael O Donoghue, Laraine Newman, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, and Garrett Morris: The original Not Ready For Prime Time Players, a.k.a. the debut cast on October 11, 1975. When the show premiered the sketch comedy was only one part of the larger whole, and the cast was billed all at once as a group in the opening credits. They would soon be regarded as a unique collection of comic talent and today are still looked at as one of the best casts (the Hartman-Carvey era from roughly 1986-1993 is another contender). After Chase became the first departure early in the 1976-77 season, he was replaced by Bill Murray, who became one of the biggest stars the show has ever created.
Michael McKean, the oldest person to be hired as a cast member (he was 46 years old when he first joined the cast near the end of the 19th season).
Technically, George Coe was the oldest of all cast members, as he was hired at 46 years and 155 days, while McKeanwas a mere 46 years and 147 days. However, Coe was a founding cast member hired at the insistence of NBC (who didn't feel the cast should all be young people), he wasn't featured much and was only credited as a cast member for three episodes, one of which he didn't even feature in. McKean, however, was hired when SNL was already its own entity and Lorne Michaels was directly responsible for hiring him.
Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Peter Aykroyd, as well as John Belushi and Jim Belushi are the only three sets of brothers to both be in the cast. In the case of the Murray brothers, the younger of the two was hired first. Brian Doyle-Murray originally was only hired as a writer, but became a featured player during the fifth season, making he and Bill the only brothers who were cast members at the same time. He then went back to being a writer only for the sixth season, but rejoined the cast (again as a featured player) for the seventh season. John and Jim Belushi were the only two brothers who were both repertory players, but in fairness, during the time Jim Belushi joined the show, there were no featured players. He joined the cast a couple of years after his older brother's death.
Terry Sweeney: As of 2012, Sweeney is the only male homosexual cast member ever hired, as well as the first openly gay cast member to be hired (his lover is Lanier Laney, who, coincidentally, is Terry Sweeney's comedy writing partner and was a writer on SNL in its 11th season. The two are often credited together as seen in Tripping the Rift, MADtv, and The WB!'s short-lived sketch show, Hype) and one of two cast members who used to be writers for Jean Doumanian's abysmal sixth season (the other was Bill Murray's brother, Brian Doyle-Murray).
Abby Elliott, the first (and so far only) cast member who is the child of another cast member (her father is Chris Elliott, who was on Saturday Night Live during its 20th season [1994-1995]). Chris' own father was Bob Elliott of Bob & Ray (who appeared on a Christmas episode of SNL in 1978), making it three generations of Elliotts who have appeared on the show in some capacity. Elliott was also the youngest female cast member in the show's history (21 and five months when she first appeared as a cast member in 2009), beating out Julia Louis-Dreyfus (21 and eight months when she first came on the show in 1982). Her departure from the show in 2012 makes her the only member of the Elliott family who has been on SNL the longest (her grandfather cameoed in one episode and her father was on the show for a seasonnote and the season he was on was deemed by many to not be very good), with four years (2008 to 2012) under her belt.
Jeff Richards, the first cast member who was also a MADtv cast member (Richards was on MADtv from 2000-01, then left for SNL and stayed on there from 2001 to the middle of the 2003-04 season).
Killam is also the second SNL cast member who got his start on a Nickelodeon sketch show (for Killam, that would be All That's spin-off, The Amanda Show).
Billy Crystal, one of two cast members who hosted prior to being cast on the show (the other was McKean, who also holds the distinction of being the only cast member to host and be a musical guest before becoming a cast member).
Rob Riggle, the only member of the frickin' U.S. Marine Corps to be a cast member. Also the third former cast member to become a correspondent on The Daily Show, joining A. Whitney Brownnote A feature player who first appeared on the 1985-1986 season and Nancy Wallsnote Nancy Walls was on the show during the 21st season — 1995-1996, and was let go in favor of Ana Gasteyer. Is married to Steve Carell, who auditioned to be on SNL, but got passed up in favor of Will Ferrell.
