Since its debut in 1975, Saturday Night Live has seen some of Hollywood’s best comedic talent come onto its stage. Of course, some SNL members star above the rest.
From original cast members such as the Blues Brothers Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi to the newer talent of Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson, these are the best and most iconic SNL cast members to grace the late-night stage.
Comedic actor Andy Samberg brought Saturday Night Live into the digital era. During his time on the show, Samberg popularized digital shorts, videos that would be played on the show and that people could subsequently watch on platforms such as YouTube.
One of his most popular videos was “I’m On A Boat.”
For 11 years, Fred Armisen graced the Saturday Night Live stage, showcasing otherworldly comedic talent in sketches such as Stuart in The Californians and Mackey, a crazy drummer in “Rialto Grande.”
By the time Armisen departed from the late-night series in 2013, he was the third-longest-tenured cast member. He has since made guest appearances on the show, including the finale of season 41.
It’s hard to think of SNL without thinking of comedic actor Darrell Hammond. From 1995 until 2005, Hammond did over 100 celebrity impersonations on the show, including his most famous, Bill Clinton.
Hammond returned to SNL in 2014 to be the announcer after becoming the oldest cast member in the show’s history upon his departure in 2005. At the time, he was 53.
During her time on Saturday Night Live, actress Maya Rudolph impersonated numerous pop culture figures and political icons, including Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama.
But it was the sketch Bronx Beat alongside Amy Poehler that really showcased her talents and proved that Rudolph’s comedic ability was something that just came seamlessly for the actress.
Starting as a writer for SNL in 1993, Norman Macdonald eventually made his way all the up to the coveted position on the Weekend Update desk. His quick jabs and no-nonsense attitude led him to become an all-time favorite.
He held the position at the desk for numerous seasons throughout the 1990s, eventually leaving the late-night show after five seasons, much to fans’ dismay.
Starting off as a child actor in the sketch comedy series All That, it only makes sense that Kenan Thompson made his way to Saturday Night Live. As of 2022, Thompson is the longest-running cast member of the late-night show.
One of his most memorable sketches on the show What’s Up With That? helped earn him four Primetime Emmy Award nominations, out of which he won one.
One of Saturday Night Live‘s original cast members, Dan Aykroyd, brought numerous iconic characters to life. Some of his most noteworthy are Elwood of the Blues Brothers and the patriarch of the Conehead family.
No matter what Aykroyd brought to the stage, audience viewers could not get enough of his energy and comedic talent.
Vanessa Bayer’s natural energy and ability to bring literally any character to life on stage makes her one of the greatest SNL cast members of all time. Who else could play a shy Jewish boy named Jacob as well as the eccentric Miley Cyrus?
Her accomplishments and talent did not go unnoticed either. In 2017 she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
For Rachel Dratch, Saturday Night Live was her breakthrough into Hollywood. From 1999 until 2006, Dratch played the hysterical and memorable role of Debbie Downer in numerous sketches.
Her specialty, though, was being so funny and outrageous that she would have her partners breaking in the middle of their scene!
While Chris Rock was only a Saturday Night Live cast member for three seasons, from 1990 until 1993, his performances were more than memorable. He’s known for his impersonations of stars such as Arsenio Hall and for his occurring character in the sketch I’m Chillin.
Known as one of the “Bad Boys of SNL,” Rock went on to host the late-night show three times after his departure.
When Chris Farley became a regular SNL cast member in 1990, he was a force to be reckoned with. Between his acting chops, comedic ability, and physical talents, Farley quickly became one of the most popular cast members until his departure in 1995.
Some of his most beloved sketches include The Chris Farley Show and Bill Swerski’s Superfans.
From 2001 until 2008, Amy Poehler brought her comedic brilliance to the Saturday Night Live stage. As a cast member, she was known for shining brightly in pretty much everything she did, from a host of the Weekend Update, Bronx Beat, and even The Cougar Den.
Eventually, she left the show and brought her talents to the character of Leslie Knope in the NBC series Parks and Recreation.
As part of the original Saturday Night Live cast, John Belushi was one of the most memorable performers to grace the stage. His part as one of the Blues Brothers is beyond iconic, and people couldn’t help but love his impersonation of Joe Cocker.
He’s arguably one of the most iconic people to perform on the late-night show.
After landing his spot on Saturday Night Live in 1991, Tim Meadows became one of the show’s longest-running cast members before leaving in 2000.
Along with working as a writer for the show, Meadows was known for hopping into sketches and stealing the spotlight, especially when it had anything to do with bringing Leon Phelps to life in the sketch Ladies Man.
