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20 SNL Cast Members Who Went On To Become Huge Stars

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snl cast members that went on to become huge stars

The famous actors known today haven’t always been famous. Some have worked on TV commercials or short films to create a name for themselves.

Some were even cast members of the legendary comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live (also known as SNL) that has been on TV since 1975 and continues to run today.

As the show has been on the air for a long time, it is obvious that the cast list for the show is quite long.

While not all the actors stayed there for a long time, the show definitely helped them move closer to becoming huge stars.

Here’s a list of all the SNL cast members who went on to become huge stars.

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1. Dana Carvey

Dana Carvey had been a cast member on SNL from 1986 to 1993. Carvey is known to have played many iconic roles as a cast member.

According to The Atlantic, Carvey was known for his impressions of George Bush. Carvey was even friends with Bush which made his performances more meaningful and real.

2. Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy joined the cast of SNL in the 80s and has been said to have saved the show. According to Yahoo, at that time, the show wasn't doing well because of a sketch that wasn’t well-received by the audience.

However, after Murphy turned it around.

When asked what Murphy was like, David Sheffield, the show’s co-writer said, “All the rest of the cast members were so damn nervous and afraid of making a mistake. He sat down, stared at the camera, and was so cool and so calm. He was just a natural.”

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3. Will Ferrell

Before being known for his iconic role of Elf, Ferrell was a cast member on SNL. He gained success and made a name for himself as a comedian on SNL.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ferrell received praises from people he worked with.

Lorne Micheals, the creator of SNL spoke about Ferrell, “I never rank, but Will’s definitely in the top two or three that have ever done the show. There’s no question.” 

Kristen Wiig, one of his co-stars said, “Everybody loves Will, and it’s not just because he’s funny. I really think you can see people’s personalities” 

4. Jimmy Fallon

Today, Fallon is known as a host on his television talk show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. However, he started his career on SNL and was a cast member for 7 seasons.

He was best known for his celebrity impressions during his time on the show. In an interview with USA Today, he mentioned that he has a great relationship with Lorne Michaels and got the opportunity of becoming a talk show host because of Michaels. 

5. Sarah Silverman

The famous actress/comedian has an amazing career with notable movies on her resume however, there was a time when she was fired from SNL.

Many people may not even know that Silverman had been a cast member on SNL due to her short time on the show. She was there for one season before getting fired. 

According to The New Yorker, There’s no bad blood between Silverman and SNL.

Bob Odenkirk, one of the writers of the show said, “I could see how it wouldn’t work at ‘S.N.L.,’ because she’s got her own voice, she’s very much Sarah Silverman all the time. She can play a character but she doesn’t disappear into the character—she makes the character her.” 

6. Mike Myers

Mike Myers had been a cast member of SNL from 1989 to 1995. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Myers, along with Dana Carvey were part of "Wayne's World", a famous sketch on the show that spawned two movies.

While the first movie was quite successful, the second one didn’t do that well. The two actors reunited in 2015 on SNL and performed their characters once again.

7. Adam Sandler

Today, Adam Sandler is regarded as one of the most successful actors in comedy movies. However, according to Screen Rant, he was fired from SNL during his time there. He was most known for his musical skits and performances of holiday songs. 

One of the reasons he was fired was the show ratings. At the time, the show wasn’t doing well, so to change that, Sandler was let go. 

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8. Tina Fey

Tina Fey is quite easily one of the most popular actors and writers. She is most known for writing Mean Girls. However, she started her career on SNL. She became a cast member in 1995 and left in 2006. 

Along with being a cast member, Fey was also the Head Writer on SNL. She spoke about her experience as a Writer in an interview with Variety.

“Once I became a head writer at “SNL,” that was the beginning. You’re taking other people’s sketches, and you don’t take them away and manhandle them.” 

9. Bill Murray

Bill Murray joined the cast of SNL in 1977 while replacing Chevy Chase. According to an article on Ultimate Classic Rock, Murray had a rough start on SNL. There was pressure on him to do well as he was replacing a well-known star. 

For the first few sketches, he wasn’t even noticeable by the audience. However, after a while, he did a performance where he apologized to everyone for not being funny.

It helped him become more comfortable with his environment and the audience. “I’ve seen people make that move before and fail, so the fact that I made that move and it was funny sort of took the pressure off.”  

