Top 10 Saturday Night Live Cast Members Who Got Fired
WRITTEN BY: Michael Evans
We can't believe some of these people were fired from "Saturday Night Live." Our countdown includes Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Robert Downey Jr., and more!
Top 10 People Who Were Fired from Saturday Night Live
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 People Who Were Fired From Saturday Night Live.
For this list, we’ll be looking at fired castmates who either were popular members of the cast or went on to greater fame, following their stint on the show. We won’t be including anyone who was fired before they even appeared, like Shane Gillis.
Who do you think is the top cast member fired from “Saturday Night Live?” Take aim in the comments.
#10: Robert Downey Jr.
When Robert Downey Jr. was a cast member on “SNL,” he was not yet the sought-after star that he has since become. Sure, he is now a household name with all those Marvel movies under his belt, but back in the mid-80s, Downey had done little more than a few off-Broadway productions and had little-to-no comedy experience. Still, he made it on the show, but in his only season, the cast reportedly had trouble gelling and, as a result, there was a major cast purge at the end of the year that included Downey Jr. With him earning a reported $75 million for “Avengers: Endgame,” it seems like things worked out okay for the guy. It’s a long way from Suitcase Boy to Iron Man.
#9: Joan Cusack
Joan Cusack, older sister to John Cusack, was let go from “Saturday Night Live” in the same cast purge that ended Robert Downey Jr’s short tenure on the show. The now-beloved character actress has had more than 80 credits since her release from “Saturday Night Live,” including movies like “Broadcast News” and “School of Rock.” She was even nominated for Oscars for her performances in both “Working Girl” and “In & Out,” and earned multiple Emmy nominations, including 1 win, for her role on “Shameless.” It looks like SNL’s loss was our gain.
#8: Norm Macdonald
Unlike the other firings featured on this list, the removal of Weekend Update stalwart, Norm MacDonald, was not initiated by show creator/producer Lorne Michaels. MacDonald’s release was reportedly the decision of NBC Executive Don Ohlmeyer, who cited declining ratings and work-quality as the reasons. Still, rumors persist that the firing was due to MacDonald’s many jokes about Ohlmeyer’s friend, O.J. Simpson. Whatever the reason, it is clear that MacDonald landed on his feet, going on to build a resume of acting and voice acting credits, including two sitcoms centered on him. He’s become so iconic that many other comics now do impressions of him.
#7: Rob Riggle
When Riggle joined the cast of “SNL,’ he was the only new member added to an already star-studded cast, including the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Fred Armisen. As such, despite making a few memorable characters, like Leviticus the Street Prophet, he found he had trouble making his mark. It appears that Lorne Michaels agreed and let Riggle go after only one season. But Riggle rebounded, landing a spot on “The Daily Show.” Since then, his imposing presence and booming voice have served him quite well in his many comic acting pursuits.
#6: Jenny Slate
While it is true that Jenny Slate did drop a big no-no word on the first episode she ever participated in, this might not be the reason she was fired at the end of her only season. She maintains that she was fired because Lorne Michaels simply did not like her and did not think she fit the show. Like so many others on this list, Slate has since become a much sought-after comedic actress, voice artist, and stand-up comedian. From Jean-Ralphio’s twin sister, Mona Lisa, on “Parks and Recreation” to the voice Tammy on “Bob’s Burgers,” Slate has left no comedic stone unturned since being dropped from “SNL.”
#5: Sarah Silverman
We believe Silverman might hold the distinction of being the only person fired from “Saturday Night Live” via fax. Despite her cute comic persona, she admits that she was not ready at the time of her stint on “SNL” and didn’t write even “one single funny sketch” in her lone season. She has since blossomed into a true, and beloved, comic force with her irreverent stand-up, the beautiful and uniting “I Love You, America,” and her voice work on everything from “The Simpsons” to “Bob’s Burgers.” She has returned to host the show, and her frequent appearances on roasts are truly amazing, as well.
#4: Damon Wayans
Brought in to fill the void left by the exit of Eddie Murphy, Damon Wayans didn’t make it past one season on the show. Wayans was fired for insubordination after changing a character, making him flamboyantly gay, without producer approval. Wayans was already feeling underutilized on the show and reportedly embraced the firing. He later went on to star in “In Living Color,” a sketch comedy show created by his older brother, Keenan Ivory Wayans. What would we do if we hadn’t ever seen “Homeboy Shopping Network” or “Homey D. Clown?” He also went on to win a BET Comedy Award and a People’s Choice Award. Not bad, to say the very least.
#3: Adam Sandler
Having made a name for himself on the show over his 5 years, Sandler was surprised when he was let go with two years remaining on his contract. His movie career had started to take off, and he was considering quitting himself, but was still surprised to be let go with no reason given. He holds no ill will and even made fun of it in song when he returned to host the show. That song builds, appropriately, to the line, “NBC said that I was done, but I made over 4 billion dollars at the box office, so I guess you could say I won.” Truer words may never have been sung. We could have used some more Canteen Boy or Opera Man, but it seems to have all worked out all right.
#2: Chris Farley
Chris Farley was fired by “SNL” at the same time as his friend, Adam Sandler. The firing was meant to be a warning to Farley to get his life together, but it appears as though that warning went tragically unheeded. Farley died of a drug overdose a couple of years later, and just two months after being brought back to host the show. His time on Earth after “SNL” was brief, but at least we have the memories of his classic characters, like Matt Foley, and also his much-loved movie pairings with David Spade: “Tommy Boy” and “Black Sheep.” Gone too soon, and still missed to this day.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Elaine from Seinfeld Was on “SNL”? Get Out!
So Many Impressions, Yet So Little Time
She Found It “a Little Rude”
Possibly the Right Place, But Surely the Wrong Time...
#1: Chris Rock
Chris Rock was fired from “Saturday Night Live” at around the same time as both Chris Farley and Adam Sandler, joining in the latter’s song. In the case of Rock, he generally refused to perform what he considered to be stereotypical roles, which may have led to his removal. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that his career sky-rocketed thereafter. Since leaving the show, he has produced or exec-produced on numerous projects, won 3 Grammy Awards for his comedy, and 4 Primetime Emmy Awards. He is one of the world’s greatest comedians of all-time and is certainly deserving of the top spot on our list.