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The following is a list of Saturday Night Live cast members, past and present. The cast members of Saturday Night Live are often referred to as the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players".
As of September 2012, the show has featured 132 cast members. The list below includes both repertory and featured players, but omits SNL writers and others who were not listed as cast members during the show's credits. The dates given are those of the years they were part of the cast. Also noted on the chart is whether the cast member ever served as an episode's host, appeared as the anchorperson of the "Weekend Update" segment (by any of its titles), or has been the subject of their own "Best of" home video collection. Many of the cast members were writers as well.
(d) denotes deceased
|Performer||Years active||Repertory player||Featured player only||"Weekend Update"|
|John Belushi (d)||1975–1979|
|A. Whitney Brown||1985–1991|
|Tom Davis (d)||1977–1980|
|Robert Downey, Jr.||1985–1986|
|Chris Farley (d)||1990–1995|
|Anthony Michael Hall||1985–1986|
|Phil Hartman (d)||1986–1994|
|Michael O'Donoghue (d)||1975|
|Gilda Radner (d)||1975–1980|
|Charles Rocket (d)||1980–1981|
|Danitra Vance (d)||1985–1986|
Lighter colors denote "featured players" versus repertory cast members.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (November 2011)|
Some cast members are related to former staff of the show. One example is Jim Belushi, who is the younger brother of cast member John Belushi. Before that, Bill Murray's older brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, was a writer and cast member. When Dan Aykroyd left the show in 1979, he was replaced by a series of short-lived featured players, one of whom was his brother Peter Aykroyd. Short-lived featured player Matthew Laurence was the identical twin brother of 1977-1980 associate director and bit player Mitchell Laurence. Long-time writer and sometime performer Jim Downey is former cast member Robert Downey, Jr.'s uncle. Former SNL cast member Abby Elliott is the daughter of former cast member Chris Elliott (and granddaughter of Bob Elliott, who appeared on SNL as a guest performer on the 1978 Christmas episode hosted by Elliott Gould).
Other staff are related by marriage. For instance, cast member Gilda Radner was briefly married to G. E. Smith, who later became the show's bandleader. Michael O'Donoghue was married to SNL band pianist Cheryl Hardwick. Cast members Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall were married in 1987. Former cast member and head writer Tina Fey is married to former show composer Jeff Richmond.
The following is a list of the cast members with the longest tenures, who have spent at least eight seasons on the show.
|Person||Years on Show||Notes|
|Darrell Hammond||14||Hammond was hired after a cast overhaul in 1995. Hammond holds the record for most celebrity impersonations (107). He is also the last cast member hired in the 1990s to leave the show, the oldest cast member to leave the show (Hammond was 53 when he left the show), and the longest-running cast member at 14 seasons (1995–2009).|
|Seth Meyers||12||Meyers joined the show in 2001 and is currently the head writer and anchor of Weekend Update. As of 2012, his tenure on Weekend Update has reached its seventh year, making him the Weekend Update anchor who has served out the most seasons (and the only one to start out with a partner before doing the segment by himself).|
|Al Franken||11||Franken was hired as a writer in the beginning of the series in 1975. As the show progressed, he and Tom Davis were allowed to perform material on air sporadically. Franken left the show in 1980, but returned to the show when Lorne Michaels came back in 1985, where Franken regained his writing and on air featured status until the 20th season.|
|Fred Armisen||11||Armisen joined the show in 2002 and is still in the cast, currently in his eleventh season on the show. Armisen is now the show's longest-running Hispanic cast member (beating out the Chilean-born Horatio Sanz), as well as the longest-running Asian cast member (Armisen is part Japanese), the only current cast member born before 1970 (Armisen was born in 1966), and the oldest current cast member.|
|Tim Meadows||10||Meadows joined the show in early 1991. As of 2012, Meadows is tied with Kenan Thompson for the record of longest-serving black cast member (Meadows left the show at the end of the 25th season), both having served 10 seasons on the show.|
|Kenan Thompson||10||Thompson joined the show in 2003 and is still in the cast, currently in his tenth season on the show. Thompson is currently tied with Tim Meadows for the record of longest-serving black cast member, and himself holds the records of longest-running cast member who was born after SNL premiered in 1975, first cast member who was born after SNL's 1975 premiere to join the show's cast, and first SNL cast member who got his start on children's shows.|
|Kevin Nealon||9||Nealon joined the show in 1986. He served as anchor of Weekend Update for his sixth, seventh and eighth seasons, even though he gave up his position as anchor he returned his ninth season. Nealon did not return to the show after 1995.|
|Phil Hartman||8||Hartman, like Nealon, joined the show in 1986. He left in 1994 and hosted the show twice in 1996. He was killed by his wife four years after leaving the show.|
|Chris Parnell||8||Parnell was hired in 1998 and was fired in 2001 to make way for new talent. About a year later, Parnell was rehired and remained on the show until he was let go for the second time in 2006 due to budget cuts.|
|Horatio Sanz||8||Like Parnell, Sanz joined the show in 1998 and was let go due to budget cuts in 2006. He served as co-anchor of Weekend Update in the thirty-first season with Poehler for a few episodes, after Fey gave birth to her first child.|
|Maya Rudolph||8||Rudolph joined the show in early 2000. She was absent for most of the thirty-first season following the birth of her child. She did not return to the show in 2008 after the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike ended.|
|Amy Poehler||8||Like Meyers, Poehler joined the show in 2001. She served as co-anchor of Weekend Update with Tina Fey from 2004–2006 and with Meyers from 2006 - 2008. She left the series in 2008 to begin production on Parks and Recreation.|
|Will Forte||8||Forte joined the show, like Armisen, in 2002. He left the series after the release of MacGruber in 2010.|
|Jason Sudeikis||8||Sudeikis joined the cast in 2005, towards the end of the show's 30th season, after having been a writer for the show since 2003. He is still in the cast, currently in his eighth full season on the show.|
|Bill Hader||8||Hader joined the show in 2005 and is still in the cast, currently in his eighth season on the show.|
The following is a list of the former cast members who have had the shortest tenures, spending less than a full 20-episode season on the show.