10. Robert Downey Jr.

Today, Robert Downey Jr. has become a household name. He is most known as Iron Man, his character from Avengers. Who would have known Downey Jr. was a cast member on SNL?

However, he was fired from the show after just one season. 

According to Screen Rant, Downey Jr. was introduced to the show by Lorne Michaels. However, during the season Downey Jr. was on SNL, the show didn’t do well. It garnered poor reviews from everywhere and was considered to be canceled, as a result, Downey Jr. was let go. 

Even then, Downey Jr. doesn’t seem to have any hard feelings with anyone on the show and is doing well for himself now. 

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11. Chris Rock

Chris Rock was a cast member of SNL from 1990 to 1993. He managed to stay there for 3 years. However, he was fired from the show.

He talked about his departure in a podcast interview with Marc Maron. He said that he was planning to leave SNL for In Living Color so he was fired from the show.

12. Chevy Chase

Chevy Chase is quite a well-known actor now. Some of his popular works include National Lampoon’s Vacation and Community. He had been a cast member of SNL ever since the show premiered in 1975 and left the show abruptly soon after. 

However, according to Screen Rant, Chase didn’t seem to enjoy his time on the show. After leaving the show, he expressed his candid thoughts about the show. He said he hated the show and its humor.

13. Chris Farley

Chris Farley was on SNL from 1990 to 1995. Even though he died shortly after that, he still had a successful film career. He was fired from SNL with Sandler due to the show’s ratings. However, his performances on the show are still remembered by the audience. 

According to NY Post, the SNL sketches of Farley’s impressions of Andrew Giuliani were trending on Twitter a few months ago when Guiliani announced he would be running for Governor of New York. 

14. David Spade

David Spade was a cast member and a writer at SNL during the 1990s along with Farley, Sandler and Rock. He left the show in 1996. Spade had gotten pretty close with the other 3 cast members during his time on the show. 

Sandler and Spade even reminisced about their time and sketches on SNL when Sandler made an appearance on Spade’s talk show.

15. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

At 21-years-old, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the youngest woman to be a cast member of SNL in 1982. She was a part of some popular sketches on the show before her departure in 1985.

According to Newsweek, Louis-Dreyfus didn’t enjoy her time on the show. As a matter of fact, she hated it. She despised the environment and recalled it to be quite sexist. 

However, even with that hindrance in her career, she became a part of famous works such as Seinfeld and Veep later.

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16. Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler joined the cast of SNL in 2001 and left in 2008. During her time there she played various roles with Fey and Maya Rudolph. 

According to Entertainment Weekly, Poehler and Fey were anchors on "Weekend Update", a segment on the show. They hosted the segment for two seasons and were the first all-female pair to host it. 

17. Maya Rudolph

Maya Rudolph became a cast member in 2000 and left the show in 2007. She was quite well-known for her impressions of other celebrities.

According to this article on Esquire, Rudolph returned to host one episode on SNL. She performed sketches where she did some of her impressions, one of them being Beyonce and reminisced about her time as a cast member on the show.

18. Kristen Wiig

Kristen Wiig has created a successful film career for herself however, she was once a cast member of SNL where she played many iconic characters.

Wiig was on the show from 2005 to 2012. According to People, When Wiig returned to host SNL in the finale of season 45, she played many of her most popular characters from the show. 

19. Andy Samberg

Andy Samberg is certainly one of the most popular actors in the genre of comedy, some of his works include Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Palm Springs

He was hired as a writer on SNL along with his bandmates Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone. Samberg created some of the funniest characters and skits on the shows.

However, his biggest contribution was the SNL digital shorts. The digital shorts were sketches but in the form of short musical videos.

According to Men’s Journal, the first SNL digital short became viral on YouTube and digital shorts gained popularity after that.

Samberg says, “We were not aware of YouTube until ‘Lazy Sunday’. We’d had our own website with streaming capabilities. After ‘Lazy Sunday,’ we were like, ‘Why are we paying for bandwidth and sh-t?’”

20. Ben Stiller

Some people may not even know this but Ben Stiller had been a cast member of SNL in 1989. His presence on the show was very brief as he left after a few weeks.

In an interview on The Howard Stern Show, Stiller explained that he had wanted to be a director rather than an actor and didn’t fit in well with the environment at SNL.

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Sanika Nalgirkar, M.F.A. is a writer and an Editorial Intern at YourTango who writes on entertainment & news, lifestyle, and pop culture topics.