These days people treat ‘Saturday Night Live’ like Mike Tyson; a wounded and formerly great fighter who’s become a bloated cocainey shadow of his former self. I couldn’t disagree more. ‘Saturday Night Live’ is still one of the most important and trendsetting programs on television each week. Unlike the vast majority of weekly comedies, ‘SNL’ can unite millions of people and inspire scores of water cooler chatter with one funny sketch. Memorable moments are uploaded onto You Tube and quickly garner an obscene amount of hits before being removed for copyright infringement. Does it achieve the lofty heights of the original five years or the second boom in the late 80s? No. But it is still more than worth watching.
I grew up on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I’ve taped every single new episode for the last two seasons, and in high school, I spent hours of my life watching the reruns on Comedy Central. I own seven of the Best Of… series (Belushi, Akroyd, Hartman, Farley, Rock, Walken, and Ferrell) and the entire first season on DVD. I guess I would call myself an ‘SNL’ fanboy. Some people like Lord Of The Rings; some people like ‘Buffy’; I only crave the outrageous weekend shenanigans of Lorne Michaels.
Over the years, I have fallen in love with the comedic genius of certain performers (Murray, Belushi, McDonald). Their unique styles and shit-eating grins helped mold me into the asshole prick I am today, and for that, I will be forever grateful. Unfortunately, their have also been an overwhelming number of Not Ready For Primetime Players that I have loathed with a burning hatred probably only known to ignorant racists and bitter accountants. Other people worship some of these stars, but for me they were ire-educing troglodytes.
I have decided to avoid including people from most of the early to mid 1980s, because nearly the entire decade was relatively poor. I’ve also tried to only use performers who were memorable, rather than bitching about Charles Rocket and his year-long stint (which was probably only noteworthy for his brief Weekend Update tenure and ad-libbed F-bomb). So without further ado….here is my list of the ten worst performers in the history of ‘Saturday Night Live.’
10) Horatio Sanz (1998-2006) The chubby comedian did some great work early on. I laughed harder during his Weekend Update sketch of Elton John talking about an Anne Rice musical than I probably ever have. It was hysterical. Unfortunately, his effort and straight-face just left him one day. He started appearing less and less, and by the end, he would almost uniformly break character and appeared uninterested and unprepared. It was almost painful to watch. The entire downfall reminded me of Chris Farley’s last 1997 hosting appearance in which the now deceased comedy giant bumbled and sweated his way through the hour and a half.
9) Janeane Garofalo (1994-1995) I know I said I was only going to include performers who made a lasting impact, but I couldn’t help myself. Garofalo is the epitome of a soul-sucking wench. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rachel Dratch’s Debbie Downer sketches were based on this eye-liner infested pessimist. It’s been reported that during her tenure she refused to work with other writers and was the only cast member to leave before sketches were completed. Thankfully, she bolted after only half of a season, saving viewers from her constant negativity. ‘Saturday Night Live’ is about fun, clever commentaries not espousing how much the world sucks. You hate your parents, we get it. Grab a Mike’s Hard Lemonade and about eight Prozac and chill the fuck out.
8) Harry Shearer (1979-1980, 1984-1985) For me, this is the biggest ‘SNL’ related tragedy. Shearer is hilarious (If you don’t think so rent This Is Spinal Tap), but he was never able to get on the same page as Lorne Michaels or the other cast members. He quipped after his second exit, “I was creative. They were different.” I don’t know if I can blanketly call the Not Ready For Primetime Players uncreative, but the entire relationship was very Batman and Superman-esque, just two brilliant minds trying to make the world laugh in different ways. Andy Kaufman had similar problems during his brief run.
7) Jimmy Fallon (1998-2004) People love Jimmy Fallon. They praise him as ‘SNL’s’ co-savior with Will Ferrell, but I always thought he was an updated Adam Sandler for the new millennium (That’s not a good thing). I’ll be the first to admit, that I’m extremely entertained when seasoned actors break character because the entire sketch is so uproariously funny (See David Spade in Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker or Chevy Chase trying to crawl under the camera and tie John Belushi’s shoelaces together), but the occasional foray into amateur hour is only humorous or note-worthy when it happens a few times a season. Fallon thought it was in his job description. He may have had his moments (The Barry Gibb Talk Show), but his overall demeanor plops him down at number seven.
6) Molly Shannon (1994-2001) ‘Saturday Night Live’ has quite a history of overplaying recurring characters on a weekly basis, but her terrible trifecta of unfunny dimwits Mary Katherine Gallagher, Sally O’Mally, and Helen Madden weren’t even watchable. How did anyone think giving Gallagher, the nervous Catholic schoolgirl, her own movie was a good idea? I couldn’t even make it through a five-minute sketch without rolling my eyes. Many less than astute critics compared her physical comedy style to Chris Farley, but his pratfalls were usually well-timed and at least chuckle-worthy. A girl smelling her armpits and then falling into bathroom stalls is barely funny once; times number two through twenty are just brutal.
5) Victoria Jackson (1986-1992) It’s never a good sign when most of your airtime consisted of playing random family members, reading poetry while doing gymnastics on the Update Desk, or screaming at Toonces The Driving Cat. She also dated Weird Al Yankovic. I really like the parody pioneer, and I won’t even endorse that questionable judgment. It’s really surprising that the devout Christian lasted six years, but then again it’s also surprising the Lorne Michaels would broadcast a damn cat puppet.
4) Chris Kattan (1995-2003) Early on, Chris Kattan was a nice supporting character in sketches, but as his fame grew, his intelligence and wit fell. It’s almost like his exposure and humor level were inversely proportional (Thanks Econ!). Mango! Mr. Peepers! The Roxbury dudes! Come’on. I know you’re better than that Chris, even though, you appeared in Santa’s Slay with Bill Goldberg. In every interview I have ever seen him give, Kattan comes off as witty and down to Earth; so, I wish him all the success in the world. I personally just didn’t find him entertaining.
3) Ellen Cleghorne (1991-1995) Cleghorne may be the only person on this list who I don’t remember having ever made me laugh once. She just always came off as a jaded bitch. Her most famous character, Zoraida the NBC page, was incredibly annoying. I’ve seen numerous post ‘SNL’ interviews with the comedienne, and she always comes off as bitter and astringent. Hey Ellen, your lack of airtime had nothing to do with your skin color or your gender. You’re just uncreative and it must be said, the antithesis of gelastic.
2) Adam Sandler (1990-1995) Before you fly to Indiana and bumrush me, hear out my defense. At times, Adam Sandler was hysterical. In fact, Schmidt’s Gay and Herlihy Boy House Sitting are two of my favorite sketches of all time. Unfortunately, by the end of the Billy Madison star’s run, he increasingly relied on making juvenile noises as humor. That’s not humor. That’s sophomoric garbage that didn’t even amuse me when I saw it the first time at twelve. No one wants to hear you sing about your red-hooded sweatshirt or talk about using a pickle as a moustache. I have nothing against Sandler, in fact The Wedding Singer, is one of my favorite movies, and I love the fact that he casts his buddies. But for me ‘SNL’ is about smart political commentary and occasional irreverence. Sandler was too far into the latter category for my taste.
1) Julia Sweeney (1990-1994) She seems like a nice person, but unleashing her androgynous disaster, Pat, onto the world is a sin not even Jesus can forgive. In fact, that’s probably why she’s now an outspoken atheist. Pat symbolized everything that was wrong with early 90’s ‘Saturday Night Live.’ It’s a funny idea that’s executed poorly and shoved down viewers’ throats ad nauseam. Illogical producers thought it would be a good idea for a film, but not even the fickle American box office audience disagreed.
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