5 Saturday Night Live Cast Members Who Achieved Great Stardom And 5 Who Went Under The Radar

Not every rising comedian can leave SNL as a Hollywood star.
The Cinemaholic.com 

Kickstarted in 1975 by writer/broadcaster Lorne Michaels, NBC's Saturday Night Live came onto the scene to upend the conventional workings of television comedy. As the series began to overcome its initial growing pains and find an audience, the sketch comedy series became known for launching the careers of some of America's most gifted comedians and backtracking the careers of others. Throughout the show's tenure, select stars from SNL, have become world-renowned icons while a certain few haven't been heard from in years.

Here is what the Saturday Night Live cast members achieved:

10. Cheri Oteri (Under The Radar)

Cheri Oteri was a leading female Saturday Night Live cast member from 1995-2001. Oteri's days on the show proved to be the magnum opus of her career, rather than the launching pad. Following Oteri's SNL debut, the comedian received a batch of television offerings from various networks, which ultimately ended with short-lived runs on the airwaves. Due to her wildly successful career as an impressionist, Sheri has gone on to do voice work in several animated projects with Shrek the Third (as Sleeping Beauty) and The Fairly Oddparents (Connie Carmichael) as standouts. Since leaving SNL behind, Oteri has found some recognition on-screen in works such as HBO's Curb your Enthusiasm and Oteri's fellow SNL castmate Adam Sandler's reunion comedy Grown Ups (2010).  

9. Adam Sandler (Stardom)

Speaking of Oteri's fellow castmate, Adam Sandler was a star of Saturday Night Live from 1990 to 1995. Whether it was Sandler's Haknaugh song or polished comradery with the late Chris Farley, Adam was a talent that brought a fresh new perspective to the show. Upon his leaving the world of sketch comedy, Sandler quickly made his way to the cinemas with hit films Billy Madison (1995) and The Wedding Singer (1998). Nowadays, "The Sandman" has expanded his terrain beyond comedy with his expansion to dramatic film fare in Rain Over Me (2007) and the more recent Uncut Gems (2019). However, Sandler's comedic roots are ever prevalent within a landmark Netflix deal and the continuance of Happy Madison Productions (titled after the 1996 golf comedy of the same name), which currently houses the Hotel Translyvania and Grown Ups films. 

8. Tim Meadows (Under The Radar)

Appearing on Saturday Night Live from 1991-2000, Tim Meadows was a rising comedian found out of the popular Second City comedy theater group, alongside Chris Farley. During his lengthy run on SNL, Meadows parodied several high-profile African American celebrities like Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, and OJ Simpson. Aside from his celebrity impressions, Meadows would bring to life the character of Leon Phelps a.ka. "The Ladies Man", a smooth-talking radio talk show host spreading his own interpersonal sermon on relationships/sex. Meadows' Ladies Man character would receive his own Hollywood feature-length film in 2000, which didn't meet the desired critical or box office reception. Following his leave from SNL and The Ladies Man underperformance, Meadows has attained bit parts in films such as Mean Girls (2004) and Trainwreck (2015) as well as a recurring role on popular ongoing ABC series The Goldbergs.

7. Chevy Chase (Stardom)

While the original cast of Saturday Night Live was a tour de force in their early days, Chevy Chase was the handsome face of Saturday Night Live that appealed to the casual audiences. Acting as the original anchor of the show's staple Weekend Update segment for a sole season, Chevy helped put SNL on the map before landing the lead role in the Goldie Hawn starring romantic comedy titled Foul Play (1976). As Chevy's career would only strengthen with Caddyshack (1980) and the Vacation series, Chase left his SNL days behind for far greener pastures. Though, since his early fame, Chase has amassed a career of publicly voicing his thoughts on the current SNL regime, which has had an adverse effect on his own early comedy legacy. Chevy has sparked criticism from several current SNL cast members including Pete Davidson

6. Molly Shannon (Under The Radar)

One of the few female SNL cast members, Molly Shannon is a natural comedian who helped define Saturday Night Live from 1995-2001 with her physical humor and unusual roles. However, unlike her well-established castmates, Molly never attained a major theatrical vehicle that truly sent her to star status. Post SNL, Molly featured in How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Little Man (2006), and Wet Hot American Summer (2001). Shannon's recent offerings have been few and far between; sharing memorable guest appearances on NBC's Hannibal and Academy Award-nominated Promising Young Woman following in the footsteps of Adam Sandler and taking on more dramatic roles. In a world that revers former female SNL cast members Gilda Radner, Tina Fey, and Maya Rudolph, Molly Shannon deserves to be placed on the same pedestal. 

