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‘Saturday Night Live’: All 145 Cast Members Ranked

Our insanely ambitious, ruthlessly exhaustive ranking of every ‘SNL’ player ever

Saturday Night Live

Illustration by Anita Kunz; Photographs by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

Let’s break it down. The entire cast of Saturday Night Live, all 40 years of it, ranked from top to bottom. Insanely ambitious? You bet. Absurdly exhaustive? No doubt. Ruthlessly complete? Damn straight. From the Samurai Hitman to the poor bastard who played Walter Mondale. Everybody.

So — live from New York — a passionate, definitive, opinionated, subjective, irresponsible and indefensible breakdown of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. It’s a celebration of Lorne Michaels’ creation 40 years on — and as every SNL fan knows, part of loving the show means surfing through the lows along with the highs. Keep in mind: We’re not ranking their careers, merely their stints on SNL. Also, we’re ranking them strictly for what they did onscreen, not behind the scenes. As for who counts as an SNL player, there’s a lot of gray area. The whole point of this list is ranking everybody, not just the big names, so it tries to err on the side of being inclusive. “Writers who occasionally showed up in sketches” is a mighty crowded category, but they’re ultimately judged by onscreen impact. It’s a game of inches out there. And no guest hosts, no matter how often they return. No Alec Baldwin or Andy Kaufman or Justin Timberlake, even though they’ve had way more airtime than many cast members.

Some of these stories get grim, especially below the Joe Piscopo Line. (You don’t want to be on the Cleghorne side of the Piscopo Line.) But these are all comedians who made it to the big leagues. This list is full of worthy performers SNL bumbled, or ugly ducklings who turned into swans elsewhere. So if you were funny in Anchorman 2 or you ended up a legend on Seinfeld, that’s sweet, but it doesn’t factor in here. The hilariously disastrous misuse of talent is part of what makes it SNL — we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Also crucial: If you were an SNL player and your feelings get bruised easily, you might want to stop reading now. Like Stuart Smalley says, it’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the world.

robert Downey Jr.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 14 -- Pictured: (l-r) Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Michael Hall during 'Weekend Update' on April 14, 1986 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty

145. Robert Downey Jr.

Era: 1985-1986

Robert Downey Jr. is a comic genius. Making him unfunny stands as SNL’s most towering achievement in terms of sucking. How do you fuck up a sure thing like Downey? He’s funny in anything. I mean, dude was funny in Weird Science. He was funny in Johnny Be Good. He was funny in Iron Man. But he met his Kryptonite, and it was SNL, where he spent the 1985-1986 season sucking up a storm. His greatest hit? A fart-noise debate with Anthony Michael Hall. In a perverse way, the Downey Fail sums up everything that makes SNL great. There are no sure things. No rules. No do-overs. No safety net — when you flop on SNL, you flop big. And that’s the way it should be. The cameras roll at 11:30, ready or not. Live from New York — it’s Saturday Night.

The Muppets

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Season 1 -- Pictured: Jim Henson's Muppets -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

144. The Muppets

Era: 1975-1976

Strange but true: The Muppets were first-season cast members. But not the funny Muppets — a dark and grumpy version, starring a lizard named Scred. Jim Henson hated the “I’m Scred and you’re not” gags. So he left to start The Muppet Show. Too bad — Gonzo and Belushi would have made quite a team.

Jim Breuer

Edie Baskin

143. Jim Breuer

Era: 1995-1998

Like Jay Mohr, except more of a “This asshole again? No, that one” type.

Victoria Jackson

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: Victoria Jackson -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

142. Victoria Jackson

Era: 1986-1992

America had six seasons to wonder how the one-joke, baby-talking ninny ate up so much time on SNL, and nobody ever did figure that out. The best thing VJ ever did was show up on the 25th-anniversary special as an audience member and ask, “I was just wondering — whatever happened to me?”

Gilbert Gottfried

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Season 6 -- Pictured: Gilbert Gottfried -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

141. Gilbert Gottfried

Era: 1980-1981

It’s so weird to think that Gottfried was ever young — or that he wasted a year of his youth bombing out on SNL. He wasn’t really Gilbert Gottfried yet — he was just a morose-looking hippie kid with a ‘fro that seemed to wilt by the minute. The best you can say for his SNL gig is it helped turn him into the bitter madman we know and love today.