|Person||Number of Episodes||Notes|
|Catherine O'Hara||0||O'Hara was hired by Dick Ebersol at the end of the Jean Doumanian debacle when the show was on a hiatus to retool and relaunch. However, after a run in with writer Michael O'Donoghue, O'Hara departed the cast. She neither appeared in an episode nor was credited in an episode; her slot in the cast went to Robin Duke.|
|Emily Prager||0||Prager was hired by Dick Ebersol to be a featured player on the show. She appeared in a few sketches at dress rehearsal in what would be the final episode of the sixth season, due to the Writers' Guild of America going on strike in 1981. She did not return to the SNL cast in season seven, and is the only SNL cast member who never appeared on the show, despite being credited.|
|Laurie Metcalf||1||Like Prager, Metcalf was hired as part of Dick Ebersol's temporary season six cast following the termination of Jean Doumanian. Unlike Prager, Metcalf appeared on-camera in a Weekend Update piece. When the show was put on hiatus for retooling, Metcalf was not chosen to return to the show for the season seven cast.|
|Dan Vitale||3||Was hired as an on-and-off featured player for the 11th season, he was only credited with appearing in three episodes throughout the season.|
|Morwenna Banks||4||Was hired as a repertory player for the last four episodes of the 20th season, but was let out of her contract as part of a major cast overhaul Lorne Michaels had planned for season 21.|
|Ben Stiller||4||Before becoming a cast member, Stiller submitted a short film—a parody of the movie The Color of Money -- that was shown on the season 12 episode hosted by Charlton Heston. Stiller was hired during SNL's fourteenth season, but quit after four episodes due to creative differences. Despite this, Stiller returned to host in 1998 and 2011.|
|Tom Schiller||7||Schiller was one of the show writers who was upgraded to cast member status during the 5th season. He left the show at the end of the season.|
|Patrick Weathers||7||Weathers was hired as a featured cast member for the sixth season, but was fired along with many of Doumanian's cast.|
|George Coe||8||Coe was one of the original "Not Ready for Primetime" cast in SNL's 1st season, because NBC wanted someone older in the cast. He continued to make several uncredited appearances throughout the first season.|
|Yvonne Hudson||8||Hudson was a recurring extra during SNL's fifth season, and became the first black female cast member in season six. Like many of Doumanian's cast, she was fired mid-season.|
|Jim Downey||9||Downey was hired as one of many writers-turned-feature players in SNL's fifth season. Even though he left the cast after season 5, Downey returned to the show as a writer in the mid-1980s and has remained with it.|
|Matthew Laurance||10||Laurance was hired as a feature player during the 6th season, and, like many of the cast, was fired as part of the mid-season overhaul.|
|Alan Zweibel||11||Zweibel was a writer for the show before joing the cast during season 5, and left after the season finale.|
|Gilbert Gottfried||12||Gottfried joined the cast for the sixth season and was fired as part of the mid-season overhaul.|
|Michael O'Donoghue||12||O'Donoghue was one of the original "Not Ready for Primetime Players," but was dropped after a few episodes. He remained with the show as a writer and occasional on-screen performer.|
|Ann Risley||12||Risley joined the cast for the sixth season and was fired as part of the mid-season overhaul.|
|Charles Rocket||12||Rocket joined the cast for the sixth season and was fired as part of the mid-season overhaul after dropping an f-bomb on live television.|
|Damon Wayans||12||Wayans was hired the 11th season as a featured player. He was fired mid-season for improvising on the air, Wayans returned as a guest to perform stand-up comedy on season 11's last episode and hosted SNL in 1995.|
|Beth Cahill||13||Cahill joined the show during the 17th season as an off-and-on featured player. She did not return the following season, as she was fired along with cast mate Siobhan Fallon.|
|Denny Dillon||13||Dillon joined the cast for the sixth season and was let go after the final episode of the season as part of the cast overhaul. She auditioned for the show's first season, but did not make the cut.|
|Gail Matthius||13||Matthius joined the cast for the sixth season and was let go after the season ended.|
|Paul Shaffer||13||Shaffer joined the cast during the fifth season after being a part of the show's house band; he left after the season's end. He hosted SNL in 1987, making him the only member of the house band to do so.|
|Janeane Garofalo||14||Garofalo joined the cast during the 20th season, but quit mid-season due to creative differences.|
|Michaela Watkins||15||Watkins joined the show on the first episode after the 2008 United States presidential election, then was let go before the start of the 35th season.|
The following is a list of the youngest people to join the show
|Person||Age When Joined Show||Tenure|
|Anthony Michael Hall||17 years old||1985–1986|
|Eddie Murphy||19 years old||1980–1984|
|Robert Downey, Jr.||20 years old||1985–1986|
|Abby Elliott||21 years, 5 months||2008–2012|
|Julia Louis-Dreyfus||21 years, 8 months||1982–1985|
|Sarah Silverman||22 years, 9 months||1993–1994|
|Jay Pharoah||22 years, 11 months||2010–present|
The following is a list of the oldest people to join the show.
