Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My Top 8 performers of SNL

Been watching the new David Letterman Netflix interview series, GRIZZLY ADAMS & GUESTS and quite enjoyed the episode featuring Tina Fey. (Can I stop a moment to confess I LOVE Tina Fey? Going to New York this week and already have my tickets for her MEAN GIRLS musical.) Anyway, the episode is well worth seeing.

At one point Dave asks her to name her all-time top eight performers of SNL. Considering the enormous talent pool from the 156 years it's been on the air I thought that’s a Herculean challenge. So I decided to name mine. You’re welcome to name yours.

Narrowing it down to eight was tough. There are at least that many or more who could easily replace the ones I picked. But here they are:

John Belushi
Kate McKinnon
Will Ferrell
Gilda Radner
Eddie Murphy
Phil Hartman
Tina Fey
Bill Murray

Tina included Maya Rudolph, Jan Hooks, and I think Amy Poehler. I only watched once and was too lazy to go back and double-check.

I imagine it’s like popular music. Just as people tend to prefer the music they grew up with I suspect there’s a greater affection for the cast you watched when you first got hooked on SNL. Your lists will be a good test of that theory.

Thanks for playing and unless you pick Ann Risley there are no wrong answers.

66 comments :

Sean R. said...

"I imagine it’s like popular music. Just as people tend to prefer the music they grew up with I suspect there’s a greater affection for the cast you watched when you first got hooked on SNL. Your lists will be a good test of that theory."

Mine will easily reflect that I was a teenager in the early 1990's when I started watching, with some other cast in there too. I am too young to have seen Belushi live on SNL and was still pretty young when he died.

Dana Carvey
Mike Myers
Adam Sandler
Phil Hartman
David Spade
Chris Farley
Eddie Murphy -Seriously. Find Buckwheat has been shot.
Chevy Chase

Steve Bailey said...

Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray, Murphy, Fey, Lovitz, Hartman, Hader.

Just curious, what do you have against Ann Risley?

Pidge said...

I really enjoyed the contributions of Jon Lovitz, Martin Short and Chrisopher Guest. And Jane Curtin.

VP81955 said...

Ken, since you spent some time at Gene Autry's KMPC, I thought you'd be interested in this piece, which ran in the Los Angeles Times 50 years ago today. (It's from the Facebook group "CBS Columbia Square Alumni.") Note the building -- now Sunset Bronson Studios -- is cited as a former bowling alley, but its history as Warners' home in the 1920s (before it moved to Burbank and the First National lot) is ignored:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10216484962221043&set=pcb.1909327292423163&type=3&theater&ifg=1

Daniel said...

Mine:

Will Ferrell
Christopher Guest
Phil Hartman
Kate McKinnon
Eddie Murphy
Bill Murray
Harry Shearer
Martin Short

The more professionally-established cast of the 1984-85 season (Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Martin Short) was the best all-around cast.

Rock Golf said...

Dan Aykrord. He was so good that people didn't know how many different characters he was.
Gilda Radner.
Eddie Murphy.
Phil Hartman.
Mike Myers.
Kristin Wiig.
Will Ferrell
Kenan Thompson. He improves every sketch he's in. He has the Jack Benny/Kelsey Grammar gift of being funnier in silent still glares than most comedian are by acting crazy.

Cowboy Surfer said...

Eddie Murphy
Bill Murray
Dana Carvey
Chris Farley
Phil Hartman
Mike Meyers
Adam Sandler
Will Ferrell

Honorable Mention:

I'm Chevy Chase and your not

Martin Short/Ed Grimley - I must say

SCTV - John Candy

Howard Hoffman said...

It’s like trying to pick a favorite child. Three years ago, Rolling Stone attempted to rank (then) all 145 of ‘em. Spoiler alert: Robert Downey, Jr. didn’t do very well. See it here.

Most underrated and the real SNL ironman - Kenan Thompson.

Mike Barer said...

Kenan Thompson, John Beluschi, Dan Ackroyd, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Jane Curtain, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin.

