Saturday Night’s Children: 2011 In Review

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Tackling the players in SNL’s long history has been like a shopping spree with so many great names to choose from. Picking a cast member each week was difficult – some I adore and loved revisiting, and some I knew next to nothing about. I made it my goal to bring a mix of both the well-known all-stars and the unsung heroes to light, featuring underrated players like Laraine Newman and Jan Hooks, larger-than-life players like Phil Hartman and Tracy Morgan, and controversial or lesser-known players like Victoria Jackson, Anthony Michael Hall, and Garrett Morris. It’s only been seven months and there are still over a hundred cast members left to cover, but in the spirit of Splitsider year-end roundups, here’s a complete list of the 27 Saturday Night’s Children columns we’ve featured this year, from season one to the present.

1. Laraine Newman (1975-1980)

Laraine Newman bridged the gap between the wildness of Gilda Radner and the more motherly, polished style of Jane Curtin, and her aversion to repeating characters is a rare and admirable quality in a cast member.

2. Garrett Morris (1975-1980)

Garrett Morris was a Juillard student, Harry Belafonte Singer, Broadway star, and US Army X-ray technician all before he became an original Not Ready for Prime Time Player. Wouldn’t it be great if he made a cameo on Weekend Update as the News for the Hard of Hearing translator? “OUR TOP STO-RY…TONIGHT!”

3. Gilda Radner (1975-1980)

One of SNL’s biggest legends, Gilda Radner’s fragile yet consistently daring performances are still as edgy and hilarious as they were over twenty years ago.

4. Don Novello (1979-1980; 1985-1986)

If I had to pick a mascot for SNL, I’d pick Father Guido Sarducci. He’s the perfect mix of popular and obscure, writer and performer, and who couldn’t use a few bocce ball secrets from a true master?

5. Christopher Guest (1984-1985)

Before he went on to make a string of hit mockumentaries, Christopher Guest spent a year at SNL and created several hit characters alongside Billy Crystal.

6. Anthony Michael Hall (1985-1986)

Beyond being an established star when he was hired, Anthony Michael Hall still holds the record of being the youngest SNL cast member. He was seventeen years old when he joined the show.

7. Jon Lovitz (1985-1990)

Jon Lovitz helped bring SNL out of its mid-80s funk due to his knack for playing the most flamboyantly theatrical characters, my favorite being The Master Thespian. “ACTING!”

8. Phil Hartman (1986-1994)

From his Frank Sinatra caricature to his overly-dramatic failing Hollywood star Johnny O’Connor, Hartman racked up countless memorable characters. His reputation as a supportive cast mate and all-around sweetheart makes watching his sketches always a bittersweet experience.

9. Victoria Jackson (1986-1992)

I find Victoria Jackson’s transition from ditzy blonde gymnast/poetry reciter to a complete political train wreck as funny, if not extremely funnier, than her performances on SNL. She’s underrated, but then again so is her web series PolitiChicks – now that’s some hilarious stuff.

10. Jan Hooks (1986-1991)

Jan Hooks was one of my favorites as a child, from her weeping Tammy Faye Bakker to her brilliantly pretentious performance in the Calvin Klein commercial parody “Compulsion” – which wasn’t online when I wrote her column, but it is now! Woo!

11. David Spade (1990-1996)

I’m just going to repeat what I wrote in my David Spade column – his characters and catchphrases were some of the most successfully annoying in SNL history.

12. Colin Quinn (1995-2000)

Colin Quinn might not have been the best Weekend Update anchor, but he’s definitely been one of the most bizarre Twitter users this year.

13. Molly Shannon (1995-2001)

Not many women fell into a pile of chairs with as much exuberance and awkwardly charming energy as Molly Shannon, another one of my favorite cast members.

14. Jim Breuer (1995-1998)

While he didn’t find much SNL success aside from Joe Pesci and Goat Boy, Jim Breuer’s still one of the most solid stand-up comedians today.

15. Tracy Morgan (1996-2003)

I love all of Tracy Morgan’s characters – Brian Fellow, Woodrow, Uncle Jemima – and his half-assed dancing is my favorite part of “I Wish It Was Christmas Today.”

16. Chris Kattan (1996-2003)

Known for his hyper and twerpy characters like Mr. Peepers and Mango, Chris Kattan is also the owner of probably the most amusing personal website of a SNL cast member that I’ve seen.

17. Ana Gasteyer (1996-2002)

Ana Gasteyer was to Will Ferrell what Jan Hooks was to Phil Hartman – an ideal source of chemistry and support. She’s also hugely talented in her own right, both as an actor and singer, and I think she’s one of SNL’s more underappreciated cast members.

18. Chris Parnell (1998-2006)

Chris Parnell fills the space between a nerdy white guy and hardcore gangsta rapper with a level of talent few utility players can match, and it’s safe to say he’ll have steady work in the comedy world for years to come.

19. Horatio Sanz (1998-2006)

Aside from being a consistently ideal goofball stoner character (like as Gobi in “Jarret’s Room” or Frankie in the “Boston Teens” sketches), Horatio Sanz also added a fun and off-the-cuff energy and improved virtually every sketch he appeared in.

20. Jimmy Fallon (1998-2004)

No cast member embodies the fan-turned-star of SNL quite like Jimmy Fallon. Whether or not you support laughing during sketches, in Jimmy’s case it only makes things more hilarious.

21. Rachel Dratch (1999-2006)

She’s the Boston teen Denise “Zazu” McDenna, the gross mutant Qrplt*xk, and the infamous Debbie Downer, and even though Rachel Dratch had to compete with some of SNL’s strongest cast members, the show wouldn’t have been as funny without her ability to morph from into some of the most bizarre characters and creatures on the show.

22. Maya Rudolph (2000-2007)

Maya Rudolph can never go wrong in my book, whether she’s a boy-crazy middle school girl or the hot-tempered alcoholic Versace yapping at her shirtless man-slaves.

23. Will Forte (2002-2010)

Will Forte is another personal favorite because he’s great in so many roles – dancers, political candidates, pedophiles, or Ken “The Falconer” Mortimer himself.

24. Kenan Thompson (2003-Present)

To this day it’s still weird watching a Nickelodeon star all grown up on SNL, but Kenan keeps getting better. Also, I’ll defend the hilariousness of “What’s Up With That?” to the death.

25. Rob Riggle (2004-2005)

I knew Riggle was a Marine, but I didn’t know he left a career as a Marine Corps pilot to pursue a spot on SNL. It took him ten years to reach his goal and his time on the show was short, but he found his niche on The Daily Show only a year later.

26. Michaela Watkins (2008-2009)

I love Michaela’s impressions of Arianna Huffington and Barbara Walters, but nothing compares to her “Bitch pleeeease” blogger Angie Tempura on Weekend Update.

27. Jenny Slate (2009-2010)

From F-bomb-dropper to adorable talking shell (who has a two-book deal and upcoming television show, too), Jenny Slate has grown exponentially since her time on SNL.

Thanks to all who’ve enjoyed reading my column, and I’ll see you in 2012 with a whole new batch of SNL cast members. Who do you hope to see featured this year?

Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.