Tim Meadows, the longest-serving black male cast member (1990-2000). He wasn't that popular in his early years on the show, but became popular in the mid-to-late 1990s when Lorne fired most of the season 20 cast and revamped the show for season 21. As of 2013, Kenan Thompson has broken Tim Meadows' record for longest-running black cast member with 11 seasons under his belt.
Tony Rosato, Pamela Stephenson, Morwenna Banks, Horatio Sanz, and Nasim Pedrad are the only cast members to be born outside of North Americanote "North America" meaning the United States, Canada, and Mexico. SNL has had a lot of American-born and Canadian-born cast members. Noël Wells from the season 39 cast has Mexican heritage, but she is American-born, as opposed to being originally from Mexico and moving to America (Rosato was born in Italy before his parents emigrated to Canada, Stephenson was born in New Zealand and is now an Australian citizen, Banks was originally from England and moved back there after getting fired from SNL, Sanz was born in Chile, and Nasim Pedrad was originally from Iran).
Tony Rosato and Robin Duke are also the first former cast members of SCTV to be on Saturday Night Live (though the SCTV cast member who crossed over to SNL most people would remember is Martin Short, as he brought his Ed Grimley character from SCTV to SNL. Short is also the only cast member whose recurring character has his own Saturday morning cartoon: The Completely Mental Misadventures Of Ed Grimley and, as of December 2012, is the only Dick Ebersol-era cast member to host more than twice).
Danitra Vance (a little-known cast member from the same cast as Terry Sweeney [1985-1986]) is not only the first black female cast member who was hired as a repertory player (Yvonne Hudson is technically the first black female cast member ever to be hired on SNL, but Hudson was only hired as a feature player — during Jean Doumanian's notoriously bad sixth season — and not much is known about her either, besides the fact that she was on SNL as a recurring extra, became a feature player, then went back to being an extra until 1984 and hasn't been seen or heard from since), but also the only SNL cast member who had a learning disability (she was dyslexic), the only black female SNL cast member who is deceased (Vance died of breast cancer in 1994), and the first lesbian cast member (though her sexual preference wasn't made known until after she died).
As of April 2012, SNL, for the first time in 27 years, has hired a cast member who, like Terry Sweeney, is openly gay, and like Danitra Vance, is a lesbian. Her name is Kate McKinnon. Like Erica Ash on MADtv's 14th season, McKinnon got her sketch comedy start on Logo's The Big Gay Sketch Show.
Aidy Bryant, the first plus-sized female cast membernote meaning that SNL finally has a fat woman to play fat women in sketches and not have to compensate by putting the token fat guy — in this case for the current cast, Bobby Moynihan — in drag, though the "fat guy dressed as a woman" schtick will always be the funny option the show takes, and possibly the one least fraught with complaints of sexism and making fun of people based on their weight, and the new youngest member of the current cast (Aidy Bryant was born in May 1987, making her a month older than the previous youngest female cast member Abby Elliott).
Tim Robinson, the third member of the season 38 cast (after Bill Hader and Taran Killam) to be married with children, and the fourth male member of the current cast to be married (joining Bill Hader, Taran Killam, and Kenan Thompson [Thompson is married, but, as of yet, doesn't have children]). Tim Robinson will now be the secondSNL cast member to go from cast member to working behind the scenes as a writer (Brian Doyle-Murray did this from the fifth to the sixth season) starting in season 39.
Christopher Guest (from the 1984-1985 season — season 10): Is the only SNL cast member who is a member of British nobility (his real title is, "Christopher Haden-Guest, 5th Baron Haden-Guest," or "Lord Haden-Guest" for short).
Brad Hall and Julia-Louis Dreyfus: The only SNL cast members to be married to each other.
Rich Hall (no relation to Brad or Anthony Michael): The only cast member from Fridaysnote ABC's answer to Saturday Night Live that lasted from 1980 to 1982 to be a cast member on SNL, though Rich Hall wasn't credited as a cast member on Fridays. He, like Michael O'Donoghue on SNL, was a writer who often appeared on-camera performing bits that he wrote himself.