Colin Quinn

Edie Baskin

140. Colin Quinn

Era: 1995-2000

All the Remote Control alum needs for his comedy style is to hang out and be himself, yet SNL required him to wear a tie and read cue cards. “Weekend Update” was so spectacularly wrong for his skill
set, especially his hoarser-by-the-minute croak, you barely noticed how hackity-hackity-hack the jokes were. Maybe that was the point.

Norm MacDonald

Edie Baskin

139. Norm Macdonald

Era: 1993-1998

Macdonald clearly thought he was hilarious, and that counts for something — confidence is essential for a “Weekend Update” anchor. Unfortunately, he was just a Dennis Miller clone with no mullet and no jokes. Stare into the camera a little longer, Norm; maybe it’ll get funnier.

Randy Quaid

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

138. Randy Quaid

Era: 1985-1986

Normally you can stick Randy Quaid into anything and make it funnier, but “normally” doesn’t mean beans on SNL, especially not that Godforsaken 1985-1986 season. Let’s just say, in the immortal words of Cousin Eddie: The shitter was full.

Laurie Metcalf & Emily Prager

©NBC; ©New Line Cinema/Everett Collection

136-137. The One-Offs: Laurie Metcalf & Emily Prager

Era: 1980-1981

Like baseball’s Moonlight Graham, they were cast members for one episode — without making it into any of the sketches. Rated leniently for not sucking.

Jay Mohr

THE BAREFOOT EXECUTIVE, Jay Mohr, 1995. © Walt Disney Television / Courtesy: Everett Collection

©Walt Disney Television/Everett Collection

135. Jay Mohr

Era: 1993-1995

Even in a crowded cast, Mohr still managed to stand out for his amazing “This asshole again?” power. His 2004 book, Gasping for Airtime, was an admirable chronicle of how inept he was on SNL.

Matthew Laurance, Patrick Weathers and Yvonne Hudson

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty;Courtesy of Patrick Weathers;Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

132-134. The Temps: Matthew Laurance, Patrick Weathers and Yvonne Hudson

Era: 1980-1981

Bit players in the “Saturday Night Live ’80” replacement crew, which is like riding the bench for the Bad News Bears.

Charles Rocket

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Season 6 Gallery -- Pictured: Charles Rocket -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

131. Charles Rocket

Era: 1980-1981

One of the saddest SNL crash-and-burn stories. Rocket had the misfortune to host “Weekend Update” during the doomed “Saturday Night Live ’80” season, which meant he took most of the heat. His man-in-the-street “Rocket Report” segments were solid, but his “Update” got hammier and more off-key, and he got fired after saying “Who the fuck did it?” on the air, with a cocky grin on his face. He died tragically in 2005.

Tony Rosato

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Season 6 -- Pictured: Tony Rosato -- Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

130. Tony Rosato

Era: 1980-1982

He went from being “the guy nobody noticed on SCTV” to “the guy nobody noticed on SNL,” taking over the Joe Piscopo-type role whenever Piscopo needed a bathroom break.

Dan Vitale and Ben Stiller

©NBC; ©Edie Baskin/Corbis Outline

128-129. More ’80s Rejects: Dan Vitale and Ben Stiller

Eras: Dan Vitale (1985-1986); Ben Stiller (1988-1989)

Officially cast members for a few weeks in the Eighties. Vitale was forgotten until Marc Maron dug him up for a WTF podcast. Stiller’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Christine Ebersole, Ann Risley and Robin Duke

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty (3)

125-127. Eighties Ladies: Christine Ebersole, Ann Risley and Robin Duke

Eras: Christine Ebersole (1981-1982); Ann Risley (1981-1981); Robin Duke (1980-1984)

Talented players who came and went without getting a real chance.

Jerry Minor, Rob Riggle, Finesse Mitchell, Jeff Richards, Paul Brittain and Dean Edwards

Brad Barket/Getty; Stephen Boitano/Getty (2); Robyn Platzer/FilmMagic; John Lamparski/WireImage; Ron Galella Ltd./WireImage

119-124. The Guy-2Ks: Jerry Minor, Rob Riggle, Finesse Mitchell, Jeff Richards, Paul Brittain and Dean Edwards

Eras: Jerry Minor (2000-2001); Rob Riggle (2004-2005); Finesse Mitchell (2003-2006); Jeff Richards (2001-2004); Paul Brittain (2010-2012); Dean Edwards (2001-2003)

So many bros got lost in the shuffle in the 2000s.

