Years ago, someone at the Reader let me borrow the coffee table book on Saturday Night Live. It was a great read. They interviewed every cast member, and they all talked about their experiences on the show.

The only one that refused to participate was Eddie Murphy. I have no clue why. Maybe he wants to write his own book someday.

I thought maybe it was because he's doing the angry black guy thing. But Chris Rock had the best attitude regarding his characters and things he wrote. He said a lot of his friends would comment that his skits weren't on as much, but he admits that if it wasn't for that show, he probably wouldn't have made it in the business. He went from being a struggling comedian, to a guy that people would recognize walking down the street.

I thought it would be an interesting blog to write what I heard Dennis Miller say on his radio show a few weeks back. I didn't blog it then, because I had just written about a Saturday Night Live theme party I attended. But now enough time has passed.

A caller asked Miller, who was the long-time news guy on the show, who he thought the funniest and most talented person on the show was. Miller said, "Without a doubt, it was Dana Carvey."

He then said he may be biased, since he worked with him on the show. But, he claimed that writers would sometimes pitch a skit that wasn't funny, and he thought wouldn't work. And Carvey would find a way to make it funny.

He said, "A close second, would probably be Dan Akyroyd, Phil Hartman and Eddie Murphy. Akyroyd did some amazing stuff. And then, you have a big drop off, and have Will Ferrell."

Now, this surprised me. Not the three people tied for "second". They all did great characters. But why such a drop off for Will Ferrell? I'm not even the biggest fan of his movies, but on that show he was simply brilliant. Whether it was the male cheerleader, the professor, Alex Trebek...too many characters to even name.

And why no John Belushi in the top five?

I have no problem with him not picking a woman in the top five. I certainly think Cheri Oteri (who left to puruse a movie career...bad move) was amazing. And why does Miller think Dana Carvey was so much more talented than Gilda Radner?

My favorite SNL cast members are:

  1. John Belushi
  2. Will Ferrell
  3. Gilda Radner
  4. Bill Murray
  5. Phil Hartman
  6. Eddie Murphy
  7. Dana Carvey
  8. Chris Farley
  9. Dan Akyroyd
  10. Bill Murray
  11. Billy Crystal
  12. Mike Myers
  13. Kristen Wiig
  14. Garret Morris
  15. Tracy Morgan
  16. David Spade
  17. Adam Sandler
  18. Jon Lovitz

Are there any great cast members I missed?

Comments

mike1 April 17, 2009 @ 1:07 a.m.

I think Ackroyd has to top it for the sheer number of characters he did well, real and imaginary. Murray is overrated. A two note comedian who now wants to be taken seriously as a two note actor. David Spade???!!!
I find Miller hard to take. So frickin smug and goes off on the democrats as if there was something to be proud of the last eight years.

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Josh Board April 17, 2009 @ 9:32 a.m.

An honorable mention would be Kevin Nealon. I loved him. Not just doing the news, but the few characters he did, killed me.

When Miller mentioned Ackroyd, I didn't think I'd rank him so high. Then I thought of all the characters he did. And he did a lot! It could be a goofy commercial for the Bass-o-Matic, or whatever.

Murray was a two-note actor. Agreed. But damn, his SNL characters were so funny. The lounge singer, the guy that gave Radner noogies...all great stuff. I do think it's odd that he gets such praise as an actor, when he's always playing the same character. It's that...I'm old and tired, and disappointed by life, and I have this look on my face, and everyone will laugh and feel for me, and talk about how deep this performance is.

I swear, that college movie he did with the nerdy kid...can't think of the name. It was cute, but so damn overrated!

mike, you do what people always do when they are hardcore into their politics. They can't listen to a person with the opposite views.

Miller is one of the few that let Democrats call his show, and state their case. Now, Rush and Glenn Beck, those guys are the biggest windbags on the planet. Miller is actually funny. He knows a lot about sports and movies, and is great to listen to. I don't agree with any of his politics. And, I find it odd that everyone says he was a hardcore liberal until 9/11. To me, if you are hardcore one way, and it just takes one event to make you go extreme the other way, you're actually an idiot.

I hate, absolutely hate...the type of people that are, let's say...against the death penalty. they feel you shouldn't murder another human, and they can be rehabilitated, or whatever their view is. Then, their aunt is murdered by some thug, and they all of the sudden, want the death penalty. TO me, that just shows that person to be a complete and selfish idiot. When you think about your causes, and what they stand for, you should already be thinking about the American autoworker. It shouldn't be when you lose your job, and the country is having problems, that you start getting concerned.

And, so...if Miller was that stupid, he didn't realize that Republicans are tougher with the borders and they spend more on military, and whatever else he likes, well then he's an idiot that didn't understand the issues the first time, so he loses credibility this time around.