Noël Wells: Is the first Hispanic female cast member (Cecily Strong was thought to be the first Hispanic cast member due to her slightly brown complexion and exotic looks), the third Hispanic cast member overall (after Horatio Sanz and Fred Armisen), the second one after Fred Armisen to not be a full-blooded Hispanic, and the second cast member to have ancestry from a Middle Eastern country (Wells is part Tunisiannote Tunisia is a North African country and most world maps include North African countries like Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt as part of the Middle East along with the central Asian countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates and Nasim Pedrad is Iranian).
What Could Have Been — Cast Members and Writers Who Didn't Make It
There are a handful of celebrities (some of whom went on to host an SNL episode) who originally auditioned to be cast members and writers on the show, but never made it:
Richard Belzer: Even though he was a warm-up comic and one of the writers of the "Not Ready for Primetime" era of SNL (1975-1980), Belzer actually auditioned to be a cast member. The closest Belzer got to be a cast member was when he had to replace Chevy Chase on Weekend Update after Chase suffered a groin injury (Chase fell on a podium that didn't have padding on the sides) during the show's first political sketch.
Mimi Kennedy: Was also a potential cast member during the "Not Ready for Primetime" era, but Lorne thought she was too similar to Gilda Radner in appearance and comic ability.
Jim Carrey: Auditioned for Season 6 (1980-81) headed by Jean Doumanian, but lost out to Charles Rocket. Auditioned again for the 1985-1986 season, and also didn't make it. Coincidentally, the 1985-1986 season had Damon Wayans as a cast member (until he was fired), and both Carrey and Wayans would meet again on another sketch show: In Living Color.
John Goodman: Also auditioned for Season 6, but lost out to Joe Piscopo.
Dom Irrera: Auditioned for Season 6, but lost to Gilbert Gottfried.
Robert Townsend: Also auditioned for season six and was chosen to be a cast member, but everyone else (save Jean Doumanian) saw potential in an up-and-coming stand-up comedian at the time named Eddie Murphy. Also, Robert Townsend forgot to sign his contract.
Paul Reubens: Auditioned for Season 6 (1980-1981), and lost to Gilbert Gottfried. Much like Jim Carrey, John Goodman, and Robert Townsend, Reubens dodged a bullet there, considering how awful the season turned out to be.
Charlie Barnett: Was given a contract to be an SNL cast member during the disastrous 1980-1981 season, but Barnett was illiterate and missed a script reading. Eddie Murphy took over and the rest was history.
Catherine O'Hara: Chosen to be Ann Risley's replacement when NBC was trying to fix SNL after Doumanian's tenure, but quit and was eventually replaced with Robin Duke (a feature player from SCTV) before the start of Season 7 (1981-82). Allegedly, Catherine O'Hara was scared off by former SNL writer Michael O'Donoghue, who yelled at the remaining season six cast and writers for ruining the show. However, O'Hara has gone on record to say that she left the show because she wanted to stay on SCTV.
John Candy: Like Catherine O'Hara, Candy was another SCTV cast member who was asked to be on SNL. Unlike Catherine O'Hara, Candy shot down the offer the moment Dick Ebersol asked him to be on the show.
Geena Davis: Auditioned for Season 10 (1984-1985), but lost to Pamela Stephenson.
Andrea Martin: Yet another SCTV cast member asked to be on SNL during the mid-1980s. Like Geena Davis, Andrea Martin too was rejected in favor of Pamela Stephenson.
All of the cast members of Kids in the Hall (Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, and Scott Thompson): All auditioned to be on the 1985-1986 cast. Only McKinney and McCulloch were hired as writers, and McKinney would later be a cast member on the show from 1994-1997. The good news out of this is that they got their own show that Lorne Michaels created.
