Tina Fey was so triumphant as the host of Saturday Night Live's 39th season opener, jumping from a dead-on Girls parody to a seriously macabre Model T commercial, that I had no choice but to think about SNL's breakout female stars all day. And rank them. I'm sure you've had this instinct, no?
So here they are: the 11 greatest female SNL cast members ever. Apologies for not ranking Ellen Cleghorne, who wrote one of my favorite standup jokes of all time. ("My friend bought a dog. I told her, 'Give me $500 and I'll sh*t on your carpet.'")
11. Jan Hooks
The ferocious Jan Hooks gave us arguably the most lachrymose impression ofTammy Faye Bakkerever (a true feat), along with kickass takes onSinead O'ConnorandKathie Lee Gifford. As one half of the dynamic and fabulous-as-hell Sweeney Sisters, she served as the doyenne of SNL in the late '80s. It also helps her '80s cred that she's a dead-ringer forConstance McCashinandBlair Brown, AND she eventually left SNL for a role onDesigning Women. Which has been my dream since childhood.
10. Maya Rudolph
It's safe to say the world's perception of Donatella Versace was not the same after Maya was done with her. The Bridesmaids costar's several insane impersonations were often riveting (namely her rhythmically, sonically right-on Whitney Houston), but I'll always love her most as the nervous, hard-breathing teen star of Wake Up, Wakefield.
9. Rachel Dratch
From a cameo as "the new meat" in one of her very first sketches alongside a Fight Club-bing Jennifer Aniston to several outrageously funny Debbie Downer skits,Rachel Dratchwas one of SNL's premier experts in both bombastic and deadpan comedy. She thrilled us with Jimmy Fallon as the squawkier half of The Boston Teens and chilled us as Will Ferrell's purring, bearskin rug-clutchinglovah. Bonus: Her gonzo cameos on 30 Rock ruled -- particularly her stint as Barbara Walters -- and her memoir Girl Walks Into a Bar is more nonchalantly honest than Bossypants. I said it.
8. Ana Gasteyer
Every interview with Ana Gasteyer indicates she's likely a genius, and that doesn't surprise me a bit. As Martha Stewart, she unnerved you with the "gift" of her indecipherable Connecticut accent. As one half of the Delicious Dish NPR team (which was so much funnier before "Schweddy Balls" turned the duo into a frat joke), she packed so much easy-listening timbre into her pronunciation ofketchup. And as Celine Dion, she saved the world from the unbearable crush of "My Heart Will Go On" with abounding hubris.
7. Cheri Oteri
The world pretends the Spartan Cheerleader sketches were drastically overused -- and maybe that's partially true -- but the character of Arianna is one of the richest, weirdest female characters ever. She was insecure, blown away by her own puberty, unerringly enthusiastic, deliriously communicative with her never-seen pal Alexis, and rabidly obsessed with the perfect cheer. Oteri's Barbara Walters impression is flawless ("I was horseback riding with Saddam Hussein just last week..."), and I am a shrieking superfan of her Morning Latte talk show host character Cass Van Rye ("I cannot get pregnant because you see, my uterus, is collapsed and inside out.") and her pill-addicted, clownishly maquillaged character Colette Riordan carried prescriptions like firearms. Always, always funny.
6. Jane Curtin
Jane Curtin was a menace at the Weekend Update anchor desk, and in the era of self-impressed blowhards like Chevy Chase and John Belushi, it was refreshing to see her no-nonsense, fiercely self-respecting poise get its proper turn. Even as a go-to straight woman, she was hilarious. Next to Dan Aykroyd as an interviewer during a Consumer Probe sketch, she interrogated a sleazy toymaker about his dubious wares. ("Johnny Space Commander mask, which retails for $6.95. It's nothing more than a plastic bag and a rubber band.") And if you didn't see Jane Curtin call out the misogyny behind the scenes of SNL's first five seasons, get going now. Love. This. Woman.
