Saturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 37 years. In our column Saturday Night’s Children, we present the history, talent, and best sketches of one SNL cast member every other week for your viewing, learning, and laughing pleasure.
The early nineties were not the most fruitful years for female SNL cast members. Among the players who lingered in the shadow of the Sandler-Farley brofest was Chicago native Beth Cahill, whose young blonde appeal and traditional improv roots couldn’t stand a chance against the established tone and overcrowded cast. Cahill has gone mostly forgotten in the scope of SNL history, but a closer look at her sporadic appearances in season 17 reveals an ensemble performer outnumbered by a cast of much louder – and perhaps more eager – colleagues.
Cahill got her start in performing at both Chicago’s ImprovOlympic and the Annoyance Theatre, where she also worked as a costume designer with her sister but drew more acclaim thanks to her performance as Marcia Brady in the troupe’s successful show The Real Life Brady Bunch as well as Denise AKA Miss South Side in the beauty pageant spoof The Miss Vagina Pageant. Alongside fellow Annoyance member Melanie Hutsell, Cahill caught the attention of Lorne Michaels during a performance of The Pageant, earned an SNL audition, and was hired as a featured player in November 1991. (Future Office star Kate Flannery also got an audition after The Pageant but was not offered a job.)
Cahill’s fourteen episodes on SNL found her mostly relegated to supporting parts, though she did occasionally show up as Denise Swerski in the Super Fan sketches (George Wendt’s tough daughter, beauty queen, and Bears fan) and valley sorority girl Pam in the Delta Delta Delta sketches with cast mates Hutsell and Siobhan Fallon as well as a single impersonation of Ed McMahon’s third wife Pam Hurn. Victoria Jackson and Julia Sweeney enjoyed most of the more loudmouthed female roles, and Cahill’s imprint on SNL was minimal due to her ultimate inability to break out of the quieter, secondary character mold.
Since her single-season stint, Cahill has chosen to remain largely absent from the show business world, appearing in a few television shows (Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, Cheap Seats: Without Ron Parker, and Comedy Central’s 2003 Laughs for Life telethon). She’s continued her costume designer calling by teaching sewing and making vintage-inspired dresses under the labels Like My Dress and Snappy Shop and more recently has taken an interest in cooking and gardening as seen through her blog DelishyTown and current job as a Los Angeles-based edible landscaping teacher. While Beth – who now goes by Betty – no longer appears onscreen, she did make a brief appearance in last month’s Boston-themed episode of Drunk History as a nighttime onlooker to Johnny Cool’s latest arson alongside her husband Mike Coleman – a Chicago improv troupemate of David Kochner – as the firefighter.