Fred Vogel said...

Had to do ten:
John Belushi
Dan Ackroyd
Gilda Radner
Bill Murray
Kate McKinnon
Will Farrell
Bill Hader
Kristen Wiig
Billy Crystal
MIke Myers

KLAC Guy said...

Aykroyd, Belushi, Murray, Radner, Guest, Julia Seeeney, Faye, Murphy.

VP81955 said...

The "assassination of Buckwheat" is arguably the best sketch SNL ever did, a brutal parody of "instant news" just as the medium was devolving into self-parody. "Because you could die tomorrow."

Ray Barrington said...

Aykroyd instead of McKinnon but she is still active.

Bob Gassel said...

mine..

Phil Hartman
Dana Carvey
Fred Armisen
John Belushi
Will Ferrell
Gilda Radner
Jan Hooks
Kristen Wigg

Weekend Update Anchor: Norm Macdonald







Roderick Allmanson said...

It's tough to separate what they've done since with what they were while on air. Tina Fey didn't really have any characters to speak of and didn't appear outside of update. Of course her writing made that show incredible while she was there. All these behind the scenes contributions are amazing, but we might as well go Jim Downey or Mike O'Donoghue

Mike Doran said...

Lists are ridiculous, and none more so than this one (no offense intended).
The problem inherent here is: what are we judging here - how funny someone is, or how skilled as a performer?
What I usually look for is how well cast members perform when they're playing straight for someone else.
Perhaps I can make this clearer with an example (one to serve for many):
Of the current SNL cast, my favorite is Cecily Strong, in large part because she does the best pained reactions to the more outrageous actions/words of other people.
This ability - playing the audience to the Funny Ones, so to speak - is why Kenan Thompson has become the MVP on SNL for as long as he's been there.
This doesn't mean that the two I mentioned here are any less funny than the showier ones - all is dependent on the material, as ever.
I do maintain that the ability to react is all-important to having a long-lived career.
When I look at the original shows from the '70s, the one cast member I keep going back to is Jane Curtin, who was basically stuck with playing foil to the Bully Boys, but somehow always held her space; unsurprisingly, she's had the best sustained post-SNL career (at least until she made the mistake of getting older).
Of the ones who "broke through" - I've always found that Big & Pushy doesn't wear well over the long term; Bill Murray lost me a long time ago, and Will Ferrell's presence is a disincentive for me to see anything lately …
This year, John Belushi would be 69 years old.
Can you see that? Me neither …
God, this is depressing; maybe I ought to just quit while I'm behind.

#KBTime said...

That weird RS list notwithstanding, Norm Macdonald was an excellent cast member when needed, too (checkout Panthers v. Cobras, or the coma/amnesia sketch). I can’t say the same for most of the prior WU anchors. It’s also telling (and awesome) that Eddie Murphy made most people’s lists. I think many of these lists should look at JUST a person’s SNL tenure, and not their subsequent careers (Dana Carvey, Gilbert Gottfried, Randy Quaid, Sarah Silverman, etc) or deaths (Belushi). So that being said, my list:

Eddie Murphy
Kate McKinnon
Norm Macdonald
Gilda Radner
Phil Hartman
Tina Fey
Dana Carvey
Ana Gasteyer


These were close calls with the people who almost made my list...
I picked Hartman over Aykroyd because Phil disappeared into his characters more than Dan A.
I picked Chris Farley over Belushi because Farley could and would play roles that Belushi may have scoffed at. So Farley’s work on the show has greater range. Leslie Jones almost took this spot for sheer gonzo energy, but I had to even the cast out. Plus...
Ana Gasteyer had the same range ON THE SHOW as Martin Short, but I needed to even out the cast.
Gilda over Kristen Wiig for sweetness.
Tina Fey over Jan Hooks or Jane Curtin because Fey was also an incredible writer. And Fey over Julia Louis-Dreyfus because the latter was wasted on the show.
Norm over Dennis Miller, Chevy Chase, Jimmy Fallon or most other male WU anchors because not only were his newscasts the best, but his sketches were funnier and could run the gamut from silly (Bible game show) to cerebral (Who’s More Grizzled?).
Dana Carvey had to fit somewhere for his incredible value to the show both as an impressionist and an Everyman. So he gets the nod over Bill Murray, who nailed the bizarro everyman better than Will Ferrell or pretty much anyone else except Christoper Guest (who is off the list because he could also go too dry at times).
And I still can’t believe Beck Bennett, Maya Rudolph and Darrell Hammond are missing from this list.

