LAURIE METCALF[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Laurie Metcalf[Photo: Getty Images]
CHRISTINE EBERSOLE[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Christine Ebersole[Photo: Getty Images]
JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Julia Louis-Dreyfus[Photo: Getty Images]
DAMON WAYANS[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Damon Wayans[Photo: Getty Images]
Ben Stiller[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Ben Stiller[Photo: Getty Images]
Chris Rock[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Chris Rock[Photo: Getty Images]
Sarah Silverman[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Sarah Silverman[Photo: Getty Images]
JANEANE GAROFALO[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Janeane Garofalo[Photo: Getty Images]
DAVID KOECHNER[Photo: NBC/Universal]
David Koechner[Photo: Getty Images]
Rob Riggle[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Rob Riggle[Photo: Getty Images]
Casey Wilson[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Casey Wilson[Photo: Getty Images]
Jenny Slate[Photo: NBC/Universal]
Jenny Slate[Photo: Getty Images]
-Additional updates by Tara Aquino
Forty years in, Saturday Night Live has become known for producing comedy superstars like Kristen Wiig, Eddie Murphy, and John Belushi. But what about the Not Ready For Primetime Players who never got their moment in the spotlight on the veritable sketch show? For every Kate McKinnon that explodes, there are the Noël Wells and Brooks Wheelans who never got to show us the depths of their talent.
Chris Rock just returned to Studio 8H to host SNL this season, his first time back since his departure in 1993. Rock’s time on the show wasn’t a total bust (Nat X, y’all!) but he was never quite able to showcase the comedic voice we now associate with his persona. In an interview on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron in 2011, Rock said, “When I got hired I was the first black guy in like eight years — and In Living Color was just hip. The shit was hot. I wanted to be in an environment where I didn’t have to translate the comedy I wanted to do.” Rock ended up leaving SNL for the latter, and well, the rest is history.
Damon Wayans, now infamously, asked to be fired in 1986 when made his minimal role of a cop, outlandish and effeminate, completely derailing the sketch and going off book. He was cut immediately after.
Rock and Wayans aren’t the only comedians to go underutilized while on SNL but then blow up in theatre, film, and television afterwards. From Jenny Slate to Ben Stiller, plenty of comics have said that the Lorne Michaels machine just wasn’t the right fit for them.
Now, take a break from watching the superstars on VH1 Classic’s “SNL Rewind: 2015-1975 Mega Marathon,” and check out our comprehensive gallery of comedy greats that tried their hats (or rather wigs) at sketch comedy to mixed results and still found big success.
Watch the Emmy-nominated McKinnon describe her dream host/musical guest combination (spoiler: It’s Beyoncé).
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
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