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10 “Saturday Night Live” stars who aren’t famous from “Saturday Night Live”

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“Saturday Night Live” has been around for nearly 40 years, and it’s known as a career maker. In the 1970s, the cast included such luminaries as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Chevy Chase. The ‘80s brought us Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers, the ‘90s gave us Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell – and the ‘00s hit us with Tina Fey, Amy Poehler Kristen Wiig… the list is long and full of amusing people we like. Hell, we even got Senator Al Franken out of that show.

However, “SNL” isn’t an automatic guarantee of success – it just feels like it is most of the time. There are plenty of people that have been on the show that never really broke out until after their time on the show – or, in the case of a couple of tumultuous years in the show’s tenure, were already famous before they came on. So here’s a rundown of some celebrities who were on “SNL,” but had to find other ways to actually forge successful careers. Take a look at these famous people we tend to forget were ever on the most enduring comedy launchpad of our time.


1. Gilbert Gottfried

It was the year of “SNL” that nobody likes to talk about – the 1980-81 season, when all of the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players left, including Lorne Michaels, and the show had to recast from scratch under new honcho Jean Doumanian. It was supposed to be Al Franken, but Al’s never been one to hold his tongue, so when he mocked NBC’s president on a Weekend Update sketch, he lost the gig. Sure, this is the year Eddie Murphy joined the cast at 19, but it was also the year where everything went to hell and the show was constantly on the edge of cancellation and nobody liked it – heck, it even had Laurie Metcalf, later of “Roseanne” only long enough for one episode. There was a lot of turmoil However, it’s an opportunity to see Gilbert doing comedy that’s not in his squinty-eyed scream-joke manner that he’s famous for today. You can also see that “SNL” used to do a lot more long-form comedy.


2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

She made her way into our national consciousness as Elaine Benes from “Seinfeld,” and she endures to this day on the critically acclaimed show “Veep,” but from 1982 to 1985, she was on “SNL” at just 21 years of age. Interestingly, her future husband, Brad Hall, was the anchor on the “Weekend Update” spot during that era, too. The early ‘80s made for the most tense and tricky era of the show, as it was going through myriad creative changes from the top down, and there were a lot of frustrations behind the scenes with writers and producers in the age-old battle between creativity and marketability.


3. Billy Crystal

You know him, you love him, you tend to want him to host the Oscars. In 1984, Eddie Murphy left the show, and with him went the whole Joe Piscopo era, as new showrunner Dick Ebersol tried to make up for losing his star by bringing on a bunch of other established stars. Along with “SCTV” star Martin Short and some folks from HBO’s comedy hit “Not Necessarily The News” (not to mention Larry David being a writer who quit mid-season), Crystal came on board already known for his stand-up work and starring on the hit show “Soap.” This was only for one year, but he certainly made his mark with characters like Fernando Lamas – he even got a hit novelty song out of “You Look Marvelous.” Thanks to this.


4. Christopher Guest

Along with fellow “Spinal Tap” star and Credibility Gap collaborator Harry Shearer (who had also been a cast member in 1979), Guest was on board with the Crystal year as well, even working as the Weekend Update anchor. He’s much more renowned now for his improve-based films like “Best In Show,” “A Mighty Wind,” and “Waiting For Guffman,” but one thing we loved back in his “SNL” year were the Frankie & Willie sketches he did with Crystal. Also, Michael McKean would complete the “Spinal Tap” trifecta when he came on board for an attempted redux of this all-star idea in 1994. It didn’t work so well.


5. Randy Quaid

The 1985 season got rid of most of the previous cast as Lorne Michaels came back into the fold, but also featured a number of one-year only players you often forget ever played there. Quaid was already nominated for an Academy Award at this point for “The Last Detail,” and his profile was big with “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” On this season, though, he was the guy playing President Reagan and various other weird roles. And of course, these days we think of him as some kind of paranoid crazy guy.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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