The ’80s for Saturday Night Live were a mixed bag of good and bad, but the one consistent thing until the last part of the decade was instability. Cast members would come and go, never giving the actors a chance to grow into the job and never giving the audience a chance to get familiar with the latest group.
In 1985, with the show once again facing the ax, Lorne Michaels returned from his five year hiatus to replace Dick Ebersol, who had done a good job of recruiting and capitalizing on star power after Jean Doumanian’s disastrous run as showrunner following Michaels’ exit. Unfortunately, Michaels’ new cast faced a familiar fate, with most only lasting a year despite the assembled talent. The reason? Michaels’ new cast lacked the chemistry that the original Not Ready for Primetime Players had gained from working together with National Lampoon and Second City. Thankfully, Michaels would eventually get it right and the show would end the decade in a good place after experiencing more lows than highs throughout.
Here are the brief stories behind the cast members that were a part of the show in the ’80s and a look at where they are now.
Jim Belushi (1983-1985)
Jim Belushi didn’t reach the heights that his brother did on the Studio 8H stage, but he has had a very successful post-SNL career, appearing in Taking Care of Business, Mr. Destiny, like six K-9 movies, and 182 episodes of According to Jim.
A. Whitney Brown (1986-1991)
A featured player who did most of his damage at the Weekend Update desk. Is it any wonder that Brown eventually made his way to The Daily Show, where he was a correspondent for the show’s first two years? Since that ended, Brown has written for The Daily Kos and continued to do stand-up.
Billy Crystal (1984-1985)
According to Live From New York, Crystal was supposed to appear on the premiere episode of Saturday Night Live, but he got cut for time at the last minute. Later, he would come back to host, joining Michael McKean as the only people to go from hosting the show to being a cast member.
It’s constantly said because it’s always true that Eddie Murphy saved the show, but Billy Crystal and his star-studded cast kept the thing afloat after Murphy left.
When Crystal did the same, he went on to have a solid film career, starring in When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, and both Analyze This and Analyze That. He also directed 61* for HBO and hosted the Oscars nine times. Crystal can next be seen opposite Josh Gad in the FX series, The Comedians.