|Person||Age When Joined Show||Tenure|
|Michael McKean||46 years, 5 months||1994–1995|
|George Coe||46 years, 5 months||1975–1976|
|Darrell Hammond||39 years old||1995–2009|
|Garrett Morris||38 years, 8 month||1975–1980|
|Phil Hartman||38 years, 1 month||1986–1994|
|Michaela Watkins||36 years, 11 months||2008–2009|
|Christopher Guest||36 years, 8 months||1984–1985|
|Billy Crystal||36 years, 7 months||1984–1985|
|Colin Quinn||36 years, 4 months||1995–2000|
Impersonating the sitting President of the United States is considered "about as high of an honor that can be bestowed upon a cast member." The following is a list of people who have impersonated the president.
Michael McKean portrayed Bill Clinton during a brief period after Phil Hartman's departure. There was also a sketch featuring Chris Farley, David Spade, Chris Elliott, Adam Sandler, and Tim Meadows "auditioning" for the role of Clinton. There was also a gag in a 2001 sketch with Tracy Morgan "filling in" for Will Ferrell as George W. Bush.
Although SNL is best known as the launchpad for many successful careers, eight cast members have died prematurely. This has given rise to a superstition known as the "Saturday Night Live Curse".
Two cast members have died of a drug overdose at the age of 33 in parallel situations. John Belushi and Chris Farley overdosed from a "speedball," an injection of cocaine and heroin. Belushi's death led to the conviction of Cathy Smith for administering the fatal injection. Nearly four years before Belushi's death, SNL aired a short sketch titled Don't Look Back In Anger featuring an elderly Belushi as the last living of the "not ready for prime time" cast members. Farley's death occurred nearly two months after he came back to host SNL, which turned out to be his final television appearance.
Yep, they all thought I'd be the first to go. I was one of those live-fast, die-young, leave-a-good-looking-corpse types, you know?—John Belushi
Original cast member Gilda Radner died on May 20, 1989 from ovarian cancer. Radner was originally scheduled to host the show's thirteenth season finale, a first for a former female cast member, but the show was canceled due to a Writer's Guild of America strike. Radner's health worsened the following year. Shortly before the fourteenth season finale, news came of Radner's death and Steve Martin delivered his visibly shaken monologue, followed by the sketch called "Dancing in the Dark" that he and Radner performed on an episode he hosted in 1978, and a musical tribute to Radner performed by her former husband G. E. Smith and the SNL Band.
Original cast member and writer Michael O'Donoghue died on November 8, 1994 of a cerebral hemorrhage after suffering from severe chronic migraine headaches for most of his life. Bill Murray honored O'Donoghue's memory in an appearance on the twentieth season episode (hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker with musical guest R.E.M.) by replaying O'Donoghue's sketch, "Mr. Mike's Least Loved Bedtime Stories: The Soiled Kimono" from December 1977.
Phil Hartman, a long-time veteran cast member between 1986 and 1994, was killed on May 28, 1998 by his wife while he slept in his Encino, California home. Before committing the act, Brynn consumed a combination of cocaine, alcohol, and the antidepressant drug Zoloft, and later shot herself.
Doumanian-era performer Charles Rocket was found dead on October 7, 2005 in his Canterbury, Connecticut backyard. Local police ruled his death a suicide. Rocket had allegedly taken his own life by slashing his throat with a box cutter.
Tom Davis, a cast member and writer for the show's first five years, died on July 19, 2012, after a three-year battle with throat and neck cancer. Davis is the latest SNL cast member to die prematurely.
Julia Sweeney was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the mid-1990s, but has survived and transformed her experiences into a one-woman show, God Said, Ha!, developed at LA's alternative comedy show, "Un-Cabaret". Miramax released the film version of the show in 1998, produced by Quentin Tarantino. The film version of the play earned the Golden Space Needle Award, while Sweeney's recording earned her a Grammy nomination for best comedy album. It was released on DVD in 2003.