James said...

Personally I only can list three: Buck Henry, Mr. Mike and Laraine Newman.

Tom said...

Top 8:
Belushi
Radner
Murphy
Hartman
Carvey
Poehler
Thompson
MacKinnon

Honorable mention:
Ayckroyd
Crystal
Short
Farley
Ferrell
Fey

Future star:
Heidi Gardner

Mike Schryver said...

I was 16 when the show premiered.

Gilda Radner
Phil Hartman
Jan Hooks
Dan Aykroyd
Eddie Murphy
Martin Short
Dana Carvey
Jane Curtin

Brent Alles said...

Dan Aykroyd
Bill Murray
Eddie Murphy
Phil Hartman
Dana Carvey
Will Ferrell
Bill Hader
Kate McKinnon

Honorable Mentions: Billy Crystal, Martin Short (both of them only had 1 season, that “superstar” season... if they had longer, I think they’d be up on the list), Jan Hooks, Amy Poehler

(This was indeed REALLY tough.)

Janet Ybarra said...

It's almost impossible to do eight since the entire original cast deserve to be on that list---and that's 7 right there.

But if you put those in a category as "gimmmes" or somesuch, I'd say:

Phil Hartman
Dana Harvey
Mike Myers
Tina Fey
Chris Farley
Tracy Morgan
Jon Lovitz
Tim Meadows

Obviously, my list is subjective and it's very hard to winnow an ongoing ensemble down to just 8.

There a few omissions which may seem glaring, but I omitted on purpose. These include Billy Crystal, Julia Louis-Dryfus and Eddie Murphy. It's not a knock on their SNL work at all, it's just in each case I think they are known more for comedy elsewhere.

For instance, Billy Crystal had already come to fame for years on SOAP, Julia Louis-Dryfus is much better known for SEINFELD and Eddie Murphy for his film career in the '80s.

What really stands out in my mind are sketches from decades ago that I remember to this day...pparticularly the Chris Farley skit as motivational speaker Matt Foley: "...and I live in a van, down by the river."

Still cracks me up just thinking about it. Or the cold open spoof debate in 1992 in which Dana Carvey simultaneously pulled off playing President Bush AND Ross Perot.

Actually, when you really stop to think about the sheer number of cast members who have come and gone on SNL over the years, it's a little sad in a way.

So many performers who seemed so full of promise and potential...and, then, poof, where do they go?

I mean, Victoria Jackson was, at the time, the the longes-serving female cast member but what ended up happening to her?

Rachel Dratch? Starring in Applebee's commercials.

There are other names that have plunged even further into obscurity.

Roger Owen Green said...

Ackroyd
Fey
Hartman
Murphy
Guest
Wiig
Ferrell
Carvey

OrangeTom said...

Dan Aykroyd (Three Mile Island)
Kate McKinnon
Kenan Thompson
Norm McDonald (Bob Dole)
Jane Curtin
Phil Hartman
Eddie Murphy (getting in the hot tub, hot!)
Chris Farley

Greg Ehrbar said...

George Coe
Jim Belushi
Brian Doyle-Murray
Peter Ackroyd
Ruth Buzzi

Janet Ybarra said...

Oh, and it slightly irks me when people load up these lists with recent cast members like Poehler and Fallon, et. Al. Nothing against their work, but let that work stand a little test of time first before voting them on to a "Best Of" list.