Before making it big in Hollywood, Adam Sandler was a Saturday Night Live cast member from 1990 until 1995. During that time, he showcased his extreme talent, portraying over-the-top characters like Opera Man and Cajun Man and more down-to-earth characters like the ex-boyfriend on The Denise Show.
Through it all, though, people always waited for him to play his one-of-a-kind songs on the guitar.
While Chevy Chase lasted less than two seasons on Saturday Night Live, his legacy on the show still sticks. As one of the original cast members, his stint as a reporter for the Weekend Update made the sketch a must-see routine, something fans’ still look forward to watching season after season.
Chase won two Primetime Emmy Awards for his writing and performances on the late-night show.
Molly Shannon was a Saturday Night Live cast member from 1995 until 2001.
During that time, she became one of the most fun performers to watch on stage. While her characters were amazing, it was her palpable energy and crazy stunts that made her worth watching and brought people back season after season to see what she would do next.
Bill Murray’s magnetic energy is hard to compare to other SNL cast members. As an anchor on the Weekend Update, he kept audience viewers engaged and at the edge of their seats before they billowed over with laughter.
Sadly, Murray left the cast in 1980, deciding to pursue a movie career.
Kate McKinnon hopped on the SNL stage as a featured performer in 2012. Quickly she proved her worth as a cast member, showcasing insane talent when it came to celebrity impersonations.
Some of her most iconic impersonations are of Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Hillary Clinton, who actually praised McKinnon’s sketches.
In 1980, Eddie Murphy pretty much brought Saturday Night Live back on the map. Between his original characters, musical talents, and amazing impersonations, people couldn’t get enough of the 19-year-old comedian.
Even though Murphy stayed on as a cast member for four seasons, he arguably single-handly made SNL must-watch TV.
From 1996 to 2003, Tracy Morgan captivated audience viewers with his eccentric yet dimwitted characters on the Saturday Night Live stage, namely as the nature show host Brian Fellow.
Starting out as a main cast member, Morgan created original characters such as Dominican Lou that people came back to watch week after week.
A member of the original SNL cast, Gilda Radner was known for her parodies of stereotypical television characters, namely news anchors and advice specialists.
She even portrayed her SNL characters in her one-woman show on Broadway, showing they were timeless and people couldn’t get enough of her energy. She won a Primetime Emmy for her SNL work in 1978.
While a lot of people might remember Tina Fey in front of the camera and at the Weekend Update desk as one of the anchors, she actually spent more time behind the camera.
Fey was a writer for SNL before she stepped foot on the stage as a cast member. Even so, she is one of the most popular to come out of the late-night show.
In the late 1990s, Will Ferrell owned the Saturday Night Live stage. As a cast member, he performed in arguably some of the most quoted sketches to come out of the show, including Celebrity Jeopardy and, of course, More Cowbell.
During his seven years on the late-night show, fans could not get enough of Ferrell’s talent.
Bill Hader was a Saturday Night Live cast member from 2005 until 2013. During that time, Hader showed off his funny faces, commanding stage voice, and ability to captivate the audience viewers.
One of his most iconic sketches was as Stefon, a New York nightlife expert on the Weekend Update.
For seven seasons, Kristen Wiig brought some all-time favorite characters to life on the Saturday Night Live stage.
From her impersonations of Taylor Swift and Kathy Lee Gifford to her original characters of Gilly, an unfortunate member of a sister quartet, and the Target Lady, Wigg proved there was nothing she couldn’t handle.
Actress Ana Gasteyer’s comedic talents were showcased on Saturday Night Live from 1996 until 2002. During that time, Gasteyer stole that stage, captivating audience members with her amazing characters, most notably her portrayals of Martha Stewart and Celine Dion.
With a musical background, Gasteyer also starred alongside Will Ferrel as his opera-singing wife in the sketch The Culps.
Dana Carvey was a man of many faces when he graced the Saturday Night Live stage from 1986 until he departed from the show in 1993.
A chameleon, it was sometimes difficult to tell it was Carvey underneath the costumes, props, and completely varying characters who had nothing in common, such as Garth from Wayne’s World and the Church Lady.
From 1986 until 1994, Phil Hartman graced the SNL stage as one of the show’s lead performers.
Between his spot-on impersonations of icons such as Frank Sinatra, Phil Donahue, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan, and his reoccurring role as Frankenstein, Hartman showed he had a massive range and an insane amount of talent.
During the time Michael Myers was a cast member on Saturday Night Live, he arguably created one of the most iconic characters in the late-night show, Wayne.
A nerdy guy hosting a cable access show in his basement, Wayne, and his friend Garth brought smiles to people’s faces and a whole lot of laughter to whoever watched their antics.