My irrationally ambitious, ruthlessly consecutive ranking of every ‘SNL’ player ever. (with help from Jesse Benjamin and Heather Sundell)
As reported elsewhere, Saturday Night Live’s big 40th anniversary is coming up, and as a fan of both comedy and dehumanizing talented people, I’ve decided to provide the DEFINITIVE ranking of Not Ready for Prime Time Players in alphabetical order by last name.
I know, I know, things like this are so subjective, and how could I decide, and it’s “one person’s opinion” and blah blah blah. So, let me make a few things clear: I’m not ranking their careers, merely the starting letters of their last names while they were on SNL. Also, I’m strictly counting how their names were spelled onscreen, so, if they spelled their names differently behind the scenes, that doesn’t count. Frequently I will consider the second letter of a performer’s last name, and occasionally the third letter, but only if there’s a tie in the first letter of their last name.
Oh, and a quick note to any current or past Saturday Night Live cast members who might be reading my tumblr (I know it’s popular amongst both Hollywood and Comedy Insiders)… you might want to stop reading now. I don’t pull any punches, or add any letters to your names that weren’t there in the first place. Like Stuart Smalley says, in his absolutely undeniably most famous catchphrase, it’s easier to put on slippers than carpet the world.
142. Alan Zweibel
For a guy who starts off his name with not one, but two of the letter A, it’s a shame to see Alan Zweibel so low on this list. I wish I would have gotten to see him try a few different spellings of Zweibel, but what are you gonna do.
141. Sasheer Zamata
Sasheer has four “A”s in her name, but I never got past the Z in Zamata.
140. Fred Wolf
One word: Wolf. It starts with a “W” and the next letter is an “o”. ‘Nuf said.
139. Casey Wilson
As far as I’m concerned, Wilson would have been better served on SNL if she switched her first and last name. Unfortunately, W is widely regarded as the 23rd letter in the alphabet – I tend to agree.
138. Kristen Wiig
So far all cast members on Saturday Night Live have had two eyes, but Kristen Wiig also has two “i”s. They’re right in her last name.
137. Brooks Wheelan
Originally I was going to put stand up comedian Brooks Wheelan much higher on this list, but then I decided it’s more fair to do things alphabetically by last name, instead of first. Arbitrary to some, but I think Brooks especially would understand why his last name is more of a signature.
136. Noël Wells
Sorry Noël, but that umlaut doesn’t change the weird upside-down M you start your last name with.
135. Patrick Weathers
Whether the Weathers be cold, or whether the Weathers be hot, we’ll weather the Weathers, with W spellings, and that’s why it earns him this slot.
134. Damon Wayans
Before being an A-lister on In Living Color, Damon was a W-lister on SNL.
133. Michaela Watkins
She didn’t stay long, and when she was on the show, her last name started with a W.
132. Nancy Walls
First of the W’s is still 10th last.
131. Dan Vitale
First name Dan, Last name Vitale. That’s all I got.
130. Danitra Vance
SNL’s long history of failing to employ people whose last name starts with a V begins here (well, it probably began a few years earlier with Harry Shearer’s controversial portrayal of “Big Vic Ricker.)
129. Kenan Thompson
Depending on how you alphabetize, it’s easy to forget about Kenan Thompson. One of the only T names on the show, and it’s a soft T. Thompson is often overlooked when you consider the enormous number of cast members whose last names start with “S,” but I’ve been a fan of his ever since All That, when he originated many of the spellings of his name.
128 & 127. Terry and Julia Sweeney
Few cast members were harder for me to decide between than Terry and Julia Sweeney. Their last names are so similar, I actually had to use their first names to decide their rank. Unfortunately, it won’t be the last time I do that.
126. Jason Sudeikis
So sad for your Sudeikis with a S. The upside is, he got to make a baby with Olivia Wilde. Unfortunately his son will suffer the same discrimination as his pops with any random alphabetized list he ends up on.
125. Cecily Strong
It’s a name with two “S” sounds, but her first name starts with “C”? I never understood the charm of this, although many people consider themselves fans of Cecily’s particular style of spelling her name. Her last name (the name that truly counts, in an alphabetical sense) starts with an “S” and that’s why she is where she is on this list. Leave a comment if you disagree!
124. Ben Stiller
No matter how many Night At The Museum movies Ben makes, he’s STILL going to be hanging out at the bottom because it’s what the English alphabet dictates.
123. Pamela Stephenson
Did you know that with Pamela’s accent, she pronounced Stephenson as “Stephenson?”