5. Amy Poehler
I knew Amy Poehler was poised to become an all-time SNL great back in '03 when she imitated Madonna in the show's most deadly depiction of Lourdes' mother to date. (It was the American Life era, so we were in dire need of note-perfect mockery.) Her rapping at the Weekend Update desk was fabulous, her indignant shouts of "Really?" made you feel like the word "Really?" was a valid argument, and I'm traumatized into remembering Amber, The One-Legged Hypoglycemic Reality Contestant, for all of my days. Bret deserved her.
4. Kristen Wiig
Kristen Wiig combined Amy Poehler's love of hokey characters with Molly Shannon's affinity for nervous, mouthbreathing types. While she's obviously an empathetic leading lady on her own, Wiig is also responsible for some of the show's battiest impersonations -- namely of Liza Minnelli, Katharine Hepburn, and Ann-Margret. Turn off that lamp, Liza! Look, any SNL queen who inspires gay men on YouTube to mime their sketches word for word without a shirt on deserves actual coronation. And hey! Wiig is the only Oscar nominee on this list.
3. Molly Shannon
Watching Molly Shannon work the hell out of ribcage-high pants as Sally O'Malley or an Irish-Catholic schoolgirl uniform as Mary Katherine Gallagher, one thing was evident: These characters meant something to her. In their earnest urgency, Molly Shannon's characters were righteously defiant while also being socially misinformed in a legendary way. She could do Delicious Dish, but she could also do Goth Talk; these were characters locked in their own worlds and aching to represent their fractured, glamorously unhinged perspectives at any cost. Molly Shannon was a serious dynamo and always, always sincere. She was easy to love.
2. Tina Fey
Mark Twain Prize recipient Tina Fey may be Saturday Night Live's ultimate success story: She began as a writer, owned the Weekend Update desk, vaulted to 30 Rock, saved America with her Sarah Palin impression back on SNL, and became the definitive comic voice of the past five years. As her hosting stint on last Saturday's SNL season premiere proved, her knack for both cutting and kooky characters remains primed, and her flair at an anchor desk is still unmatched. She's smart as hell, unstoppable, and drop-dead hilarious. Lemon in, forever.
1. Gilda Radner
Now, like much of SNL's '70s material, some of Gilda Radner's signature characters have dated a bit (I doubt hairy-pitted rocker Candy Slice would rile us as much today, but then again anything is better than those groan-inducing Blues Brothers), but the late comedienne is forever #1 thanks to her willingness to be as bawdy, brash, disgusting, charming, cool, glamorous, annoying, and vulnerable as she wanted to be. It was Gilda's ebullience that rendered the SNL's unpredictable, new energy a life force, and her chiropractor can attest to her commitment to outrageous comedy. (She broke two ribs in a legendary sketch as superstar brownie Judy Miller.) Whether she was blaring personal anecdotes about snot as the wise-ass Roseanne Roseannadanna or losing buckets of consonants as Baba Wawa, she was magnetic and fearless. Like Molly Shannon, her in-your-face bodily humor belied thoughtfulness. Like Kristen Wiig, she was most alive when being totally weird. We can't forget that she was one half of the greatest celebrity couple ever (Come back to us, Gene Wilder!), but of course, we can't forget almost anything about Gilda, the ultimate goofball sweetheart.
How would you rank SNL's distaff greats?
Cecily Legler Strong (born February 8, 1984) is an American actress and comedian. She is most notable for being a cast member on the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live from 2012 to 2022. She is the longest-tenured female cast member in the show's history.Who was the first woman to host SNL? ›
Bergen made SNL history when she became the show's very first female host in 1975, and then she did it again when she became the first woman to join the Five-Timers Club in 1990!
Cecily Strong commented on her surprise “Saturday Night Live” exit for the first time in an Instagram post in which the Emmy-nominated comedian wrote, “I am ready to go.” Strong's departure was announced just a few hours before her final episode was filmed on Dec.Who is the most successful Saturday Night Live Alum? ›
- 6 Tina Fey Showed Her Writing Skills Outside SNL. ...
