Saturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 36 years. In our column Saturday Night’s Children, we present the history, talent, and best sketches of one SNL cast member each week for your viewing, learning, and laughing pleasure.
Plenty of single-season SNL cast members left for successful careers in comedy, but few so well or so under-the-radar as Jerry Minor. Minor only had one year to find his footing on SNL, but competing against a cast of veteran players like Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Tracy Morgan, and Molly Shannon proved to be futile, even with a year’s worth of cult sketch show experience on Mr. Show under his belt. Since then his skill set has broadened to include character actor to musical comedy smooth-talker to podcast favorite, and his post-SNL career affirms that a former cast member can maintain a steady small-role career without necessarily jumping into household name-level stardom.
Minor was just 19 when he did his first stand-up gig at an open mic in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Soon he was working the Motor City club circuit while employed at Buick and GM, but it wasn’t until after he and his wife were laid off that Minor began pursuing stand-up more aggressively, all the while working odd jobs to support his family. He joined the newly established Second City Detroit theater in 1993, where remained for four years and wrote and performed in three revues before joining Second City Chicago for two more shows, followed by another with Second City Toronto. He is the only alumnus to have been a member of all three touring companies.
In 1996, Minor met Bob Odenkirk and David Cross when they came to Second City Detroit to film the “Recruiters” sketch for Mr. Show, and Odenkirk hired Minor as a full time cast member a little over a year later for the show’s final season. In a 2007 interview, Minor described his Mr. Show TV debut and compared it with his later stint at SNL:
It was the best thing – It really spoiled me to the way things are done and how you make television because it was just a creative process that I haven’t seen since. You know, it’s like at Saturday Night Live you’re pretty much left on your own, but there are so many people involved in that process that it’s quite different from the way things were at Mr. Show, which seemed like just guys who were friends who had similar sensibilities just putting on a show. The Mr. Show staff really tried hard and cared about what they were doing, but they really took a personal interest and were left alone to do whatever they wanted.
Michaels made head writer Tina Fey a featured cast member and also hired Minor in 2000 after the departure of Colin Quinn, Cheri Oteri, and Tim Meadows. While Fey would find near-immediate stardom on Weekend Update, Minor never managed to break out into non-supporting roles despite recurring characters like the “Rap Street” cohost (and aging Vietnam vet – “Oh, terrible conflict!”) Grand Master Raps with Horatio Sanz as Kid Shazaam (“Funky fresh!”), or as the sassy security guard Terrell alongside Maya Rudolph as the egocentric desk clerk/security clerk nag Jackie. He also impersonated Al Sharpton, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Jimi Hendrix.
At the end of the season, Minor and Chris Parnell were both fired by Michaels due to budget restraints (Parnell was rehired in 2002). Starting the following year, Minor appeared as various bit characters on Cedric the Entertainer Presents, Primetime Glick, Trigger Happy TV, The Man Show, and Crossballs before a one-time Daily Show correspondent gig in 2000, appearing in Odenkirk’s Fox pilot Next in 2002, a recurring role as Officer Carter on Arrested Development from 2004-2005, and as Louie’s neighbor Walter on CK’s Lucky Louie, which ran on HBO for one season in 2006. He’s also appeared in films like Odenkirk’s Melvin Goes to Dinner, Will Ferrell’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Semi-Pro, and Artie Lange’s Beer League as well as a long string of shows like Reno 911!, Carpooling, Delocated, Bob’s Burgers, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office, Eastbound & Down, and Community.
He was born to play the lead role in his 2001 one-man show Jerry Minor Is a Black Man, and throughout the 2000s he created a musical/comedy character duo with fellow Second City alum Craig Robinson called L. Witherspoon & Chucky, with Minor as the smooth-talking R&B singer and Robinson as the sidekick piano player/backup singer (They also performed on Real Time with Bill Maher in 2003). Minor was also a frequent guest on Comedy Death Ray (now Comedy Bang Bang) in the late 2000s and briefly hosted his own podcast Cyber Thug Radio in 2010, where he performed as his Comedy Death Ray alter-ego Cyberthug. Minor still performs at Second City and now also UCB, and he voices the character of Denzel on Daniel Tosh’s new animated series Brickleberry, which premieres tonight on Comedy Central.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.