122. David Spade
I’m sure I’ll catch a lot of flack for this one, but if David Spade spelled his name backward even just once, he’d be a whole lot higher on my list. I guess I just don’t think “S” is near the top of the alphabet.
121. Robert Smigel
Robert Smigel has a lot of potential, but the way he’s chosen to arrange the letters in his name just don’t do it for me alphabetically. Gerbil Metros, Lobster Grime, Limbo Regrets, and Merriest Blog are all anagrams for his name that would have ranked him higher, but you can’t just rearrange the letters in your name for no reason.
120. Jenny Slate
SNL is already a footnote in her career. Maybe if she would have married Anthony Aardvarkian (an Armenian nocturnal mammal dealer I made up) she’d be higher on my list.
119. Sarah Silverman
Many people forget that Sarah Silverman spent some time on SNL. Her initials are SS, so, according to my system, she’s number 119.
118. Martin Short
Martin’s name literally causes the poor guy to come up short. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do anything about moving the order of the letters of the alphabet. Ironically, if his name was Martin Tall, he’d be even further down the list!
117. Harry Shearer
I don’t have anything intelligent to say here, so I’m just going to talk about Spinal Tap.
116. Molly Shannon
Docked a dozen or so notches for starting her name with an S, but Shannon stands out in nearly any list where there aren’t people whose last names start with the letters A-R.
115. Paul Shaffer
The first cast member to drop an accidental f-bomb – in a sketch based on a Troggs bootleg – although he never renamed himself Paul Fuck, so alphabetically, I’m keeping him with the S’s.
114. Rob Schneider
Schneider’s infamous Richmeister character loved nicknames, but Schneider himself never went by one professionally.
113. Horatio Sanz
Sanz always had that “name starts with a Z” quality – Like me, you might look at this name and see a “Z” immediately. And who could blame you? It’s right there! However if you work backwards from the “Z” you’ll see his last name actually starts with “S”. It’s moves like this that gets Horatio this spot.
112. Adam Sandler
For a minute I thought I was writing about Andy Samberg, whose name is very similar to Adam Sandler. However, when I looked closely, I noticed it was spelled very differently than Andy Samberg, and was in fact, Adam Sandler. This confusion happens often with these two comedy heroes, but you can’t deny the “N” in Sandler comes alphabetically after the “M” in Samberg. For that reason alone he gets the spot below Andy.
111. Andy Samberg
For a minute I thought I was writing about Adam Sandler, whose name is very similar to Andy Samberg. However, when I looked closely, I noticed it was spelled very differently than Adam Sandler, and was in fact, Andy Samberg. This confusion happens often with these two comedy heroes, but you can’t deny the “M” in Samberg comes alphabetically before the “N” in Sandler. For that reason alone he gets the spot above Adam.
110. Maya Rudolph
When Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007 many people thought she might change her name and reinvent herself on another program. Sadly, she still spells her name the exact same way as she used to.
109. Tony Rosato
Tony Rosato is not Joe Piscopo?
108. Charles Rocket
An enduring classic, I like the way his name makes me think of outer space, which is a thing I like.
107. Chris Rock
For all the ways he used his name on the show, Chris Rock will forever be known as having 2 less letters than Charlie Rocket, which puts him higher on this list.
106. Tim Robinson
Tim Robinson was once listed as one of SplashLife.com’s 30 comedians under 30. That list wasn’t organized alphabetically, and I have to assume that’s the reason the website doesn’t exist anymore.
105. Ann Risley
A talented lady whose name started with an R before she had a chance to change it.
104. Rob Riggle
Cute last name? Probably. Still too late in the alphabet? Definitely.
103. Jeff Richards
Richards clearly thought his first name was in the top half of the alphabet, and that counts for something.
102. Gilda Radner
Honestly she should be at the top based on performance alone but, sorry sister, you were cursed with the middle of the alphabet. Drop the “R” then let’s talk.
101. Colin Quinn
Nobody could ever explain the appeal of Colin Quinn’s name. I get that it’s phonetically alliterative, but it’s way off base. Qolin Quinn is an undeniably truer alliteration. If only he’d been Colin Cwinn, then we’d be in business.
100. Randy Quaid
Normally you can throw Randy Quaid into anything and it’ll be toward the end of the alphabet, but with all the Rs, Ss, and the surprising number of Ws on this list, Quaid sneaks into the mid ranks.
99. Emily Prager
What can I say about Emily Prager that hasn’t already been said. Quite a bit, probably, but I simply don’t recognize some of the letters in her name.
98. Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler…… Hack.
97. Joe Piscopo
I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I’m putting Joe Piscopo with the rest of the Ps. He never quite reinvented the alphabet, but alphabetically I have to put him right between Jay Pharoah and Amy Poehler.
