2. Eddie Murphy
It's customary (and accurate) to say Eddie Murphy is the only reason SNL survived the five-year wilderness without Lorne Michaels. Nobody had seen anything like him. He stood out from anyone else on TV, mostly by being so young — he was the first post-boomer comedy star, a kid born in the Sixties and down with the Eighties. He mocked SNL's racial hang-ups (which isn't to say he made them go away). Murphy could make any moment memorable — the shooting of Buckwheat, the boiling of Larry the Lobster, the C-I-L-L-ing of his landlord. But he was funny just standing still, as in the classic Tootsie sketch that basically consisted of Gary Kroeger putting makeup on Murphy. He knew how to stare into a TV camera like he owned it.
Greatest hit: His 1981 "Kill My Landlord" poem remains a heartwarming piece of verse. "Dark and lonely on the summer night/Kill my landlord, kill my landlord/Watchdog barking — do he bite?"