Saturday Night Live is one of the greatest television institutions of all-time. On air since 1975, SNL has been and often remains front and center in the pop culture conversation. Throughout the years, the show has given us so many memorable moments and characters. It has also helped introduce the world to such as Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, and Eddie Murphy.
While there are plenty of famous faces to come out of SNL, the list of people rejected from the show is also a star-studded affair. Some of the biggest names in movies and television auditioned and were turned down from the show. Take a look at some of the most famous almost-cast members of Saturday Night Live.
14 Marc Maron
Marc Maron has turned his rejection from SNL into a fascinating self-discovery. In 1995, Maron was considered to replace Norm MacDonald as anchor of "Weekend Update." He even got a sit-down with SNL boss Lorne Michaels but failed to get hired. It is something Maron has agonized over ever since.
Years later, Maron had Michaels on his widely successful WTF podcast to clear the air about the meeting. In short, Michaels like Maron, but the timing wasn’t right. Though Maron can’t be blamed for wondering what might have been, surely now he can see his career has worked out fine without SNL.
13 Lisa Kudrow
The Groundlings is an LA improv comedy troupe that has produced notable SNL cast members as Phil Hartman, Will Forte, and Laraine Newman. SNL creators will often sit in on shows to find new talent. It was one such show that Lisa Kudrow hoped to be discovered.
As you can imagine, having SNL people in the audience of your comedy show can be nerve-wracking and Kudrow says those nerves got to her. She might be too hard on herself though as Lorne Michael once praised her audition. After being turned down, Kudrow would land the role of Phoebe on Friends.
12 T.J. Miller
T.J. Miller is often surrounded by controversy so it’s no surprise his SNL audition was such a bizarre one. Miller showed up to the audition with a backpack filled with cookies, games, and beer which he tried to share with the other comedians auditioning that day.
When it was announced that Bobby Moynihan got the job, more stories came out. There were rumors Miller purposely bombed the audition and threw a bottle at Lorne Michaels’ head, all of which Miller denies. He would go on to star in Silicon Valley and Deadpool before more controversy would bring his career to a halt.
11 Paul Reubens
Paul Reubens is instantly recognizable as Pee-wee Herman, but at one point he was just a struggling actor trying to make it. SNL was looking for new cast members to replace the original “Not Ready For Primetime Players.” Reubens jumped at the opportunity but was passed over in favor of Gilbert Gottfried.
Reubens admits he was bitter about the rejection, but it turned out to be a life-changing event nonetheless. It convinced him to make his own show and through the disappointment, Pee Wee’s Playhouse was created.
10 Aubrey Plaza
SNL has been around for so many years and that many of today’s biggest stars grew up idolizing the show. Such is the case with Aubrey Plaza, who says it was her dream to be on the show since she was a child.
Plaza had a chance to fulfill her dream in 2008 but didn’t make the cut. However, she had very little time to be disappointed as she was almost immediately cast in Judd Apatow’s Funny People followed by Parks and Recreation, launching her career.
9 Louis CK
Before Louis CK found massive success—and then a massive downfall—he was a struggling comedian. When SNL was scouting new talent, he auditioned at a comedy club along with fellow comedians, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, and Jay Mohr. In the end, everyone was hired except him.
Though that must have been a painful experience, CK insists he feels lucky. When recalling the rejection, he notes that he’s much happier hosting the show than being in the cast. Although it’s likely to be a while before he’s asked to host again.
8 Mindy Kaling
Sometimes, SNL will audition someone for a cast member but decide they are better suited for a writing job. This is the decision Mindy Kaling faced when she auditioned for the show in 2006. Kaling was already a writer and supporting actor on The Office at the time, but decided to try out for her dream show.
While she was turned down as a cast member, she impressed them enough to be offered a writing job on the show. In the end, Kaling decided to stay with The Office, making her a rare person who was turned down by SNL and also turned them down.
7 Zach Galifianakis
Zach Galifianakis is a very talented comedian, but it’s hard to say if his comedy would be a good fit for Saturday Night Live. Galifianakis has made a career with his dry delivery of absurd jokes. When he auditioned for SNL, it was decided he wasn’t quite right for the show.
Like Kaling, he was offered a writer’s role, but only for two episodes. Still, Galifianakis has come back to host the show on several occasions after he found stardom in the Hangover movies. They even aired some of his failed audition during the SNL: 40th Anniversary special.
6 Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele is now known as the Oscar-winning mastermind behind the brilliant Get Out. But before becoming a filmmaker, Peele was a cast member of SNL’s rival show Mad TV. When the opportunity to audition for the former show came up, Peele took the chance.
SNL was specifically looking for someone to play Barack Obama on the show before deciding (poorly) to let cast member Fred Armisen do it. Peele went on to Key & Peele before becoming one of the most exciting new filmmakers around.
5 Geena Davis
Though she has given some genuinely funny performances in her career, Geena Davis isn’t necessarily known as a comedic actress. Starting out with her career, she had appeared in a number of sitcoms and caught the attention of SNL. They were in the midst of building a new cast in 1984, so Davis auditioned for the show.
Unfortunately, Davis was not a fit for the show. Instead, she had to settle for starring in such films as Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise, and A League of Their Own, as well as winning an Oscar for The Accidental Tourist.
4 Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart is one of the most successful stand-up comedians of all-time, yet he couldn’t land a part on SNL. While that kind of rejection must sting, Hart doesn’t seem to be taking it in stride.
He has become a frequent host of the show and during his 2013 monologue, Hart talked about auditioning. He mentioned some of his impressions such as Robert De Niro and Denzel Washington, neither of which were entirely accurate. Hart’s stardom has only increased since then so it’s easy to see why there are no hard feelings.
3 John Goodman
John Goodman is a stable of Saturday Night Live history. To date, he has hosted the show 13 times, only surpassed by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. But Goodman’s first brush with the show came when he auditioned to be a cast member back in 1980.
Goodman was passed over and went back to looking for work as an actor. Within a few years, he was appearing regularly in film and television. He hosted SNL for the first time in 1989 and has become one of Hollywood’s most respected character actors.
2 Donald Glover
Donald Glover can do virtually anything, so it makes sense that he would also try to join SNL. Back when Glover was a comedy writer, he auditioned along with Jordan Peele for the coveted Obama role.
After missing out on the job, Glover has hired on the show Community. He has also dabbled in some other things like playing Lando Calrissian, making Grammy-winning music as Childish Gambino, writing, directing and producing Atlanta, and, of course, hosting SNL. It’s fair to say, the man has kept busy.
1 Jim Carey
In the 1990s, Jim Carey was a comedy superstar. His films like Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and The Mask were enormous hits and his over-the-top energy made him an unforgettable onscreen performer. It seems impossible that he could be passed over for the SNL gig.
Carey was an unknown comic when he auditioned in the early '80s. Lorne Michaels admits Carey is one of the people he regrets not hiring, though he insists he was not present for the audition. Though fun to think about, it’s unlikely the show would have been able to handle the off-the-wall insanity of Carey’s comedy.