96. Jay Pharoah
The Jimmy Fallon of making an “f” sound, but using a “ph” to do it.
95. Nasim Pedrad
For an actress with a name as exotic as hers, you wouldn’t think her name would start with something as mundane as the letter “P”. However, you simply can’t deny there’s a “P” in front of “edrad”. Nasim deserves better.
94. Chris Parnell
If I had one phrase to sum up Chris Parnell, it would be “never a show pony.” His name simply isn’t Pony. It’s got a few letters that are similar, but no matter how hard he tries, his last name is Parnell.
93. Cheri Oteri
It wasn’t until I saw her name written out that I learned her name wasn’t just “Cherioteri”. Like, “Cher” or “Madonna”, y’know? Come to think of it, is the Cher that was married to Sonny Bono also a Cherioteri? Wait, never mind, I just said that’s not a name. Sorry, I’m drinking. I’m getting a little sick of this alphabet shit. Anyway. Cheri goes here because of “O”. I think that’s fairly “O”bvious.
92. Michael O'Donoghue
Here we get into iffy territory. When names start with an “O” but follow up with an actual last name, it can be hard to figure out who ranks among whom, alphabetically speaking. However, if we really take time to analyze what’s in front of us, we can clearly see that “B” comes before “D” on the alphabet, and that’s what really counts here.
91. Mike O'Brien
See above. “B” comes before “D”. That’s just the simple truth.
90. Don Novello
Although primarily a writer, Novello never took a stab at rewriting his own name.
89. Laraine Newman
One of the most underrated members of the original cast. The only 1975 cast member to come alphabetically behind Newman was Radner.
88. Kevin Nealon
IMHO, Nealon got in way, way, out of his letter zone palling around with the likes of Lovitz and Hartman.
87-68. The Ms
(Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Bobby Moynihan, Garrett Morris, Tracy Morgan, Kyle Mooney, Jay Mohr, Finesse Mitchell, Jerry Minor, Dennis Miller, John Milhiser, Seth Meyers, Laurie Metcalf, Tim Meadows, Kate McKinnon, Mark McKinney, Michael McKean, Gail Matthius, Norm Macdonald)
The Ms are bunch of people with last names that start with M and are basically figuring it out from there. To be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough of their last names to know the difference. It’s a lot of “Ma…”, “Mc…”, “Me….”. It’d be mean and unfair to rate them at this point, particularly since most would have to add a letter to the beginning of their last names to stand out. Some, like Mooney, have a middle initial, but don’t use them professionally. Best of luck, gang. Remember, bombing alphabetically often means literally nothing else about you.
67. Jon Lovitz
When it comes to this list, I’m the real critic, and I say Jon’s snoozy mid-alphabet stream “L” name, hachi machi…IT (ALPHABETICALLY SPEAKING) STINKS!
66. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Julia Louis-Dreyfus gets a lot of hype alphabetically, and I’m not denying her last name starts with what I call a “top 5” letter. Strictly speaking though, I had to make sure she was ranked below the likes of Kightlinger, Koechner, and Kattan, because of the L that begins her hyphenated last name.
65. Matthew Laurance
Some people spell Laurence with a W, but not this guy. Strangely, it wouldn’t have mattered either way.
64. Gary Kroeger
Surprisingly, the only Gary ever on the show.
63. David Koechner
No matter how much you might mangle the pronunciation of his last name, it starts with a “K” and therefore he’s below all those other names. Klassic Koechner!
62. Taran Killam
His stock is still rising – and I’m excited to see him stretch his wings over the next few seasons. Once he starts going by his middle name, Hourie, I’ll be confused, but I’d also have no choice but to bump him up this list.
61. Laura Kightlinger
Oh wow, I forgot she was on the show. I didn’t forget her name starts with a “K” though. That’ just not something you forget.
60. Tim Kazurinsky
Don’t get me started on this guy. I mean, how many letters are in that last name? But, he stuck to his guns, and you gotta give the Kaz-man credit for that.
59. Chris Kattan
I’m Kattan this guy loose at number 59.
58-56. The Js
The J’s. I’m putting Victoria Jackson, Leslie Jones, Colin Jost together because all their last names start with the letter J and also because I’m lazy and I didn’t think it would take this long to write this list.
55. Melanie Hutsell
I’ve personally always found the history of names interesting. With a name like Hutsell, you have to wonder - did her ancestors sell huts? What actually classify a hut as a hut? A hut is like a lean-to but it’s not leaning, right? Like, it would have 4 walls? I don’t have answers to any of these questions, but I do know placing Melanie Hutsell exactly here, at spot 55, is where she ranks alphabetically.