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mike1 April 17, 2009 @ 8:19 p.m.

I admit I don't listen to Miller's show. He'd be hard to take even if i agreed with him. (Which was the case for a couple of Air America people when it was airing in SD.) Couldn't stand him on SNL. Not funny, just smug laughing at his own 'nobody got my reference' jokes. But the soundbites I have heard give me no reason to think otherwise. And I'm no 'Obama is the savior' guy. He's not liberal enough for me and not going ahead with the torture investigation (which was a done deal before the election in my view) gives me pause. But any right wing personality who never uttered one word of criticism during the last eight years (don't know if Miller is one of them but the few times I caught him it sounded so) in my opinion should just shut the f up because they care not a whit for this country. If a conservative can say that Bush was one of the worst if not the worst president we ever had, I might be more open to a criticism of the democrats from that person. Sometimes life is too short for some things and for me, spending even one minute listening to Miller, even if he lets democrats call in, is one minute too much.

Agreed on Murray and I hated Rushmore and the director. Ditto Royal Tennenbaums. Last one was ok (train to India). Only saw it cause of Duncan's 3 star review.

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Josh Board April 18, 2009 @ 10:13 a.m.

Miller is hard to take. TO me, those ref. he makes are so stupid. it's gotten to the point where (and it got to this point about 10 years ago), it's not funny. it just makes you sound like a pompous know-it-all. there's nothing funny about making a ref. that less than 1% of the population would get.

When he goes on his political rants, I usually swithc the station.

Yes, Rushmore, that was the movie. I can't believe Conan O'Brien said it was the best movie of the year, and all the critics went nuts that it wasn't nominated for best picture. It had some scenes that were clever, but the screenplay could've been so much better, and fleshed out the characters in a more realistic fashion. That director is horrible (wes anderson, is it?)

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SDaniels April 27, 2009 @ 12:31 a.m.

Ok, Josh, I know it's off topic, but give me a minute--geez. You and mike1 are seriously tripping. Wes Anderson has this thing going on with the precocious boarding school, faux-innocent 'big' life question-posing attitude, and admittedly sometimes annoying speech patterns drilled into his characters, so they all sound the same. Yet the film was shot in beautiful, tight little vignettes with attention to detail, like the kid wrapping a gift with the little tartan plaid end of the Scotch tape you always thought was cute. And the "play" he does is hilarious, making fun of all the oldsters out there obsessed with Iwa Jima and Bogart movies. Fun, reflexive stuff.

Ah, oh. Right. My fav SNL. Geez. Gimme a minute.

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SDaniels April 27, 2009 @ 12:37 a.m.

I was going to go with something easy this late, like Toonces the Driving Cat. I don't think Toonces gets enough credit.

In my family, it was all about Ackroyd and Curtin's Coneheads, and "I am from France" with my French-Canadian cousins.

But I'm gonna go instead with Jim Breuer's Goat Boy. Great physical humor with those hooves. Can't get enough of Goat Boy reporting on scene, with frequent cattle prods to get him out of his little "mehhhhh" ruts.

After a few glasses of champers out in the country I've been known to stand on the deck and exchange calls with the local goats. "MMMEEEEEHHHHH." "Meh."

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SDaniels April 27, 2009 @ 12:44 a.m.

Alright. And "Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer." Love ya, Phil. RIP.

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Josh Board April 27, 2009 @ 12:58 a.m.

First, I found that Wes Anderson movie to not be horrible. Just very disappointing. And it was more disappointing that the critics just seemed to rally behind it. Rushmore had some amazing moments. The music was outstanding (Kinks, Who, and who in the world would've ever conceived of a scene of Bill Murray working out to the Lennon gem "Oh Yoko"? Brilliant).

The play was outstanding. And the movie had its moments. But I thought it borrowed heavily from previous films. And, I thought the kid just wasn't likable enough. I had the same problem with Napolean Dynamites character (although he did more funny stuff then the geek in Rushmore).

I don't think you need a likable character in a movie. It's one fight Siskel & Ebert had once, when one complained that if you don't, who do you root for? But, it's hard to be happy about such his interesting play, when he was a jerk well before that time.

Toonces wasn't funny. I think women just like it because it's a cat. You damn women and your cats. For animals driving, the only time that ever worked, was in Groundhog Day (Bill Murray, yet again).

I had only seen a few Goat Boy characters, but barely remember them. We saw Jim Breuer at the Irvine improve a few months back. I didn't care so much for his set, but he's definitely a funny guy. He should've stuck with that show.

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Josh Board April 27, 2009 @ 12:59 a.m.

