With only a few names left in this series, this week we’re highlighting four former cast members instead of one who, for different reasons, have been grouped together for a special edition of lesser known SNL players. Whether they quit the show before their first episode, left no trace of their history after leaving the show, or flew under the radar despite being co-head writer, these four players are both a mix of famous and unknown writers and performers whose connection to SNL often goes forgotten. Here they are, in no particular order:
Catherine O’Hara (1981)
Catherine O’Hara is no stranger to most comedy fans, but few know the brief connection she shared with early ‘80s SNL when she was originally hired to replace repertory player Ann Risley after Dick Ebersol took over the show from producer Jean Doumanian. In Live from New York, SNL writer Neil Levy says O’Hara “wasn’t really interested,” but Ebersol claims it was head writer Michael O’Donoghue’s infamous spray painting of the word “DANGER” on the SNL office wall that “scared her right off the show.” Whatever the case, O’Hara was set to join the cast but jumped ship to return to working on SCTV when it got picked up by NBC that same year. In addition to performing on SCTV’s various incarnations from 1976-1984, O’Hara has become part of Christopher Guest’s repertoire players appearing in Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, and she’s currently working on a half-hour Canadian comedy series with Eugene Levy and Chris Elliott called Schitt’s Creek, which is set to premiere on CBC next year.
Yvonne Hudson (1980-1981)
If there’s one former SNL cast member whose life story is impossible to trace it’s Yvonne Hudson, which is a shame considering she holds the distinction of being the show’s first black female player. While she appeared numerous times in background roles during the first five seasons – including one line in a “Nick the Lounge Singer” sketch (“Hi, I’m Yvonne Hudson, and this is my Love Jones!”) and a much bigger role in the 1979 sketch “Bad Clams” opposite Garrett Morris and Gilda Radner – her credited stint as a featured player from 1980-1981 (and continued uncredited appearances until 1984) never led to any prominent parts, and she’s since disappeared from the film and television sphere. Despite reaching out to several diehard SNL fans as well as former writers and cast members, my attempts to crack the mystery of what happened to Yvonne Hudson have been fruitless. Perhaps the lack of information available on Hudson is intentional on her part; if so, she’s been quite successful.
Emily Prager (1981)
Prior to joining SNL, Prager was a contributing editor to The National Lampoon and also performed regularly on The National Lampoon Radio Hour. She was hired as a featured player near the end of the sixth season but never officially appeared during her single-episode stint right before the WGA strike began in April 1981 and SNL went through considerable retooling. Prager did, however, appear in uncredited bit parts in episodes both before and after the strike, including a role as Tom Davis’s girlfriend and a small role in the pre-taped short “Button” in the seventh season, not to mention Michael O’Donoghue’s bizarre 1979 film Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video, which featured much of the SNL cast. Prager has since become an established author and journalist writing for the Village Voice, The New York Times, and The Independent, and publishing several books including humor books, novels, and a memoir about taking her adopted daughter LuLu on a trip back to her hometown in China.
Fred Wolf (1995-1996)
Fred Wolf did make the occasional appearance during his short stint from 1995-1996, but his true place has always been behind the scenes. Originally a writer for The Pat Sajak Show and the short-lived (and some would say disastrous) The Chevy Chase Show, Wolf joined SNL’s writing staff in 1991 and often collaborated with David Spade, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, and Chris Farley, who starred with host Tom Hanks in Wolf’s first-ever sketch to air “The Mr. Belvedere Fan Club.” Wolf was promoted to co-head writer alongside Steve Higgins in 1995 and also joined the cast as a featured player the same year, echoing the more sardonic styles of Norm Macdonald and David Spade in appearances such as his 1996 turn at the Weekend Update desk or as tennis star Martina Navratilova in the feminist-themed “Wymins Poetry Night” sketch. Wolf left the show at the end of the season but has worked steady since as a screenwriter on an array of films starring his SNL buddies from the early ‘90s, including Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, Dirty Work, Joe Dirt, and Grown Ups 1 & 2.