Just like I was annoyed everyone voted in Bon Jovi to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over other, lesser commercially huge bands. Nothing against against Bon Jovi, and sure, would like to see them voted in some day. But first I'd have preferred an act with a bit more "history" first.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I've been watching SNL since the beginning. Therefore, it would be too hard to list all my favorites, so I'll go the other way and list my LEAST FAVORITES.
That whole block of Sandler, Schneider, Spade & Farley. Chris Kattan, Cheri Oteri, Charles Rocket. And just so no one accuses me of being racist, Tracy Morgan. Fred Armesen is someone I don't get. I don't necessarily dislike Mike Myers, yet I do think he's highly overrated. I was never a fan of Rachel Dratch. However, I did see a recording of a Second City show she was in and she was hilarious. And at the top of the list, (or bottom depending on your point of view) WILL FARRELL. I HATE the cheerleaders. I HATE the Camps,(?[his singing teachers w/ Anna Gasteyer]) et al. I mean "I can't get to the remote fast enough to change the channel," kind of hate. I once Googled, "Will Farrell is not funny" and several websites came up. Obviously, I'm not the only person to feel this way. But, as I always say, its all subjective.
M.B.

Wallis Lane said...

Phil Hartman
Will Ferrell
Eddie Murphy
Kate McKinnon
Amy Poehler
Kristin Wiig
Bill Murray
Mike Myers

I picked the folks I thought could make any sketch funny (or at least funnier)just by their presence. Looking back on the first cast, I realize that the shock of the new and different was a great part of my enjoyment of many of the sketches, which don't age as well for me on repeat viewing as, say SCTV or Kids in the Hall.

Near misses:
Dan Aykroyd
Jan Hooks
Jon Lovitz
Dana Carvey
Kenan Thompson
Will Forte
Maya Rudolph
Cecily Strong
Martin Short
Jason Sudeikis


Honorary:
Steve Martin
Justin Timberlake

Peter said...

Janet: "Victoria Jackson was, at the time, the the longes-serving female cast member but what ended up happening to her?"

She did political campaign commercials with Pat Boone, who compared gay people to terrorists, and held Tea Party rallies in Beverly Hills.

Here she is with Boone, Stephen Baldwin and John Ratzenberger in a commercial attacking Al Franken.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11CIuiAongg

Judging by her imdb filmography, she now mainly does straight to DVD Christian movies targeted at the "faith based" demographic.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Correction: "The CULPS."
M.B.

Juan Carlos said...

Made the TV explode when they came on the screen:

John Belushi
Chris Farley
Eddie Murphy
Gilda Radner
Will Ferrell

Not explosive but stunningly talented and smart
Tina Fey

Talents whose SNL work was secondary to the rest of their career but getting to see them weekly was a thrill:
Martin Short
Christopher Guest
Billy Crystal

tavm said...

My eight "SNL" favorites in order of rank:

Eddie Murphy
Joe Piscopo (because of how well he performed with Murphy)
Billy Crystal
Martin Short
Chevy Chase
Bill Murray
Gilda Radner
Mike Myers

Janet Ybarra said...

Oh, and here is a link to one of my very favorite original cast skits featuring Dan Ackroyd and guest host Candace Bergen:

https://view.yahoo.com/show/saturday-night-live/clip/50022029/irwin-mainway?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=link&utm_campaign=mweb_share

Janet Ybarra said...

Kind of proves my point, then. Sad that John Ratzenberger would be caught up too. I'm just guessing Ken might agree.

Pat Reeder said...

I couldn't narrow it down that much, but any list of mine would have to include Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman. Coincidentally, after Hartman was murdered, Lovitz was his replacement on "News Radio." I'm with Mike Bloodworth on Will Farrell. I don't get why people think he's funny, aside from the "More cowbell" sketch, which was mostly thanks to the comic genius of Christopher Walken. Farrell and Kristin Wiig would be my two most over-rated cast members. Both seemed to specialize in characters that substituted being funny with being relentlessly annoying at great length.

