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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.