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12 Forgotten Stars from Saturday Night Live

Updated on August 25, 2017
Lady Gaga on SNL
Lady Gaga on SNL

How quickly we forget TV stars

How many people would list Saturday Night Live among their favorite television shows? Broadcast late Saturday night since October 11, 1975, when Chevy Chase was the first cast member to declare, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night,” this hit show has generated laughs for decades.

Naturally, there have been many stars on SNL, some of whom virtually all of us remember, while others may be recalled by only a few people. Of course, we’re much more likely to forget stars that performed on the show decades ago, rather than just a few years back.

By the way, this list only includes repertory players, not “featured players,” many of whom have lasted only a season or two, people such as Robert Downey Jr., Al Franken, Ben Stiller and Sarah Silverman. Also, this list doesn’t include any repertory player who only appeared for one season. (Do you recall Morwenna Banks, George Coe or Joan Cusack?)

So please check out this humble compilation, which is meant to be informative and fun, not a bummer, as some former cast members are no longer with us. Also keep in mind this list is in no particular order, since it would be pointless and impossible to identify the most forgotten cast member on SNL.

1. Joe Piscopo (1980-1984)

In the fall of 1981, the Joe Piscopo-Eddie Murphy era began on SNL. After a massive shakeup of the cast, only Piscopo and Murphy had been kept from the prior season. Then Dick Ebersol became the executive producer of the show and continued in that capacity until 1985, when Lorne Michaels returned. By the way, Ebersol and Lorne Michaels had created SNL in 1975. Perhaps Piscopo’s best performance on SNL was when he impersonated Frank Sinatra; he also had great success playing a sportscaster on “Weekend Update.” Piscopo left SNL after the 1984 season and has continued working as an actor and writer in movies and television. But unlike Eddie Murphy, Piscopo has not enjoyed great success in his post-SNL career.

2. Horatio Sanz (1998-2006)

Horatio Sanz was one of only a few SNL cast members who weren’t born in North America. Sanz came from Santiago, Chile, but grew up in Chicago, Illinois. Sanz was also the first Latino cast member on the show. Sanz appeared on SNL for eight seasons, much longer than most. Maybe Sanz’s best characters on the show were Gobi, co-host of “Jarret’s Room” (the other host was Jimmy Fallon); Aaron Neville, a “City Court” judge; and one of the Telemundo actors on “Besos Y Lagrimas." Since Sanz’s nights on SNL, he has appeared in many movies and TV shows.

3. Victoria Jackson (1986-1992)

Victoria Jackson was a mainstay on SNL for many years. Perhaps her signature act was reciting poetry while doing a handstand or bent-over backwards, the latter of which she did while appearing on “Weekend Update” with Dennis Miller. Jackson did many recurring characters, including Brenda Clark from “Toonces the Driving Cat” and a Christian girl on “Church Chat.” Jackson also did impersonations of Calamity Jane, Cyndi Lauper, La Toya Jackson and Roseanne Barr. These days, Jackson is a conservative political activist and also espouses Christian values.

4. Garrett Morris (1975-1980)

Garrett Morris was the first African-American player on SNL. In fact, he could be described as the show’s first token black, as they were called back then. Because of this situation, Morris was often dissatisfied with his parts on SNL, saying they were largely stereotypical. Perhaps Morris’ best characters on the show were Chico Escuela, a Dominican baseball player for the NY Mets; Cliff, a streetwise friend to the Blues Brothers; and Merkon, the leader of the Coneheads. In addition, Morris did impressions of numerous black personalities. Nowadays, Morris hasn’t left the tube, appearing on many TV shows over the years.

5. Jan Hooks (1986-1991)

Jan Hooks was added to SNL to replace Joan Cusack, who left after only one season as a repertory player. Hooks brought an amazing array of characters to SNL, including impersonations of Bette Davis, Ann-Margaret, Greta Garbo, Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan, Jodie Foster, Tammy Faye Bakker, Kathy Lee Gifford and Hillary Clinton. Notably, Hooks also played Candy Sweeney of the “Sweeney Sisters.” After leaving SNL, Hooks moved to other TV shows, doing mostly supporting roles and voice-overs for animated characters. But at least one SNL Alumnus, Tina Fey, thinks Hooks should have become a big star. Jan Hooks died of cancer on October 9, 2014.

6. Jane Curtin (1975-1980)

In the early days of SNL, Jane Curtin was one of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Curtin usually played the snotty, conceited bitch, whenever needed as a foil to John Belushi, Gilda Radner, et al. In fact, along the way, she became known as the Queen of Deadpan. Moreover, the Philadelphia Inquirer called her a “refreshing drop of acid.” In real life, Curtin is a straight-laced woman who didn’t like much of what went on while SNL was being produced, particularly the rise of the drug subculture. And, like many others who left the show, Curtin has remained in TV, starring on shows such as Kate and Allie and Third Rock from the Sun.