Norm MacDonald was the best WU anchor ever ("At #2: Ezra!") and unlike many of them, his sketch work was brilliant. His Burt Reynolds on "Celebrity Jeopardy" even made Will Farrell seem funny. And his bit as Charles Kuralt saying tiddly-widdly, toodle-loo and reminiscing poetically about all the freaky road sex he'd had is one of the funniest things I've ever seen on "SNL." I love the way he takes his time; no rushing, just brilliantly setting up the premise, then each gag. It's so hilariously dry, it reminds me of Bob & Ray. Can't find video, but here's the audio: https://youtu.be/gKB8BiNxc2A

tb said...

great to see all the love for Phil Hartman.
Belushi
Ackroyd
Farley
Hartman
Murphy
Lovitz
Carvey
Wiig

Mibbitmaker said...

SNL being my favorite TV show of all time (since the 1st Buck Henry show), it'll be, indeed, a difficult (if fun) task. In the meantime, I could list my top 8 Weekend Update/SNL News anchors, in chronological order.

CHEVY CHASE - Update being one of the reasons he was my 1st favorite cast member. Aced the straight newsman parody.

JANE CURTIN - Really made it her own in a short time. Her character of the pro newsperson who was fed up with the unprofessionalism around her. Nothing against Aykroyd or Murray, but she could've done solo anchor her whole tenure.

BRAD HALL - Really underrated in my view. Most peoples' reason for not liking him in that was that he was a bit smug. Chevy and Dennis could be, too, but are no doubt among the best ever.

DENNIS MILLER - I initially didn't like him on Update because I was used to regular newsperson parody, and he was adding a stand-up comedy style to it. But he won me over, and did great, iconic work there.

KEVIN NEALON - Also underrated on Update. I loved him bringing back the Chevy Chase approach, with a little of his own personality in there as well.

NORM McDONALD - One of the funniest people on the planet, which definitely helped make him one of - and maybe the - best anchors ever. His style, and the rhythm of the jokes, are often imitated in anchors since (Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers for example). While his firing from Update was wrong, he did get too sloppy near the end. The given reason ("He's not funny") was way off... though Don Ohlmeyer was more reasonable in the Live From New York book, giving the late-period performances as a better reason. Still hated the firing, though.

The last two are harder, though. Tina Fey was great, could've been a fine solo anchor. But the silliness that was overused by that time, plus I just didn't share her level of hatred towards Dubya (yes, a failed presidency and good for dumb guy jokes. Plus I see Iraq as a horrible mistake, not an evil scheme). Though Tina and Amy Poehler were a great - and historic - team.

I could also add Seth Meyers as the eighth choice. He did a fine job, but really got into his element on Late Night going after Trump.

Barring that, I'll add a team as my #7 and 8:

MICHAEL CHE and COLIN JOST - They got off to a slow start, but once the gelled as a team, they've been great, especially given the material they have to work with.

(I promise not to be so verbose with the proper list later)

Funhouse said...

Ferrell
Murphy
Hartman
Fey
Wiig
Aykroyd
Hader
Thompson

VincentS said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: How do you feel about shows that advertise a "special guest star" who ends up appearing only in the last few minutes of the episode. I really feel cheated and manipulated when that happens. The last time I fell for that was Walter Cronkite on MURPHY BROWN.

Donald Benson said...

Okay. Now rank all the SNL spinoff movies.

Krazy Kasem said...

I was annoyed everyone voted in Bon Jovi to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over other, lesser commercially huge bands. Nothing against against Bon Jovi, and sure, would [have liked] to see them voted in some day. But first I'd have preferred an act with a bit more "history" first.


Bon Jovi became eligible for the R&R HoF ten years ago. Not that it mattered; you could certainly write a fairly thorough history of rock music while omitting them. But it's not as if Bon Jovi were speed-walked through the process.

Also, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a vague, flawed thing, with invisible standards and opaque voting. And even if they fixed that, it would still be a fundamentally dumb idea.

Liggie said...

I just wanted to add an overlooked cast member: Nora Dunn. As versatile as anybody in the show's run.

Pete Grossman said...