54. Yvonne Hudson
Yvonne Hudson was saved by her alphabetically mediocre last name. Yvonne, if you’re reading this (I know you are), just know you are so lucky this list isn’t alphabetically by first name.
53. Jan Hooks
One of the most versatile first names in the game, Jan could be short for Janice, Janet, or even Jannifer. That said, Hooks will always be remembered for her last name, which starts with H.
52. Phil Hartman
Oh, Phil. You were so damn talented – arguably one of the greats – and then you had to go and have a last name that genuinely gets lost in an excessively long alphabetical list. It pains me to see you at #52.
51. Darrell Hammond
It’s easy to mistake Darrell Hammond for all of the other names he’s impersonated throughout the years. Don’t.
50. Rich Hall
Brad Hall? Rich Hall? Kids in the Hall? Hall is a word that starts with the letter H, and while that’s not necessarily the news, it is necessarily the alphabet.
49. Brad Hall
48. Anthony Michael Hall
Another Hall? Geez, SNL, mix it up!
47. Bill Hader
Hader’s gonna hade, hade, hade, hade, hade. I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake, him into the upper middle of this list because that’s where “H” falls.
46. Christopher Guest
Not quite the Billy Crystal of alphabetical order, but still in the top 50.
45. Mary Gross
Mary, your name says it all…when it comes to alphabetizing people’s names.
44. Gilbert Gottfried
Dude, you literally GOT FRIED when it comes to where the letter “G” falls in the alphabet. OUCH.
43. Ana Gasteyer
Some list writers have described Gasteyer as “Rob Schneider except taller and funnier and female.” That doesn’t make any sense though. More like “Rob Schneider except with completely different letters.”
42. Janeane Garofalo
Alphabetically the top of the cast members whose last names start with G.
41. Al Franken
Former writer and current United States Senator Al Franken barely cracks the top forty and is alphabetically the last of the cast members whose last names start with the letter F.
40. Will Forte
It was always way too easy to take this Letter-W-First-Namer for granted, especially after several dozen “MacGruber” appearances, which are only slightly higher ranking than “Will” alphabetically. But, starting his last name with the letter F is a genius move that ranks him in the top forty.
39. Tina Fey
The fact that SNL superstar Tina Fey has to barely hang on to the top 50 because of the letter F is pretty effed up, but we can’t change the alphabet, so choose your best people alphabetically wiser next time, ok Lorne?
38. Will Ferrell
Nobody embodies the double consonant pairings like Will Ferrell. One of my favorite comedy memories was watching SNL in the early nineties and seeing his name in the credits for the first time. Two “L”s in the first name AND the last name? And a double “R” too? Fun fact: Will is short for William.
37. Chris Farley
Larger than life, Chris Farley’s name has eleven letters, and the word “life” only has four.
36. Siobhan Fallon
The fallen Fallon. We don’t need anymore F’s on this list anyway. Next?
35. Jimmy Fallon
The Jay Pharoah of spelling F sounds with an F.
34. Chris Elliott
33. Abby Elliott
Abby Elliott edges out her father Chris by two letters, proving once again that the first three letters of the English alphabet are A, B, and C.
32. Dean Edwards
What do you get when you cross Howard Dean and John Edwards? Dean Edwards.
31. Christine Ebersole
This is a yucky name because it reminds me of a yucky fish, but also it falls into the no man’s land of the E’s, which is Entirely forgettable.
30. Nora Dunn
The length of her name is not long, but she made an indelible impression on my alphabetization process. I’m not Dunn with you yet, Nora! Oh wait, never mind, I am because this sentence is over.
29. Robin Duke
28. Rachel Dratch
If you tuned in to SNL on May 1st, 2004, you saw Dratch as Harry Potter, but that’s not her name. Her name is Rachel Dratch.
27. Brian Doyle-Murray
Nobody has ever explained to me why it isn’t also Bill Doyle-Murray. Or, maybe they have, but I wasn’t listening.
26. Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert has this spot because of the spelling of his name. Little known fact: his father has almost the exact same name aside from a “Sr.” put at the end! This was a late-in-his-career move he made, right after the birth of his son Robert Downey, Jr.
25. Jim Downey
This was a tough one. Both Jim and Robert have exactly the same last name. Same first, second, third, fourth, fifth AND sixth letter. So already we’re dealing with two giants, name wise. The question remains, do we count the “Jr.”? Or go to first names? Either way you shake it, Jim Downey comes out on top. That’s just the alphabet for ya.
