Saturday Night Live is a beloved institution. Since 1975, the show has been airing on Saturdays at 11:30 on NBC. Each episode is hosted by a celebrity guest who is heavily featured in the skits. There is also a musical act, usually an artist with a new hit album who uses the platform to promote their record or single.
The series started off strong cast, most of whom went on to become stars. Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, and John Belushi used the show as a jumping off point for successful careers. After an impressive entrance, times got a little rougher. It's infamous for going through years long lulls. This isn't trying to degrade the long running show, as the creators would be the first to admit the pains they went through in the early 1980s. Like a phoenix from the ashes, though, it always comes back stronger than ever.
With forty four seasons of television under its belt, the cast list has become huge. In fact, there are quite a few actors many forgot were on the show as a regulars. This list will point out ten thespians who people would be surprised to learn got their start on SNL. The gap in memory is sometimes attributed to the fact that their tenure was short lived, while other times it is because the actor seems incongruous to the show's tone.
10 Ben Stiller
Ben Stiller is the son of two successful comedians; Jerry Stiller, from Seinfeld and The King of Queens; and Anne Meara, who was on Archie Bunker's Place and had a popular comedy duo with her husband.
His short films got Ben a writing job at the show, which eventually turned into a stint as a featured performer. He was only on the show for four episodes, leaving because the program did not want him to make short films. Eventually, Stiller gained more fame for his roles in movies like Meet the Parents and Zoolander.
9 Gilbert Gottfried
Gottfried joined the cast in 1980, when it was heavily overhauled from its original incarnation. Skits were still the main focus, but the entire cast was replaced. This was seen as a low point for the long running show, and almost spelled its doom. The screechy-voiced comedian was only there for twelve episodes before getting the boot. Considering the show's quality at the time, he can consider himself lucky for leaving when he did. The less associated someone was with the show during that season, the better.
8 Chris Rock
Chris Rock wows people with his stand up comedy, writing, acting, and directing. He's a man of many hats when it comes to the comedic arts. He's accomplished so much throughout his career, it's easy to forget that he was a member of the show's cast from 1990 to 1992. He was fired, but had gained enough exposure to strike out on his own. Shortly afterwards he wrote and starred in CB4, a comedy parodying contemporary hip hop groups, namely N.W.A.
7 Damon Wayans
Damon Wayans, and several other Wayans brothers, are famous for their radical sketch comedy series, In Living Color. Little do people know, however, that the actor, who would later go on to appear in Major Payne and the Lethal Weapon television series, was on SNL for half a season in the mid 1980s. He was let go after improvising on live television, something that's apparently frowned upon for the series.
6 Anthony Michael Hall
In the 1980s Anthony Michael Hall was known for playing the lovable geek in several comedies. Many remember him for his role in Sixteen Candles. Edward Scissorhands showed his villainous side, leading to more mature roles. He also has the honor of being SNL's youngest cast member, joining at only seventeen years old. His tenure wasn't as fruitful as he thought it would be, and he got the axe after only one season in 1986.
5 Janeane Garofalo
Steal This Movie!, Wet Hot American Summer, and Ratatouille are just some of the many films in which Janeane Garofalo has participated. Before that, she was on SNL for six months in 1994.
She left of her own fruition, later relaying that it was a terrible experience. Leaving an opportunity like that can be career ending, but it ended up being the right decision.
4 Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy's early career is a string of consecutive hits, from his films to stand up specials. From animated children's films to outright mature comedies, Murphy has tickled more than one person's funny bone. His output in the 80s was so prolific, there's almost no time to mention that he started his career on the celebrated late night series. He was on for four seasons starting in 1980 and was instrumental in bringing the show back from the brink of ruin with his roster of characters and impersonations.
3 Sarah Silverman
Sarah Silverman is a renowned stand up comedian who has also managed some solid film roles. She also headlined her own sitcom, The Sarah Silverman Program which, despite warm ratings and critical reception, only lasted three seasons. Prior to that, however, she landed a gig as a writer on SNL, which also got her a spot as a cast member. Sadly, not a single one of her skits made it on air.
2 Bill Murray
What is there to say about Bill Murray that hasn't already been said. He's starred in some of the funniest movies ever, some of the most dramatic ones, and some that ride a middle line between the two. His character in the hit comedy Ghostbusters is undeniably one of the crowning achievements of his his career. His comedic presence swivels in and out of straight up goofball comedy and bits that make the audience question whether or not they are meant to be jokes. It's this same spirit that fueled SNL's early years, of which Bill was a part of from 1977 to 1980.
1 Robert Downey Jr.
That's right, the man who has saved the world time and time again from supernatural threats started his career on SNL. And by "saved the world," we mean fictionally, in his role as Iron Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.) He had acted beforehand, but this was a true mainstream gig. His time on the show for one season in 1985 is considered poor, but it's no sweat off of Robert's back; his acting career skyrocketed shortly afterwards.