7. Chris Farley (1990-1995)

Chris Farley usually played the part of the big, oafish fat guy. Struggling with obesity throughout his life, Farley was definitely one of those full-figured types who loved to play the buffoon. On SNL, Farley often imitated personalities such as Jerry Garcia, Meatloaf, Newt Gingrich, Mama Cass Elliot, Hank Williams Jr., Dom DeLuise and Rush Limbaugh. Moreover, Farley, along with Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider were known as the Bad Boys of SNL. Unfortunately, while also being a hilarious comedian, Farley also partied very hard. On December 18, 1997, Chris Farley died of a drug overdose.

8. Tim Kazurinsky (1981-1984)

Tim Kazurinsky joined the cast of SNL during the Joe Piscopo-Eddie Murphy period. Tim was the short, bespectacled nerdy guy, who did impersonations of people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Billie Jean King, Adolf Hitler, Ozzy Osbourne, Douglas MacArthur and FDR. Tim also played many recurring characters on the show, including Mr. Landlord from “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood,” starring Eddie Murphy and Madge the Chimp’s Husband in the sketch “I Married a Monkey.” Before and after SNL, Tim has acted in numerous movies and maintains a career as a screenwriter of note.

9. Laraine Newman (1975-1980)

Laraine Newman was one of the original cast members of SNL. Among the characters she played on the show were Sheri the Valley Girl and Connie Conehead in the famous “Coneheads” sketch. But Newman’s favorite impersonation on the show was playing Italian director Lina Wertmuller. By the way, while doing the show, Newman was good friends with Gilda Radner. After leaving SNL, Newman has continued her acting career by playing in movies and TV shows such as Jungle Junction.

10. Phil Hartman (1986-1994)

Phil Hartman was nicknamed “the Glue,” because he would keep the sketches going and help other cast members with their parts, including playing other cast members when needed. Essentially just an every day guy, Hartman nevertheless played more than 70 characters on the show and did impressions of people such as Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan, Ed McMahon, Barbara Bush, Charlton Heston, Phil Donahue and, most notably, Bill Clinton. On the side, Phil was also a graphic artist, designing album covers for rock bands. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on May 28, 1998, when Hartman was murdered by his wife, who, hours later, then committed suicide.

11. Gilda Radner (1975-1980)

Gilda Radner was one of the greatest performers on SNL, doing such famous characterizations as Roseanne Roseannadanna and “Baba Wawa,” an impersonation of news anchor Barbara Walters. She also played Emily Litella, an elderly, hard-of-hearing woman who flubbed editorials on “Weekend Update.” Interestingly, Radner won an Emmy Award for her work on SNL in 1978; she also did a one-woman Broadway show, Gilda Radner – Liver from New York, in 1979. Tragically, while making movies in the late 1980s, Radner was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Gilda Radner died on May 20, 1989.

12. John Belushi (1975-1979)

During his four-year stint on SNL, John Belushi became perhaps the most popular cast member. He performed in two sketches that were particularly impressive – "The Blues Brothers," a musical act he did with Dan Aykroyd, and Samurai Futaba, a Japanese character who liked to hack with his sword anything that got in his way. During and after SNL, Belushi played iconic roles in two films – The Blues Brothers (1980) and National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978). But Belushi was another heavy drug user; in fact, he was fired from SNL several times because of his legendary partying. Finally, on March 5, 1982 John Belushi overdosed on an injection of heroin and cocaine. Like Chris Farley, Belushi was just 33 years old when he passed away.

Please leave a comment.

The set of SNL
The set of SNL

© 2014 Kelley


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    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Dylanexpert. "Forgotten" is a word that's often used in articles such as this. I'm not sure it literally means what it means, ya know? But writers like using it anyway. Later!

    • Dylanexpert profile image

      John D. Baldwin 3 years ago from New York, New York

      I really liked your list, but... "forgotten"? Piscopo, Hartman, Belushi, RADNER... forgotten? No way!

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Ron ElFran. You're right - it's always interesting seeing how the former cast members did during and after SNL. Later!

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E Franklin 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I'm not much of an SNL fan, but most of these names are familiar to me. It's interesting remembering them and learning something of what happened to them after SNL. I enjoyed reading.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Thanks for the comment, Ann1Az2. The period from the late 1970s to the early '80s was definitely a party hardy time, perhaps the biggest ever. Many people, including Belushi, didn't make it through. Later!

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 3 years ago from California

      Thanks for comment, Glimmer Twin Fan. I liked producing this list, even though the experience had some sadness with it. Later!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      The John Belushi story is so sad. I saw an interview years ago with Dan Aykroyd and he freely admitted that everyone on that show liked to "party." It wasn't just John, although he was known for it. Years later, the ones that didn't die from it sobered up and went on. Dan Aykroyd is one of them. The original was a funny show. No one would have guessed they were all on drugs at the time.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

      Thanks for the memories on this one. Sad that a number of them have passed.