The Eight Longest ‘SNL’ Cast Member Tenures

When Seth Meyers left SNL to host Late Night earlier this year, he was just shy of beating out Darrell Hammond’s record as having the longest SNL player stint of all time with a whopping 14 seasons under his belt. Whether you view a lengthy SNL tenure as a badge of honor or sign of a performer overstaying their welcome, a glance at some of the longest-running SNL players – which mostly occupy the ‘90s era through current cast member Kenan Thompson – shows a group of talented impressionists, dependable utility players, and Weekend Update favorites of both the wild and low-key variety. Here’s a look at the top eight longest-running SNL cast members in ascending order:

8. Jason Sudeikis (2005-2013 - writer since 2003)

“There’s something very freeing about the way he performs,” Kristen Wiig told Rolling Stone in 2012. “You can tell that he’s in the moment, that he hasn’t rehearsed exactly how he’s going to say every word. When you watch him, you’re reminded that it’s a live show. And it’s very exciting to perform with him, because you don’t always know what you’re going to get.” (Read More)

7. Kevin Nealon (1986-1995)

My approach to it was more like Chevy Chase — you know, keep it dry and more of a straight newscaster, and as far as the audience laughing, I think everybody wants the audience to laugh, but if you think it’s funny yourself — even if it doen’t get a laugh at dress — you leave it in there because to people at home it’s funny. I’m not from the school of like broad comedy, throw-it-in-your-face stuff. I think the broadest thing I ever did was “Hans and Franz.” You know, mine is just put it on the plate; if they want it, they’ll take it. (Read More)

6. Tim Meadows (1991-2000)

While he did have the lispy afro-sporting womanizer Leon Phelps who spawned his own Michaels-produced film The Ladies Man, Meadows’ stint on SNL is more of a testament to his consistency and low-key versatility that outlasted several cast shakeups than a favorite character or catchphrase. However minor his comedy career may seem, his record-breaking SNL tenure (which Hammond usurped in 2005) is only one facet of his over 20 years of understated comedy contributions. (Read More)

5. Al Franken (1977-1980; 1985-1986; 1988-1995)

While the Harvardlings mostly occupy writing positions at SNL (see Conan O’Brien and Jim Downey), it was Al Franken who, like recent Weekend Update addition Colin Jost, transformed his scribe-only gig into not only a cast member spot but namesake recognition with the SNL audience, which for Franken stretched across a nearly 20-year period. (Read More)

4. Fred Armisen (2002-2013)

One of SNL’s most modest and low-key players, Fred Armisen brought a punk rocker/character comedian hybrid edge, quiet charm, unrelenting versatility, and collaborative talents as both a background and lead funnyman to his eleven seasons — making him one of SNL’s most dependable anti-punchline wardens of weirdness — and his best characters blur the line between parody and realism as well as cynicism and sincerity. (Read More)

3. Kenan Thompson (2003-Present)

He was hired at SNL in 2003, just three years after the last episode of Kenan & Kel, and has since racked up a growing list of recurring sketches and characters ranging from a maximum security prison inmate who berates teens using plotlines from movies to a talk show host more obsessed with transforming his show into a strange and soulful musical number than letting his guests speak. Thompson also reincarnated several of his Nickelodeon characters into their slightly more mature SNL doppelgangers, most notably his French Def Jam comedian character Jean K Jean, who is strikingly similar to Pierre Escargot, his Frenchman-in-a-bathtub character from All That. (Read More)

2. Seth Meyers (2001-2014)

With a total of 154 episodes, Meyers holds the record as the longest running anchor in Weekend Update history, and his work as head writer helped nurture The Lonely Island’s Digital Shorts and guide the show through the 2008 presidential election. (Read More)

1. Darrell Hammond (1995-2009)

While he admits that he wasn’t good at coming up with sketch ideas and “never felt like a real cast member,” he writes that “that’s not why I was there. I was a field-goal kicker. You need a voice? I was the guy who could kick that football. I didn’t know how to punt, pass, or tackle, but I could kick.” (Read More)

The Eight Longest ‘SNL’ Cast Member Tenures