5. Bill Murray (Stardom)

The first all-new cast member of SNL's second season, Bill Murray was enlisted to replace former Weekend Update reporter Chevy Chase, from 1976-1980.  After gaining a start on the short-lived National Lampoon Radio Hour alongside future SNL all-stars Gilda Radner and John Belushi, Murray would become the first all-new cast member of Saturday Night Live's second season. The 1977 summer camp teen comedy Meatballs would catapult Murray from the SNL stage to the cinema. Murray's Ghostbusters (1984), Scrooged (1988), Stripes (1981), and Groundhog Day (1993) made the SNL start-up an incredibly bankable star. While not the marquee talent of his heyday, Murray remains a Hollywood fixture due to his frequent collaborations with acclaimed directors Wes Anderson (The Royal Tennenbaums) and Sophia Coppola (Lost in Translation). 

4. Chris Kattan (Under The Radar)

The 2000s were not kind to A Night At The Roxbury co-lead Chris Kattan. Serving on Saturday Night Live's second resurgence from 1996-2003, Kattan was a Groundlings alumn and had a promising comedy career ahead of him. Similar to former SNL cast members Dana Carvey and the late Phil Hartman, Kattan had made a serious impact with his assortment of celebrity impressions. Kattan's current state may have to do more with matters that took place behind the scenes, involving former SNL cast members. Kattan's more recent work has involved everything from Super Bowl advertisements to a spot on ABC's Dancing With the Stars. If Chevy Chase can reignite his dormant career with NBC's community college satire Community, then a return to television comedy may be in store for Kattan to reawaken his entertainment outlet.  

3. Will Ferrell (Stardom)

A Night At The Roxbury's other lead Will Ferrell began as a fellow Groundlings actor alongside Chris Kattan, before being found by producers for Saturday Night Live and becoming a regular cast member from 1995- 2002.  A member of the unofficial early 2000s comedy lineup the Frat Pack, Ferrell's SNL exposure allowed the rising star to inevitably spread his wings into the acting field. After having bit parts in Mike Myers vehicle Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) and Ben Stiller led Zoolander (2001), director Jon Favreau's modern Christmas classic Elf (2003), and Adam McKay's broadcast news satire Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) catapulted Ferrell to international stardom.  Though Ferrell's recent efforts may pale in comparison to his earlier works, the SNL alumn has more than enough hits to retain his legacy.

2. Dana Carvey (Under The Radar) 

A star cast member during Saturday Night Live's transformative period of 1986-1993, it was Dana Carvey's hiring which reinvigorated the sketch comedy series for a new generation of television viewers. Teaming with another young SNL cast member Mike Myers, it was Carvey and Myers who conceived the popular characters of punk rock fans Garth Algar and Wayne Campbell, who would go on to star in their own feature film Wayne's World (1992) and its follow-up 1993 sequel. Outside of Saturday Night Live, Carvey's on-screen presence left much to be desired. Dana Carvey's major tentpole comedy The Master of Disguise (2002) severely ruined Dana's goodwill with audiences and the master impressionist has not been seen in the spotlight since. Despite having a promising SNL tenure, Carvey was never able to truly replicate his comedic success beyond the television arena.

1. Eddie Murphy (Stardom)

Long before a series of box office flops and family comedies, Eddie Murphy began as an up-and-coming 19-year-old hire for Saturday Night Live's leap into the 1980s. Eddie came onto the scene with his memorable character portrayals of Mr. Robinson (a parody of children's TV host Mr. Rogers), claymation model Gumby, and The Little Rascals' Buckwheat. Though Murphy's tenure on Saturday Night Live lasted for only four seasons, the young comedian left such a lasting impression on the show that it felt as if he were there from the beginning. It wasn't until the SNL exit in which Murphy truly flourished with his films Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Coming to America (1988) Trading Places (1983), and even a duo of unadulterated stand-up specials Delirious (1983) and Raw (1987). There hasn't been a more fabled success story for an entertainer since Eddie Murphy and may never be again.

Today, Saturday Night Live continues to shine an enormous spotlight on the rising comedic talents of each new generation. But, there is never an absolute guarantee that everyone who leaves the show will become a star, or remain at the top for that matter. The humor that works in sketch comedy does not always result in the same punchline received from a feature film or even a handheld camera TV sitcom. As new stars continue to enter the comedic fray and join the show, the wager between who will become a star and who will fade from the public consciousness will only strengthen with time. 

Current junior Writing Arts major attending Rowan University. I am an avid writer, comic book reader, and film enthusiast.

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