- 5 Eddie Murphy Became One Of The Highest-Grossing Actors. ...
- 4 Julia Louis-Dreyfus Starred In Some Critically Acclaimed Shows. ...
- 3 Chris Rock Defined Stand-Up Comedy. ...
- 2 Will Ferrell Became A Comedy Legend. ...
- 1 Adam Sandler Developed A Style Of His Own.
In 1982, at age 7, Drew Barrymore became the youngest person to host the show. Betty White is the oldest person to host, having done so at 88 years of age in 2010.Who is the oldest SNL cast member ever? ›
(Previous record holder: 19-year-old Eddie Murphy.) Current cast member Leslie Jones is 51, and she joined the cast at age 47, slightly older than when established actor Michael McKean (Laverne & Shirley, This Is Spinal Tap) joined the cast in 1994 at age 46.Who is the most famous person to host SNL? ›
Alec Baldwin, who's known for countless films like "The Departed" and "The Aviator," has hosted "Saturday Night Live" a total of 17 times, which is more than any other person (via NBC News).Who was the first Black woman cast member of SNL? ›
Yvonne Hudson - Hudson was the first Black female cast member in the history of Saturday Night Live. She joined the cast as a featured player in the 1980, just one week after Eddie Murphy joined.Who was the first black female host of SNL? ›
1. Cicely Tyson. Cicely Tyson was the first Black woman to host SNL on February 10, 1979.Who was the host banned from SNL? ›
After an appearance hosting the show in May of 2003, Brody was allegedly banned from SNL after he did an impression of the musical guest, Sean Paul, which was both completely unplanned and painfully offensive.
A little girl named Judy Miller (Gilda Radner) hosts a fictional TV show from her bedroom and plays every role [Season 3, 1977]#SNLSubscribe to SNL: https://...Who were the first female SNL cast members? ›
Gilda Radner and Jane Curtin joined the season one cast in 1975, showing that being a woman and being funny were not mutually exclusive.What is the most successful SNL movie? ›
As the most successful SNL film, Wayne's World became deceptively influential, not only leading the way for a string of Saturday Night Live movies, but also in making Mike Myers one of the biggest comedy stars of the 80s and early 2000s, as well as set the table for future SNL actors to make their own star-making ...Which SNL member has been in the most sketches? ›
Somehow, Kenan Thompson Has Been On "SNL" Long Enough To Appear In 1,500 Sketches. He continues to reign as the sketch comedy GOAT.What famous actors came from SNL? ›
- 1 Chris Rock Was An SNL Bad Boy.
- 2 Will Ferrell Was Born To Make Us Laugh. ...
- 3 Tina Fey Was SNL's First Female Head Writer. ...
- 4 Eddie Murphy May Have Saved SNL. ...
- 5 Andy Samberg Was Nominated For A Grammy Thanks To SNL. ...
Those who have hosted the most times through the decades include Alec Baldwin (17), Steve Martin (16), John Goodman (13), Tom Hanks (10) and Buck Henry (10).What female has hosted SNL the most? ›
- Tina Fey (tie) — Six. Saturday Night Live. ...
- Danny DeVito (tie) — Six. Saturday Night Live. ...
- Drew Barrymore (tie) — Six. Saturday Night Live. ...
- Scarlett Johansson (tie) — Six. ...
- Christopher Walken — Seven. ...
- Chevy Chase — Eight. ...
- Tom Hanks (tie) — Ten. ...
- Buck Henry (tie) — Ten.
Jost has been a staff writer for the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live since 2005, and co-anchor of Weekend Update since 2014. He also served as one of the show's co-head writers from 2012 to 2015 and later came back as one of the show's head writers in 2017 until 2022 alongside Michael Che.What is the longest gap between hosting SNL? ›
The longest span of time between two hosting appearances belongs to Jeff Bridges. Bridges has a 27-year gap between his first appearance in 1983 and his second appearance in 2010). Bruce Willis, who hosted back in 1989, returned to host in 2014, twenty-four seasons after his first appearance.