24. Denny Dillon
The hidden gem of the doomed “Saturday Night Live ‘80” replacement cast. Dillon’s last name starts with the same letter as his first name, which doesn’t matter for alphabetization, but it’s fun to say out loud.
23. Tom Davis
The alphabetically higher ranking half of Franken and Davis – his last name starts with an earlier letter in the alphabet than Franken’s – and yet, they were always billed as Franken and Davis. Weird, right?
22. Pete Davidson
Ok, you guys get it at this point, right? I’m alphabetizing the names and then being snarky about it? Okay, cool.
21. Joan Cusack
Future Academy Award-nominated star who is damn lucky Cusak isn’t spelled phonetically with Q or she’d be bumped way down the list.
20. Jane Curtin
Curtain basically invented the role of the “person on SNL whose last name starts with the letter C.” There’s always a few of those – hell, some seasons it’s the entire cast. Wait, what am I talking about, that’s literally never happened.
19. Billy Crystal
When you’re going to bring in a ringer, of course his last name is going to start with a C. I mean, he’s even a ringer if you alphabetize by first name – the guy’s initials are literally the second and third letter of the alphabet!
18. George Coe
The token old guy in the original cast, George Coe knew how to have a last name that started with a C.
17. Ellen Cleghorne
The only woman in the 1990s cast with a gh in her last name and the only cast member whose name starts with a Cl. While SNL never made much use of Ellen’s last name, she moved on afterward to star in her own WB sitcom based around her last name. Cleghorne!
16. Michael Che
This feels like a real cheat, a real play to get in the top 20. Michael couldn’t even be bothered to finish his last name? It’s clearly a shortcut and I, for one, do not like it.
15. Chevy Chase
This is like, not even a real name. But somehow by the grace of the letter C, it’s sitting pretty at #15.
14. Dana Carvey
When people try to spell Johnny Carson, Ross Perot, or George H.W. Bush, they’re usually just spelling Dana Carvey’s version of how he spelled those names.
13. Beth Cahill
Can’t get over how perfectly her first and last name follow alphabetical order. If only her name was Ceth Bahill, she’d have ranked higher.
12. Aidy Bryant
Oh man. Beth and Aidy should start a club for people whose first and last names should have been switched in order to rank higher on this arbitrary alphabetical list!
11. A. Whitney Brown
Time and again, A. Whitney Brown has done an excellent job of putting his middle name right between two high ranking letters, A and B.
10. Paul Brittain
Britain with one “t” is a country, but if you add a second “t” it becomes Paul Brittain’s last name.
9. Jim Breuer
Breuer’s confusing vowel trio doesn’t stop him from making number nine on my list.
8. Beck Bennett
New-ish cast member Beck Bennett joins the ranks of such alliterative greats as Chevy Chase and Gilbert Gottfried. If you ask me, he’s got them beat simply because his name starts with the letter “B.”
7. John Belushi
I know it’s controversial to put John Belushi before Jim Belushi, especially since they have the exact same last name – but, when you get down to it, John comes second alphabetically, and Jim comes first.
6. Jim Belushi
5. Vanessa Bayer
Where do I begin with Vanessa Bayer. Her first name has seven letters, and she’s notable for having a slightly smaller last name, with only five letters. If it wasn’t for that “y” in Bayer, she’d be at the top of the Bs.
4. Morwenna Banks
Morwenna has a “w” and and two back to back “n”s in her name, but it’s the first three letters of “Banks” that earn her the number three spot on my list. Fun fact: Morwenna’s partner is comedian and author David Baddiel. If they got married and she took his name, she’d still be in the same spot on this list.
3. Peter Aykroyd
One of SNL’s first featured players, Pete Aykroyd’s last name starts with the letter A and even though the next letter is Y (the 25th letter of a 26 letter alphabet) there a surprisingly small number of cast members with “A” last names. It’s hard to believe that even with several black cast members over the years, Lorne Michaels has only brought on three players whose last names start with the letter A.
2. Dan Aykroyd
It’s not that I think Dan Aykroyd is funnier than Peter Aykroyd, that’s not what this list is about. Unarguably, Dan’s name comes first in the alphabet, and that makes him our number 2 alphabetical cast member. Congrats, Dan! Crystal Skull Vodkas all around!
1. Fred Armisen
I know a lot of people who can’t read are going to disagree with me, but contrary to popular belief Fred Armisen’s name starts with the letter “A” and not with the letter R. It sounds like R-misen, but it’s not. Trust me, I once stood next to the guy at a Pedro The Lion concert.