Saturday Night Live has created a lot of stars in the nearly four decades it’s been on the air. A lot of those stars are often referred to as “SNL alum” or “former SNL cast member” for the rest of their careers because it’s where they became famous. There are some former cast members, however, who are just as beloved and well-known — perhaps even more so — but their stint on the show doesn’t immediately come to mind when we see them. We might not even remember they were ever on the show at all, because their time there was so brief and they became known for so many other jobs.
Unless you’re a really devoted SNL fan, you might not know that these nine celebrities were once cast members. Even though they didn’t last long on the show, it seems to suggest that Saturday Night Live has a pretty great eye for who will be a star in the long run.
1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
You might have already known about Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ time on SNL if you’re a big fan of the show and/or her, but it’s not something that immediately springs to mind when thinking of her. She opened up to EW about why she was “miserable” on the show, saying it was more “dog-eat-dog” than she expected, and “there were a lot of drugs, and I didn’t realize everybody was on drugs.” But that’s where she met writer Larry David, who later gave her a role on Seinfeld.
2. Christopher Guest
I’m ashamed of myself for not knowing this one, since I’m pretty obsessed with all of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, but it was before I was born so I’ll cut myself some slack. He was cast on the show — which at the time was run by Dick Ebersol – just months after This is Spinal Tap premiered. His season was cut short because NBC briefly canceled the show before Lorne Michaels returned to save it, bringing in a new cast…
3. Robert Downey, Jr.
RDJ was a member of Lorne Michaels’ new cast after he returned as producer. A few other big stars were also cast, which we’ll get to next, but they were mostly replaced the next year due to poor ratings. RDJ went on to host the show years later as a huge movie star, so things seem to have worked out.
4. Anthony Michael Hall
Anthony Michael Hall joined the show alongside RDJ and became the youngest ever cast member at age 17. That’s right, the nerd from The Breakfast Club was on Saturday Night Live. Also this is a great opportunity to remind yourself that this is what he looks like now. You might have just had your mind blown twice.
5. Joan Cusack
Another member of the 1985 cast. Although she also left after one season, she started getting cast in more and more iconic movie roles and has been nominated for two Academy Awards. Not too shabby.
6. Damon Wayans
Damon Wayans is perhaps best known for his role on In Living Color, but before that he was a featured player on SNL. Apparently Wayans was frustrated with the roles he was getting on the show. For sketch called “Mr. Monopoly,” he decided at the last minute to portray a police officer as a flamboyant gay man. Lorne Michaels didn’t approve and decided to fire him.
7. Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller has always been the kind of guy where I think, “He was totally on SNL, right?” And then I remember back and decide he wasn’t. But it turns out he actually was on the show for only a couple of months. Stiller left the show because they wouldn’t let him make video shorts (kind of ironic considering how popular Andy Samberg’s became).
8. Sarah Silverman
Sarah was a featured player and writer on SNL early in her career. She recently opened up about the stint and how quickly she was fired: “I was that last year of the old guard and they started anew. And by the way, I wrote not a single funny sketch, so that might have something to do with it too.”
9. Janeane Garofalo
You probably love Janeane Garofalo’s sarcastic, dry sense of humor, but you might not know that she brought that sense of humor to the SNL stage in the early ’90s. Garofalo left the show mid-season after complaining about it to the press, and she recently said “the comedy was just not what it could have been.”