Bonnie Hunt: Auditioned for the 1986-1987 season, but took issue with the male-dominated atmosphere at the time (if only she'd wait until the mid-1990s, when women like Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, and Maya Rudolph would prove that women can be just as funny as the men).
Lisa Kudrow, Kathy Griffin, Jennifer Aniston, and Mary Scheernote from the original cast of MADtv: Auditioned for Season 16 (1990-91), but lost to Julia Sweeney, though Aniston and Kudrow actually had to turn down the offer to be on SNL since they were already hired to be on Friends.
Stephen Colbert: Auditioned for season 18 (1992-1993) as a writer. Didn't make the cut, though he did find fame on the short-lived sketch show The Dana Carvey Show, was a writer for SNL when Dana Carvey's show got canceled, did voicework on The Ambiguously Gay Duo, and, of course, became popular on The Daily Show and its spin-off The Colbert Report.
David Cross: Another 1992 cast member hopeful, though he didn't get the part because his audition was a disaster, not because Lorne Michaels thought he wasn't good enough. It's just as well, since he went on to do Mr. Show.
Dave Attell: Like Richard Belzer in the 1970s, Dave Attell was a writer on the show during the 1993-1994 season (season 19) who originally auditioned to be a cast member. According to Attell, he was relegated to writer because of his looks.
Andy Dick: Was offered the chance to be on SNL during the 1993-1994 season (season 19), but rejected it because he was a cast member on The Ben Stiller Show.
Louis C.K.: Auditioned for season 20 (1994-1995 season) at a time when he was broke and desperate. While C.K.'s performance didn't get him hired on SNL (and given that SNL at the time was plunged into Seasonal Rot following the departure of Phil Hartman, the increasingly mediocre writing, and the growing cast getting sick of each other, maybe it was for the best that C.K. didn't start his career there), it did lead to Jim Downey (one of the show's writers) recommending him to Robert Smigel to be a writer for Late Night with Conan O'Brien, which became his first TV job.
Steve Carrell: Auditioned for Season 21 (1995-96), but lost to Will Ferrell. Despite this, he became a voice actor for the TV Funhouse series "The Ambiguously Gay Duo".
Amy Sedaris: Auditioned for the 1994-1995 season as Janeane Garofalo's replacement. Sadly, Sedaris was busy starring in a play called One Woman Shoe and couldn't make it. Molly Shannon took over.
Kevin McDonald: Auditioned for the 1995-1996 season (season 21), but lost to Mark McKinney
Jennifer Coolidge: Auditioned for the 1995-1996 season (season 21), but lost to Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, and Cheri Oteri
Adam McKay: Auditioned to be in the show's cast for the 1995-1996 season (season 21), but was hired as a writer instead, rising to the rank of head writer the following season and starting a fruitful collaboration with Will Ferrell on such movies as Anchorman, Step Brothers, and Talladega Nights.
Jon Glaser: Another 1995-1996 cast hopeful who didn't make it. Instead, he was hired as a writer for Late Night With Conan O'Brien and went on to star on the [adult swim] series, Delocated.
Marc Maron: Auditioned as Norm MacDonald's replacement in the mid-to-late 1990s. Lost to Colin Quinn.
Keri Kenney-Silver: Tried out for SNL after MTV canceled The State in 1996. Lost to Ana Gasteyer.
Johnny Knoxville: Was offered the chance to do his Jackass stunts as part of a short film series for the 1999-2000 season (season 25), but rejected the offer.
Zach Galifinakis: Tried out for SNL as a cast member at the end of the 1999-2000 season. Was hired on for a writer for the last two episodes of the season, then quit when he realized that the job just wasn't for him.
Stephnie Weir: Auditioned for Season 25 (1999-2000), but lost to Rachel Dratch and ended up on MADtv.
Kevin Brennan: Auditioned to be a cast member for the 1999-2000 season, but was rejected as Lorne didn't want to overpopulate his cast like he did in the early-to-mid 1990s. Brennan was given a writing job instead and was poised to be the new Weekend Update anchor for season 26 (2000-2001), only to quit after learning that Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon would be the new anchors.