John Belushi
Kate McKinnon
Dan Aykroyd
Gilda Radner
Eddie Murphy
Tina Fey
Bill Murray
Jane Curtain

Victor Velasco said...

Took me a long while...
Bill Murray
Will Ferrell
Dan Aykroyd
Billy Crystal
Mike Myers
Gilda Radner
Eddie Murphy
Dana Carvey

Klee said...

1. Phil Hartman
2. Phil Hartman
3. Phil Hartman
4. Phil Hartman
5. Will Ferrell
6. Will Ferrell
7. Will Ferrell
8. Jan Hooks

Michael Ryan said...

CHARLES ROCKET

I know Mr. Rocket is never going to get a mention on the 10 best SNL players, but I always think of him and that night that he used the "F" word on live TV (and there was no delay). He was quickly fired. What an incredibly bad turn of luck. To make it worse a few years later he found dead from an apparent suicide.

Y. Knott said...


THE GREAT 8 (THOUGH THESE DAYS, ISN'T THE SNL CAST LIKE 27 OR SO PEOPLE?)

Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Cecily Strong, Kenan Thompson, Ana Gasteyer,
Jon Lovitz, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy





8 CAST MEMBERS WHO WERE GREAT, BUT DID THEIR VERY BEST WORK ELSEWHERE:

Martin Short, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, Jane Curtin, Joan Cusack, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest





8 CAST MEMBERS WHO COULD HAVE BEEN GREAT, BUT IT JUST DIDN'T WORK OUT ON SNL

Chris Elliott, Janeane Garofalo, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael McKean, Laurie Metcalf, Pamela Stephenson, Robert Downey Jr., Damon Wayans


Matt Rosenthal said...

If NBC asked me to put together my dream cast (for what possible reason, I can't imagine), it would be:

1. Dana Carvey
2. Eddie Murphy
3. Kate McKinnon
4. Darrell Hammond
5. Dan Aykroyd
6. Amy Poehler
7. Andy Samberg
8. Kenan Thompson
9. Bill Hader
10. Norm MacDonald

If it's one of those seasons where they have about fifty cast members and another thirty featured players, throw in Phil Hartman, Leslie Jones, Chris Farley, Will Forte, Fred Armisen, and Rachel Dratch.

ScarletNumber said...

For those wondering, Greg is kidding about this list. Ruth Buzzi was never a cast member and George Coe was a cast member for exactly one episode. George did star in a fake commercial where they made fun of men's razors by introducing the Triple-Trac shaver, which had THREE blades. The tagline was: The Triple-Trac, because... you'll believe anything.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

ScarletNumber said...

@Michael Ryan

Rocket killed himself 25 years after getting fired.

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

Can't believe no one's mentioned Tim Kazurinsky, although I believe he's mostly known for the movie he wrote after he left SNL, "About Last Night."

Also, not sure if it was here or elsewhere I learned Robert Downey Jr was actually an SNL cast member for I believe one year in the 1980s.

But I agree with most of the people here about the all-time best SNL cast members, especially Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman (I still miss him!!) and Dennis Miller. Interesting there's no faves listed who are on the show today.

And, for anyone who's got a few extra couple bucks: go to Amazon and download Joe Piscopo's "New Jersey," his very funny (also dated, but anyone who was there in the mid-1980s will get the jokes) and criminally overlooked, underselling comedy album.

"Well I'm so tall and I'm so fat..."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UbN4Yl6vI8

Anonymous said...

Phil Hartman
Dana Carvey
Kate Mackinnon
Kenan Thompson
Adam Sandler
Norm MacDonald
Chris Farley
Eddie Murphy


I’ll add my favourite Weekend Update joke ever.
Norm MacDonald about the birth of Michael Jackson’s son:
And according to the proud father the three day old boy is a regular chip off the old block. In fact, he’s already molested a one day old boy.

Mibbitmaker said...

