There are some actors who, no matter how huge they eventually get, will always be remembered foremost as SNL stars: Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, and even Eddie Murphy. Then there are also those huge stars that were on SNL, and while many people remember that, it doesn’t figure heavily into their career identities. That list includes people like Robert Downey, Jr., Julia Louis Dreyfus, and even Chris Rock, who is probably better known for his stints as host of SNL than his three seasons as a cast member. Then there are people like Tom Hanks and Steve Martin, who were never actually cast members on SNL but have been on the show so many times that they’re often associated with the series, too.
Finally, there are these five famous actors, who almost no one remembers were even on Saturday Night Live because their stints were so short (and I’m not even including Schitt’s Creek star Catherine O’Hara, who was cast on SNL but never actually appeared on the series).
Ben Stiller joined the cast of SNL in 1989 while wanting to make short films for the comedy series. This, however, was before Andy Samberg and Lonely Island, so SNL was not as yet well known for their short, pre-taped films. Unfortunately, Stiller didn’t realize that he wouldn’t get to exclusively make short films, and he wasn’t comfortable performing in front of a live audience. After only four episodes, Stiller quit the series, although he would quickly bounce back the next year with the Emmy-winning sketch show, The Ben Stiller Show, before becoming a comedy superstar and returning to SNL as a host, as well as a couple of cameos as Michael Cohen.
Wayans’ best-known sketch work, obviously was on In Living Colour, the sketch comedy show created by his brother, Keenan Ivory Wayans. Five years before that, however, Wayans was briefly an SNL cast member, although he did not enjoy his time there (he’d only make it 11 episodes). Wayans didn’t appreciate playing background characters, and he got so fed up with working on the series that, in a fit of anger after Lorne Michaels made him change his costume, Wayans changed a character during a live show into a flamboyantly gay cop. He was fired “on the spot,” although he, too, would eventually come back to host the show.
Metcalf has several Emmy Awards, several Tony Awards, and was even nominated for an Oscar for her role in Lady Bird. She’s best known, however, as the wacky aunt, Jackie, in the long-running sitcom Roseanne and its spin-off continuation, The Conners. Metcalf, however, was also very briefly a cast member on SNL. So brief, in fact, that she only appeared in a single episode. Metcalf’s stint was so short that she barely remembers she was on SNL. Unfortunately, after her one episode, the series went on hiatus for retooling, and when it returned, she was no longer part of the series.
Riggle is far better known for his work on The Daily Show, his stand-up, his sitcom work, hosting the mini-golf game show, Holey Moley, and regular appearances on Fox NFL Sunday pre-game show. He’s a veteran actor, but SNL was his first real gig. Unfortunately, he was fired after only one season, which he attributes to the fact that he was hired onto a cast with a massive number of veteran stars, which left him with little opportunity or time to break-out. In his brief time with the show, however, he was at least able to witness one of the biggest blunders in SNL history: Ashlee Simpson’s infamous lip sync moment.
Though not as well known today, Garofalo was a huge star in the ’90s, known for movies like The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Wet Hot American Summer, Reality Bites, and Mystery Men. More recently, she’s known for her progressive activism and periodic television and film work. Interestingly, Garofalo was a cast member on the first show Ben Stiller did after his stint on SNL, The Ben Stiller Show, while Garofalo herself went to SNL after The Ben Stiller Show was canceled. She didn’t stay long, however, only making it until midseason. Garofalo bailed over “creative differences,” which is a euphemistic way of saying it was “the most miserable experience of my life.” Garofalo’s year, 1995, was a particularly bad year for SNL, where more writers sought to escape the show than to get on it.