Jeff Ross: Auditioned to be a writer and Weekend Update anchor for the 2000-2001 season. Lost to Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon.
Kevin Hart: As mentioned in his monologue on the season 38 episode he hosted in 2013, Hart was supposed to be a cast member in the early 2000s (exact year unknown, but most likely the 2001-2002 season after Jerry Minor left), but got rejected because he couldn't do celebrity impressions.
Paul Scheer: Auditioned for the 2001-2002 season and the 2002-2003 season. For the latter audition, he lost to Fred Armisen.
Jack McBrayer: Auditioned for the 2002-2003 season. Lost to Dean Edwards, but Lorne Michaels did keep him in mind when he was casting for 30 Rock.
Dane Cook: Auditioned for Season 28 (2002-03), but lost to Will Forte.
Maria Bamford: Auditioned for Season 29 (2003-2004), but lost to Finesse Mitchell and Kenan Thompson.
Kel Mitchell: Auditioned for season 29 along with his old friend and comedy partner Kenan Thompson. Thompson won, and now 1990s Nickelodeon fans will never see Kenan and Kel together again (unless Kel cameos or gets hired later and Kenan Thompson is still on the show).
Rob Huebel: Auditioned for Season 30 (2004-05) along with comedy partner Rob Riggle. Huebel lost to Riggle, and Riggle only stayed on the show for one season.
Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer: Auditioned for the 2005-2006 season (season 31) along with their Lonely Island friend, Andy Samberg. Samberg was the only one who became a cast member while Taccone and Schaffer became writers.
Michael Patrick O'Brien: Another 2005-2006 potential cast member who became a show writer. O'Brien also auditioned to be a cast member for the 2009-2010 season, and didn't make the cut there either. As of the 2013-2014 season, O'Brien is now a cast member, along with new feature players John Milhiser, Beck Bennett, Noël Wells, Brooks Wheelan (who was originally hired as a writer, but when Lorne decided to make Tim Robinson a writer instead of a cast member, Wheelan was added to the new feature player cast), and Kyle Mooney.
Mindy Kaling: Was offered a job as a writer for the 2006-2007 season, but wasn't allowed to break her contract at The Office to take it.
Donald Glover: Auditioned for Season 33 (2007-08) when Lorne was looking for a cast member to play Barack Obama and to replace Maya Rudolph, since she quit the show during the 100-day hiatus brought on by the 2007-2008 WGA Writers' Strike.
MADtv's Jordan Peele (known for his dead-on impersonations of Ja Rule, Morgan Freeman, Carol Spinney as Big Bird, Montel Williams, Flava Flav, and Forest Whitaker): Also auditioned for Season 33 when Lorne was looking for a cast member to play Barack Obama. Coincidentally, Jordan Peele now plays Barack Obama on the Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele.
T.J. Miller: Auditioned for the 2008-2009 season. Lost to Bobby Moynihan amid rumors that he acted like a Small Name, Big Ego at the audition (actually, he spilled some stuff from his backpack by mistake and a security guard mistook him for a homeless terrorist).
John Mulaney: Auditioned to be a cast member for the 2008-2009 season, but was given a writer job instead. Had he had been a cast member, his collaboration with Bill Hader on the Stefon character probably wouldn't have happened.
Nick Kroll: Auditioned for the 2008-2009 season. Lost to Bobby Moynihan, Abby Elliott, and Michaela Watkins.
Aubrey Plaza: Auditioned for the 2008-2009 season. Lost to Bobby Moynihan, Abby Elliott, and Michaela Watkins.
John Roberts (the voice of Linda Belcher): Auditioned for the 2008-2009 season. Lost to Bobby Moynihan, Abby Elliott, and Michaela Watkins. Had John Roberts been chosen, he wouldn't have been the voice of Linda Belcher for Bob's Burgers and he would have been the second male homosexual cast member hired on SNL. A homosexual cast member wouldn't be hired until season 37 with Kate McKinnon (who is a lesbian), but as of 2013, there have been no male homosexual cast members hired besides Terry Sweeney from the 1985-1986 cast.
