Saturday Night Live was in a good place at the turn of the century, thanks to the presence of Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, Chris Kattan, and Jimmy Fallon. Over the next couple of seasons, new talent would flood in, overlapping with the old. A welcome change from the usual abrupt sea changes that SNL fans have grown accustomed to over the years.
Like the ’90s, the 2000s saw a lot of stars get their first taste of success on the Studio 8H stage, but it also saw — at least on-screen — consistent evidence that the show was becoming a much more favorable place for female performers. Lets take a look at what some of those SNL alums are up to in the 2000s edition of our SNL Where Are They Now series, and be sure to look back at the ’70s cast, the ’80s cast, and the ’90s cast afterwards.
Fred Armisen (2002-2013)
Some SNL cast members over the years have had an obvious comfort zone when it came to characters. They didn’t play a rehash of the same creation, but there was a thread running throughout. Fred Armisen was the antithesis of that. Wildly versatile and a great impressionist, Armisen’s range went from Ian Rubbish to Roger Brush, Garth (Garth and Kat) to President Obama, and half of the Dictator’s Two Best Friends from Growing Up to the patriarch of The Californians.
SNL is slowly coming through its roughest transitional period since the mid-’90s right now, and part of the reason for that is because trying to replace Fred Armisen is like trying to replace a company of actors.
As for what he’s up to now, it’s all about Portlandia and, somewhat peculiarly, his job beside Seth Meyers as his bandleader/side kick on Late Night. He also recently voiced Tanaka, a Japanese penis monster on Man Seeking Woman. As I said, versatility.
Rachel Dratch (1999-2006)
A Second City vet who often partnered with Tina Fey, Dratch ‘s range was an asset and she shined beside Will Ferrell as his LOVAH and Jimmy Fallon as his Bahston girlfriend Denise. Her Debbie Downer character is probably what she’s best known for, though.
After leaving SNL, Dratch was supposed to co-star in 30 Rock as the Jenna character, but the role was re-cast when it was decided that the show wouldn’t focus on fake sketches as much as they had planned. Though she wasn’t a weekly presence on 30 Rock, Dratch still made numerous appearances in a variety of roles.
Dratch is also set to co-star with Fey (and Amy Poehler) in Sisters later this year.
Dean Edwards (2001-2003)
An impressionist and stand-up comic, Edwards had one of the quietest runs of any two-year and up SNL cast member that I can remember. Apart from continuing his stand-up career, he hasn’t had a lot of noteworthy credits save for a gig impersonating Eddie Murphy while voicing Donkey in a Shrek short.
Abby Elliott (2008-2012)
It’s mildly depressing that I’m talking about a second generation SNL cast member, but unlike Abby Elliott’s father, Chris Elliott, her time on SNL was actually fruitful. It’s just unfortunate that her run ended after only four years.
To say that Elliott was underused is an understatement. Had she remained, she’d probably be among the show’s leads and right at the forefront of SNL‘s amazing group of female stars. Instead, she’s got a part in a Bravo scripted comedy pilot about Manhattan momzillas called Odd Mom Out. Is this the breakout role? If not, when will that come for Elliott? Because she’s too good to have her shortish term on SNL be the topline in her bio.
Jimmy Fallon (1998-2004)
Fallon gave off a bit too much of a wannabe-Sandler vibe when he started on SNL and his penchant for breaking up during a scene was like nails on chalkboard for me, but he rallied and grew up a little as a result of working with Tina Fey on Weekend Update.
That progress has continued in his time as a late night host — first in Letterman and Conan’s old chair and now as the host of The Tonight Show. He’s more focused with better aim now. That’s part of what makes it such a treat when he comes back to host now, but it’s also weird to realize that Fallon has basically grown up before our eyes.