Saturday Night Live has been home to over a hundred cast members throughout the past 35 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.
When Lorne Michaels returned to Saturday Night Live in 1985, he hired an all-new cast, but instead of choosing only relative newcomers, he mixed it up between unknowns like Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, and Nora Dunn and established film stars like Randy Quaid and Anthony Michael Hall. Though the season struggled and ended in an ominous sketch where the cast members are trapped in a studio fire (most of them didn’t return the following season), it also boasted a few firsts, like the first female black cast member Danitra Vance, first openly-gay cast member Terry Sweeney, and at just seventeen years old, Anthony Michael Hall, who still remains the youngest cast member in the show’s history.
Hall started his career as a working actor at eight years old and came to SNL as an already-famous member of the Brat Pack, an ensemble of young actors discovered in John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, and Weird Science. Despite his established film and television success, Hall never made a lasting impact during his time on SNL, probably due to his complete lack of experience in live television and sketch comedy writing. In 2008, he told The Hollywood Interview:
“I think the people that found the most success came from a stand-up background where they had their own material and they had that competitive nature. Not to say that I’m not competitive, but I think comedians are far more competitive than actors are with each other. It’s a different vibe — it’s sort of a hybrid of everything — rock and roll, theater, everything rolled into one.”
While Hall appeared most often in supporting roles as the go-to son character, he also had two recurring roles: Craig Sundberg, Idiot Savant, a genius teenager who acts like a dufus and responds to everything with a lax “…really? I’m sorry,” and Fed Jones of The Jones Brothers with castmate Damon Wayans as Ned, seen here in apparently the only video of SNL-era Hall on the internet. He also appeared as an armpit-farting “Literary Correspondent” on Weekend Update alongside Robert Downey Jr. and opened the season in the first sketch “Drug Testing,” where he pledges to be drug-free alongside NBC President Brandon Tarikoff: “I, Michael Hall, swear to remain drug-free as long as I am associated with this network. And if I make a mistake, or freak out, it will not be because there are any chemicals in my body.” Hall had been drinking since he was 13 and quit five years later when he was 22.
Hall was fired along with most of the 11th season cast and went on to appear in shows and films including Out of Bounds, Edward Scissorhands, The Dark Knight, The Dead Zone, Community, and many more. Unlike so many child stars, Hall transformed completely from a wimpy Hughes kid to what I can only describe as a retired Air Force colonel. He also writes and sings for his band Hall of Mirrors, and will star in Sexy Evil Genius alongside Seth Green, set to release in 2013.
Megh Wright misses Harrisburg, lives in Brooklyn, and answers phones in Manhattan.