Top 10 Most Underrated Saturday Night Live Cast Members

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Top 10 Most Underrated Saturday Night Live Cast Members

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
This sketch comedy show has produced tons of stars, but not all of them get the recognition they deserve. For this list, we'll be ranking some of the "not ready for primetime players" that did some great work during their tenure at “SNL”. Our countdown includes Tim Meadows, Will Forte, Bobby Moynihan, and more!
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Top 10 Most Underrated “Saturday Night Live” Cast Member


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Most Underrated “Saturday Night Live” Cast Members.

For this list, we'll be ranking some of the "not ready for primetime players" that did some great work during their tenure at “SNL”. However, for one reason or another, they’ve largely flown under the radar in the public eye.

Which member of the extensive “SNL” cast do you think is underrated? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

#10: Jay Pharoah

You don't have to be great at impressions to be an “SNL” star, but it certainly helps. Jay Pharoah just happens to be FANTASTIC at them, and it showed during his tenure at "Saturday Night Live." Sure, just about every “SNL” fan is aware of Pharaoh's nearly perfect take on Barack Obama, but we'd argue that his impressions of other celebrities such as Denzel Washington [1] were possibly even better. Pharoah just possesses a knack for nailing down every little detail and personality quirk about his subjects, not to mention an ease and confidence that made him tailor made for the "Saturday Night Live" stage.

#9: Kevin Nealon

Every good comedic bit needs a straight man. There were few “SNL” alum that were better at this often thankless task than Kevin Nealon. The comedian was probably best known for his excellent stint as host of "Weekend Update," where we got to witness one of his classic characters, "Mr. Subliminal." However, Nealon was also great in skits, and could be relied upon to allow a more animated co-star, such as Adam Sandler or Chris Farley, to shine by holding things together. If "Saturday Night Live" was a well-oiled machine, then it was Kevin Nealon that helped keep those gears in motion as an underrated member of the cast.

#8: Bobby Moynihan

Bobby Moynihan was a member of the “SNL” cast for nearly ten years, and for that we are deeply thankful. Not just because of his popular roles like the recurring "Weekend Update" character of "Drunk Uncle," but also due to his valuable balance of physical comedy and impressions. Moynihan could make the audience laugh with subtle facial expressions, or get a huge reaction from some over the top stunt. It's this versatility that made Moynihan underrated in a cast that included some pretty big names, including Andy Samberg, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. Being able to stand out in that crowd is just one of the reasons why he's still remembered so fondly.

#7: Terry Sweeney

Bearing no relation to the more well known Julia Sweeney, Terry Sweeney was only a part of the “SNL” cast for one season. However, he actually worked as a staff writer in the years prior to his 1985 promotion. Terry made history as the first openly gay male member of the cast. The trailblazing comedian displayed an outrageous sense of humor and bold creative voice. Sweeney's impressions of female celebrities like Joan Rivers were envelope-pushing for the period. In a time when "Saturday Night Live" was struggling to connect with viewers and critics, his energetic delivery also stood out. Here's hoping that Terry Sweeney's underrated work can be rediscovered by a new generation today.

#6: Cheri Oteri

Most “SNL” fans best remember Cheri Oteri from her comedy dream team pairing with Will Ferrell during the "Spartan Cheerleaders" sketches. But we shouldn't limit her skill to this admittedly great character. Oteri could be relied upon to be incredibly creative with her comedy, from developing outside-the-box characters like Nadeen and "Collette Reardon" to her impeccable take on television icon Barbara Walters. Oh, and let's not forget her pairing with Chris Kattan as "The Zimmermans," who took the "PDA" acronym to a whole new level with their affectionate antics.

#5: Jan Hooks

The greatly missed Jan Hooks was a part of a fresh and new “SNL” cast for 1986, a group that included future stars Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey. While Hooks never seemed to achieve the mainstream heights of some of her cast mates, she absolutely delivered the comedic goods. The comedienne killed it as one half of The Sweeney sisters, a superb parody of a lounge act from the 1970s or '80s. She also showed off her down-to-earth warmth and charisma as Brenda the Waitress. Although she may not have become as famous and well-known as other great comediennes, one thing’s for sure: she connected with fans and colleagues alike from around the world.

#4: Tim Meadows

We know what you might be thinking: how could someone who had an “SNL” tenure as long as Tim "Lil' Hockey" Meadows be underrated? We'd argue that the freshness of his work and how much he grew as a performer throughout his ten season run on the show made him into an underappreciated superstar. The comedian cut his teeth working improv. His ability to adapt and progress served Meadows well once he made it onto "Saturday Night Live" in 1991. Meadows was much more than “The Ladies Man” character. Not only did he write skits behind the scenes, but the show greatly benefitted from his natural ability to develop unique celebrity impressions.

#3: Ana Gasteyer

Call this next entry a case of underrated in one medium, but not in another. Today, Ana Gasteyer is well known, loved and respected for her work on Broadway. But since she was on “SNL” before her career really took off, she remains one of the series' more underrated players. We're thinking beyond the classic "Schweddy Balls" skit with Molly Shannon and Alec Baldwin and more of her razor sharp impersonations. Gasteyer's takes on Martha Stewart and Celine Dion were incredibly spot on. And some of her original characters, such as Lilith Fair folk singer… comedienne Cinder Calhoun are both "of their time" and hilariously timeless, thanks to Ana's unique comedic voice.

#2: Laraine Newman

There have been countless comedians who have entered the “SNL” cast via their work with the Groundlings improv group and comedy school. This has been true from the beginning, seeing as Groundlings founding member Laraine Newman was a part of the OG "Saturday Night Live" cast. Despite making history in that first class of comedians, she and fellow "Not Ready for Prime Time Player" Garrett Morris (*Xref) were both underrated in the grand scheme of things. Laraine's decision to not revisit many of her original characters may have hampered her reputation as a household name today. However, her charisma, timing and natural charm in those early seasons still resonate with SNL historians. And hey, she was Connie Conehead!

Before we name our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Tim Robinson A Multi-Talented Featured Player Turned Writer

Casey Wilson For Dusty Velvet & Hosting “The Cougar Den”

Nasim Pedrad For Her Impressions & Physical Comedic Skill

Ellen Cleghorne Versatile, Funny & Witty as Hell

Horatio Sanz When He Wasn't Making Jimmy Fallon Laugh, He Was Making Us Chuckle

Chris Kattan Mango, “Goth Talk” & Roxbury, Oh My!

#1: Will Forte

Speaking of The Groundlings, our number one pick also spent time honing his craft at this prestigious comedy school. He then made his way to “SNL” for an eight year tour of duty. To be fair, Forte's first artistic love seems to have always been writing. He has a seriously impressive resume of behind-the-scenes credits. However, his work on the “SNL” stage remains underrated for those with an open mind to creative comedy. The way Forte paired up with Jason Sudeikis as the reverse hair metal icons "Jon Bovi" was genius. He also gave us the boneheaded-but-beloved "MacGuyver" knock-off "MacGruber". Fans could always rely on something unique and outside-the-box when it came to a Will Forte performance.
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