Oh yeah, regarding Frozen Caveman Lawyer. I thought it was cute the first few times, but after that, they relied on it way to much. I think that's a problem SNL has when a guy starts coming up with great stuff, like Mike Meyers, Hartman, or Ferrel. They go to that well way to often.

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SDaniels April 27, 2009 @ 1:33 a.m.

Rushmore: Yes! I bought and still love that soundtrack. It was practically a character in that film--hell, I'd say it was.

Fair enough assessment on all scores--except:

  1. The trinity of Siskel/Ebert/Roper needs to take its "protagonist to root by" and jump off a holy cliff. That's what's so totally wrong with most industry film.

  2. I'd say there's more to Toonces than a supportive fan base of cat-crazy females. Brief digression to be polite: (Not all cat lovers love all things "cat.")

Toonces was the distillation of all of those moments that lie behind your love of SNL, that "hey, these people really just sit around and dream up land sharks!" kind of realization. It is supremely stupid, irrelevant, and lovable for that reason.

Groundhog Day rocked! Bill Murray has more than two notes in his kazoo! I love the way you described his world-weariness, i.e. meal ticket.

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Josh Board April 27, 2009 @ 1:54 a.m.

I couldn't buy the soundtrack, as I owned all those songs on their original releases. I love when a soundtrack has songs I love, that I didn't already have on CD (trainspotting, pulp fiction, basketball diaries, swingers all come to mind).

I think when Ebert made that statement, he just hadn't thought it thru. Because, so many movies they loved (for example: glengary glenross), there's no character you can love in it. Yet you still enjoy it.

Even a movie like Pulp Fiction...you are rooting for Jackson/Travolta, yet they are hired goons, who early on shoot up a couple surfers/stoners, for a reason we aren't even that sure of.

In all honesty, I think I only saw one or two Toonces skits, so I shouldn't judge. But damn, that landshark was funny. When he knocks on the door, and you hear the hesitation in his voice as he's trying to think of how to convince Jane Curtain to open that door ("Uh...delivery"). Classic.

Groundhog Day could be one of the most under appreciated movies ever. It was so brilliant on so many levels (although there is one small flaw in the film).

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SDaniels April 27, 2009 @ 12:31 p.m.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Landshark!

Forgot to bring up what was funniest to me, possibly ever! Not a character but a skit: Sam Waterston doing the "life insurance" bit because you "never know" when you might be attacked by killer robots.

Ok, what is it? It's been way too long since I've seen Groundhog Day, though I swear it's the kind of thing I'd notice. Does it have to do with Andie McDowell's character?

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Josh Board April 27, 2009 @ 4:51 p.m.

I have no clue what the Sam Waterston life insurance thing is. Dang it.

It's when Bill Murray is playing piano, and Andie McDowell FINALLY falls in love with him. After he stopped TRYING to trick her into falling for him, but he changed and became a better person.

She sees that everyone in the town loves him. And as she's listening to his honkey-tonk piano playing, the woman standing next to her says "He's a student of mine."

Well, if each day repeats (and obviously, thousands and thousands of days have repeated, hence Murrays ability to recite Russian poetry, learn piano, etc)....each person in that town is having the experience of that day, not knowing what is going to happen. Only Murray remembers the previous days.

So...Murray has had hundreds and hundreds of lessons from this piano teacher, BUT, she would only remember giving him ONE LESSON, and that would be THAT DAY. And, if he shows up at her house during the day, she kicks out the little kid she was teaching (because he offered a large wad of bills), she would quickly realize he's already had lots and lots of training (from her, but she doesn't know/realize this). So she would hardly consider him a "student," but instead, some weird guy that just showed up at her house, offered her money, so he could play the piano for a little bit.

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SDaniels April 27, 2009 @ 6:01 p.m.

I think it's worth googling the "when robots attack" Sam Waterston (you know him, the actor) skit. It's like a life insurance commercial, with elderly folk sitting around reasonably over coffee, but then the robot scenario intrudes and limbs go flying.

I agree. You really never know when robots ARE going to attack, so why not buy a little peace of mind?

You are surely right, and I've seen where in films they forget something glaringly obvious. Why does this happen, when film is so costly?

Maybe they didn't catch it until later and couldn't edit it out, and just figured oh well, stupid viewers will expect ends to start tying up, despite trashing the premise of the film.

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Josh Board April 28, 2009 @ 12:54 a.m.

And, in actuality, Murrays character had gotten so into helping as many people as he could (the old lady with the flat tire, the kid falling out of the tree, buying insurance from a guy he hated in high school, etc)...that at that point, he wouldn't have wasted an hour even going to the piano teacher for an hour of playing time.

Regarding the skit, my computer doesn't have speakers. So, I'll wait until the next time I'm at a friends house and I'll look for that skit.

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