by Pedro Vega
Of course we all know about the comedy powerhouse that is NBC's Saturday Night Live. And most of us are familiar with the show's better known cast members throughout the years: names like Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Tina Fey, Dana Carvey, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, and many others. But there are many well-known showbiz figures who had either short, obscure or unremarkable stints on America's best known sketch comedy show. Some of the names on this list may leave you asking "THAT guy was on SNL?".
1. Joan Cusack
This well-liked and award winning comic actress is best known for roles in movies like Working Girl, Say Anything, Addams Family Values and the Showtime show Shameless. But Joan was also a repertory player on SNL for its ill-fated 11th season (1985-86). She did some impressions, such as Brooke Shields and Queen Elizabeth II, but overall didn't really stand out on the show. But during that season, no one really did anwyay.
2. Robert Downey, Jr.
Yes, Iron Man used to be on SNL. Downey Jr. was a repertory player on the same cast as Joan Cusack during the mid-80s, and like most of his castmates, he failed to leave a lasting impression on the show's history and was let go along with most of the cast at the end of the season. Fortunately for him, there would be much bigger things in his future, with his career hitting some real highs shortly after SNL (Less Than Zero, Chaplin). Then some lows (heroin). Then more highs (Iron Man).
3. Gilbert Gottfried
Super-nasal comedian and voice of the parrot in Aladdin and the Aflac duck, Gilbert Gottfried was a repertory player during the show's horrendous, forgettable sixth season (1980-81). Unlike his later high-voiced, squinting persona, Gottfried came across more like a normal human being in his SNL work, which probably didn't help him much. Without any memorable characters or impersonations, he was let go at the end of the season along with almost the entire rest of the cast (minus Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy).
4. Rob Riggle
You may know former Marine Rob Riggle from his appearances in The Hangover, Step Brothers or 21 Jump Street, or maybe from The Daily Show, his stand-up comedy or FOX NFL Sunday. But yes, he was also a featured player on Saturday Night Live from 2004 to 2005. His tenure was so obscure to me, that I refused to believe my wife when she first told me he had been in the cast at all. A quick check of Wikipedia proved her right. Needless to say, his tenure on the show was pretty low profile.
5. Paul Shaffer
Yep, David Letterman's band leader/sidekick was a Saturday Night Live cast member during the 1979-1980 season. He was hardly new to the show, though, as he had already been a member of the SNL's house band since 1975. Shaffer didn't make any big waves during his one season as a featured player, and a couple of years later he'd land in the job that most of us have known him for. A bit of trivia: Paul hosted an episode of SNL in the late 80s.
6. Sarah Silverman
It's hard to believe that Sarah's stint as a writer and cast member during the show's 19th season (1993-94) went so pitifully, since she is now clearly one of the funniest comedians of the last several years. She was brought onto SNL early in her career, and only one of the sketches she created as writer made it to air. Her on-air appearances were infrequent and completely forgettable, but fortunately for Ms. Silverman, the best was definitely ahead for her.
7. Ben Stiller
In 1987, Ben produced a short film parodying the movie "The Color of Money", which would air on SNL and shortly after land him a gig writing for the show and appearing on-screen as a featured player. However, when it became clear to Stiller that SNL wasn't going to have him do more filmed shorts, he left the show after a measly four episodes. Soon after his departure, he got to do The Ben Stiller Show on MTV, which would then launch him into a film career.
8. Damon Wayans
Another casualty of the godawful 11th season of 1985-86, Damon Wayans was briefly a featured player. His brief tenure came to an end when -- out of frustration from being underused on the show -- he played a bit character in a sketch as a flamboyantly gay police officer, going outside of the script on live TV. He was fired from the show on the spot, but did well in later years on the FOX sketch comedy show In Living Color, as well as numerous
other film and TV projects.
other film and TV projects.