Damon Wayans

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: Damon Wayans -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

118. Damon Wayans

Era: 1985-1986

Before he blew up on In Living Color, he added his name to the “Briefly Sucked” files on SNL. Haaaated it!

Michael O'Donoghue

Michael O'Donoghue.tif

Edie Baskin

117. Michael O’Donoghue

Era: 1975-1979

National Lampoon’s evil genius helped define SNL behind the scenes — scripting nihilistic venom for Chevy Chase was like Robert Towne writing for Jack Nicholson. But he was no performer, so his onscreen “Mr. Mike” schtick — bearded stiff poses as a decadent dandy — has dated badly. And, sorry, but it’s hard to take his “comedy is a baby-seal hunt” routine when you’re looking right at that poignant cry-for-help baby seal of a comb-over.

Anthony Michael Hall

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Pictured: Anthony Michael Hall -- (Photo by: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

116. Anthony Michael Hall

Era: 1985-1986

What a career of crazy highs and tremendous lows. What other actor on Earth could play Bill Gates, Whitey Ford and Mutt Lange? Going from The Breakfast Club to SNL probably seemed like graduation, but it was more like a year of detention.

Siobhan Fallon

WESTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Siobhan Fallon attends the screening of "Greedy" on February 22, 1994 at Mann Bruin Theater in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Ron Galella Ltd./WireImage

115. Siobhan Fallon

Era: 1991-1992

In her sole season, she snagged a three-second close-up in the credits — times 20 episodes, that’s a solid minute, which must’ve been 90 percent of her screen time. Went on to play Björk’s prison guard in a Lars von Trier film, proving anything is possible.

Nancy Walls, David Koechner, Laura Kightlinger, Morwenna Banks, Fred Wolf and Melanie Hutsell

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty; ©NBC/Everett Collection; Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty; ©NBC (2); NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

109-114. The Nineties One-Shots: Nancy Walls, David Koechner, Laura Kightlinger, Morwenna Banks, Fred Wolf and Melanie Hutsell

Eras: Nancy Walls (1995-1996); David Koechner (1995-1996); Laura Kightlinger (1994-1995); Morwenna Banks (1994-1995); Fred Wolf (1995-1997); Melanie Hutsell (1991-1994)

Mostly bit players trapped in the god-awful years after the big Myers/Hartman/Sandler exodus. The SNL equivalent of Marcy Playground or the Primitive Radio Gods.

Mark McKinney

Mark Mckinney.tif

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

108. Mark McKinney

Era: 1994-1997

Another comedy star with his own . . . look, people. You’re already famous. So stay the hell away from “SNL.” It’s a homeless shelter, not a spa. It’s for lonesome newbies who have no other hope. The Billy Crystal Scenario happened exactly once. You’re so welcome!

Chris Elliott

GROUNDHOG DAY, Chris Elliott, 1993. ©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

©Columba Pictures/Everett Collection

107. Chris Elliott

Era: 1994-1995

Another comedy star with his own thriving career joins the cast of . . . wait, what the fuck was wrong with these people? They never heard of Randy Quaid?

Janeane Garofalo

Actress and comedian JANEANE GAROFALO. (Credit Image: © Jonathan Alcorn/ZUMAPRESS.com)

© Jonathan Alcorn/ZUMA Press

106. Janeane Garofalo

Era: 1994-1995

A comedy star with her own thriving career joins the cast of SNL. What could go wrong?

Sarah Silverman

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 4 -- Pictured: (l-r) Kevin Nealon, Sarah Silverman during "Weekend Update" skit on October 23, 1993 (Photo by Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Al Levine/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty

105. Sarah Silverman

Era: 1993-1994

Yeah, no surprise SNL had no clue what to do with her — she barely appeared in her entire season. For years afterward, she went abysmally wasted in Hollywood until finally she got famous by writing her own show, Jesus Is Magic, flaunting her distinctive “I was raped by a doctor, which is a bittersweet experience for a Jewish girl” humor. Best SNL rebound of all time!