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The 10 most groundbreaking “Saturday Night Live” stars

The 10 most groundbreaking “Saturday Night Live” stars (photo)

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“Saturday Night Live.” It’s a comedy franchise unparalleled, launching the careers of dozens of legends of the industry. As it heads into its 36th year, there are so many stars of this show that have become comedy staples and heroes to comics everywhere that it’s hard to contain them all in a list. Stalwart geniuses like Dan Aykroyd, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks and many more have their esteemed place among the beloved, reliable and versatile cast members, but here’s a quick list focusing on the most innovative talents in the show’s history – the people who changed how things were done.

1. John Belushi (1975 -1979)

We should really put the entire original Not Ready For Prime Time Players on this list (plus Bill Murray, who replaced Chevy Chase after the first year) for starting it all, but that would crowd everybody out. So we’ll go with Belushi, star of the first ever sketch, who grew into a primal force of nature and a whirlwind of creativity alongside Dan Aykroyd, and who also set the precedent of SNL stars dying young. Just think about the things he did. The Blues Brothers would not be possible today. Could any two other cast members ever go rock out on the road and perform blues songs earnestly with barely a hint of winking comic irony? That’s how strong his presence alone could be.

2. Eddie Murphy (1980 -1984)

People tend to forget about the early 80s SNL era, but it sported such notable names as Billy Crystal and Martin Short, and brought us the revelation that was Murphy. A talented mimic, he balanced his street-smart sensibility (evidenced by his going undercover as a white man) with a love of getting completely goofy (he’s Gumby, dammit!) and his high energy brought a really different feel to the show. Murphy is likely the main reason SNL survived the departure of the “Golden Age” original cast members and made it to its late-80s, early-90s “Silver Age,” so to speak.

3. Dana Carvey (1986 -1993)

Here’s the amazing thing about SNL’s most renowned impressionist – he didn’t really impersonate people, at least not in the chameleon-like way guys like Darrell Hammond would later. Instead, he dove into their sound and mannerisms, picked up a few things and cranked those up to 11, making everybody else’s impressions just an inferior version of his. He turned George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot into a series of nasal noises and it worked. Seriously, he got the actual President Bush to say “Nah gah dah.” Carvey was a character factory and a catchphrase machine, and he really spearheaded the SNL Silver Age.

4. Dennis Miller (1985 – 1991)

Say what you will about his post-SNL career, but Miller put his signature on the show every night he did Weekend Update. What used to be a straight-up parody of news shows transitioned (with the help of early-80s anchor Brad Hall) into the haven for cutting-edge comic voices who were not really the kind of people that belonged in sketches. With dry-wit commentators like Al Franken and A. Whitney Brown doing guest spots, Miller’s endless sarcasm about the week’s top stories and his deeply stylized delivery gave SNL a place where the writers could put the bombastic characters aside for several minutes a night and just speak their minds between the jokes. Not that Miller wasn’t a bombastic character in his own right – check out Carvey’s brilliant impression of him for proof of that.

5. Adam Sandler (1990 – 1995)

Sandler’s freshman class came in at just the right time to stretch out that Silver Age a few more years, and you know the rest. That twitchy little persona vascillated from quiet nerd to loud and absurd, never afraid to completely humiliate himself in the stupidest of ways… and then he’d pull out an acoustic guitar and singing dorky-sweet holiday songs. His egghead (not intellectual egghead, but his head is actually shaped like an egg) sensibility was all over the show in the early 90s, and his singular popularity really cemented the show’s transition from the edgy underdog into the mainstream mainstay.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.