Kumail Nanjiani: Had a bit role as a reporter in the "New York Times Reporters Meeting" sketch on the season 34 episode hosted by James Franco. Four years later, Nanjiani auditioned for the 2012-2013 season, and didn't make the cut as he wasn't good at doing characters.
SNL Movies and TV Spin-Offs That Never Happened
While The Coneheads did get a movie adaptation in 1993, it was originally supposed to be a Saturday morning cartoon in 1983. It was animated by Rankin/Bass (the same guys who do those holiday specials, like Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer), produced by Lorne Michaels, written by Al Franken and Tom Davis, and had Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, and Laraine Newman reprising their roles. It did air as a NBC special and released on VHS. Had it been picked up, this show would have been the first Saturday morning cartoon based on an SNL character instead of Martin Short's The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley.
In 1990, Saturday Night Live was going to be adapted to a feature-length, anthology-style string of comedy sketches on the theme of going to the movies called The Saturday Night Movie.
Hans & Franz: The Girly-Man Dilemma: A movie centered on Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon's Austrian bodybuilder characters. The story revolved around Hans and Franz following in Schwarzenegger's footsteps by traveling to Hollywood to become movie stars. The movie was to be a gag-heavy musical that toyed with a lot of the conventions of cinema, and would have featured Arnold Schwarzenegger as himself. Arnold Schwarzenegger got cold feet and pulled out, causing the movie to be cancelled. Presumably, it was because Last Action Hero, another satirical action film in which Schwarzenegger played himself, had bombed, and he didn’t want to star in anything that was in a similar vein.
A movie based on the Chicago Superfans, the group of stereotypical Chicago sports fanatics whose catchphrases "Da Bulls" and "Da Bears" swept the nation after Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Robert Smigel, and frequent SNL guest George Wendt originated the roles in a series of popular sketches, was set for 1994-1995. The plot for the proposed film involved the Superfans dealing with a businessman who doesn’t understand football buying the Chicago Bears and turning Soldier Field into a luxury stadium for the rich. Smigel and Odenkirk wrote the part of Burton Kimpkington, the businessman who purchases the Bears, for Martin Short. Smigel even quit his job as Conan O’Brien’s head writer to work on the script, but the timing didn’t work out right. SNL was going through its disastrous 1994-95 season, and the network called off all future SNL movies because of how bad It's Pat and Stuart Saves His Family did at the box office (though the need for more SNL movies would come about in the late 1990s into the 2000s with Superstar, The Ladies Man, and A Night at the Roxbury, and later with Harold the Bald Kid and MacGruber).
The Ambiguously Gay Duo was going to be a movie in 2005, and it was going to be a live-action feature film, but the writers decided to scale it back and that's how it became a short film for the season 36 episode hosted by Ed Helms.
In the mid-2000s, there were rumors that Lorne Michaels was going to create an American Idol-style reality show where the winner would become a cast member for Saturday Night Live. The rumors turned out to be false, though most people were relieved that SNL didn't jump on the reality talent show bandwagon.
A movie centered on Stefon (Bill Hader's burnt-out Club Kid character) was planned by Bill Hader and John Mulaney, but later scrapped when they couldn't make it work. According to Bill Hader, the movie would have been centered on Stefon coming out to his parents, a blue collar couple from the Bronxnote though, according to Weekend Update, Stefon's mother is known as "Ms. Stefon" and his father is David Bowie, though the Bronx couple could be his adopted parents who are in denial that he is gay, though most Stefon fans are content with having the Weekend Update segment where Seth Meyers saves Stefon from marrying Anderson Cooper on the season 38 finale hosted by Ben Affleck with musical guest Kanye West as the closest thing to a Stefon movie (similar to the Ambiguously Gay Duo example above).