MY TOP 8 LIST (roughly chronological order):

Dan Aykroyd
Chevy Chase (my 1st favorite cast member)
Gilda Radner
Eddie Murphy (who was mega-famous when he was on the show as well as after)
Will Forte (my favorite at the time)
Bill Hader (my favorite after Will left)
Kate McKinnon (my current favorite)

and the rest of the 20 that made my initial list (counting supporting players):

John Belushi
Joe Piscopo (considered either #2 or equal to Eddie back then, before he became a punchline)

Phil Hartman
Jon Lovitz
Jan Hooks
Dana Carvey
Nora Dunn
Molly Shannon
Ana Gasteyer
Norm MacDonald
Leslie Jones
Kyle Mooney
Heidi Gardener (amazing talent!)

MikeN said...

Hartman, Ferrell, Aykroyd, Murphy, Thompson, Hader, that guy playing Putin, Steve Martin

Andy Rose said...

I agree that Darrell Hammond is highly underrated, perhaps because he seems like a kind of gloomy guy in real life and is an awkward talk show panelist. But I don’t think there’s ever been a more precise male impressionist on the show. Most guys either have very little imitation chops and get by on attitude alone (Chase, Aykroyd), find one tic or trait that they can base their whole impression around (Hartman, Thompson), or just wildly exaggerate the impression to an absurd degree for laughs (Carvey, Ferrell). Hammond was eerily accurate in terms of both voice and personality. Compare his impressions of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton from years past to what we know about both men today. Old impressions of people often end up looking anarchronistic, but Hammond had both of those guys nailed way back when.

Max said...

Agreed re the 1984-85 cast.

Rashad Khan said...

Dan Aykroyd
John Belushi
Chevy Chase
Jane Curtin
Eddie Murphy
Bill Murray
Laraine Newman
Gilda Radner

VP81955 said...

Jesse Jackson and "the question is moot."

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

So many talented people, but for pure belly laughs, it's Jon Lovitz.

Honorable mentions:
A. Whitney Brown, who delivered brilliant editorials during Dennis Miller's time on "Weekend Update." I remember wishing that The New York Times would publish some of Brown's SNL pieces.

Don Pardo. The show used Pardo's voice frequently the first two years in sketches that usually parodied his background as a game show announcer. Pardo's comedic delivery was always on the money, and he seemed to enjoy poking fun at himself.

Dr Loser said...

Many thanks to Pat Reeder for the Norm McDonald monologue. It is ... magnificent. Totally believable in character, and with that awful cliffhanger concerning the gentleman in Maine who owned the huge ball of twine. I shuddered until the punchline: "... with his wife."

And, of course, we all learned something that day.

Picking any number is an impossible task. SNL was only really original in the early days, say 1975-1980. All of the cast back then deserve huge respect, with the possible exception of Chevy Chase.

Since then? Some very fine people. I'm a big fan of Dana Carvey. Phil Hartmann was a genius. Tina Fey as Sarah Palin -- no other comedian has taken down a politician quite so efficiently and turned them into the obvious joke they were in the first place.

But, to be honest, I haven't seen the point to the show since about 1990. Which means that judging the guys doesn't really mean much.

Stephen Robinson said...

I'd only swap out Jan Hooks (a favorite of mine) for Fey, who was a great writer and Weekend Update anchor but I don't really remember her much from sketches.

Brian said...

Phil Hartman
Jan Hooks
Nora Dunn
Cheri Oteri
Kate McKinnon
Tina Fey
Seth Meyers
Norm MacDonald

Keith said...

What? No love for comic genius David Spade?

Mel Agar said...

John Belushi
Gilda Radner
Eddie Murphy
Phil Hartman
Molly Shannon
Will Farrell
Amy Poehler
Kate McKinnon

bbison said...

Janet Ybarra: "Oh, and it slightly irks me when people load up these lists with recent cast members like Poehler and Fallon..."

Fallon hasn't been a cast member for 14 years. Fey for 12 years. Hardly recent by any measure.

Frederic Alden said...

I firmly believe that Will Ferrell sold his soul to the devil in exchange for having anybody think he is funny. I would go pretty much with the picks of Rashad Khan.