Top 10 Rejected SNL Cast Members That Became Successful

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Top 10 Rejected SNL Cast Members That Became Successful

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Mimi Kenny
What was Lorne Michaels thinking when he passed on these future a-list celebs? For this list, we'll be looking at the people who auditioned for “Saturday Night Live” and didn't make it, but who became successful in their own right. Our countdown includes Mindy Kaling, Donald Glover, Jim Carrey, and more!
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Top 10 Rejected SNL Cast Members That Became Successful


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Rejected SNL Cast Members That Became Successful

For this list, we’ll be looking at the people who auditioned for “Saturday Night Live” and didn’t make it, but who became successful in their own right.

Which of these stars do you think would do best on “SNL?” Let us know in the comments.

#10: John Goodman


John Goodman is beloved for playing Dan Conner on "Roseanne" and "The Conners," as well as roles in films like "The Big Lebowski" and "The Emperor's New Groove." But he didn't quite cut it for "SNL." Goodman was in the running for the show's sixth season and narrowly missed out, being passed over for Joe Piscopo. However, there don't seem to be many hard feelings between the actor and the show. So far, he's hosted 12 times and has made 10 cameos, including multiple appearances as Linda Tripp. Now that's what we call a "good man."

#9: Aubrey Plaza


Aubrey Plaza’s deadpan comedic stylings seem like they’d be perfect for contrasting the more exaggerated mannerisms of other “SNL” cast members. But the “Parks and Recreation” star was turned down by the show. Plaza had worked on the show as an intern, but when it came time to actually audition for the 34th season, something apparently didn’t click. In a 2012 interview, Plaza said she had wanted to be on "SNL," for "as long as [she] could remember." So, while the rejection likely stung, Plaza was still thankfully able to share her comedic talents with the world.

#8: Mindy Kaling


Like many other comedians, Kaling has cited "SNL" as an influence, and she's also guest-written for some of an episode. She was given the chance to audition in 2006, but the show ultimately turned her down. This was while she was making the second season of “The Office.” So, if things had gone differently, we might’ve had a mostly Kelly-less “Office.” Kaling has appeared in a “What Up With That” sketch, but she has yet to host the show. With the talent she possesses as both a performer and a writer, Kaling is definitely long overdue.

#7: Jordan Peele


Anyone who’s seen “Key & Peele” knows that Jordan Peele is excellent at sketch comedy and that he does a great Barack Obama impression. But before co-starring in his own show, Peele auditioned to play Obama in 2008, the same year Fred Armisen was cast. Peele was already a veteran for sketch comedy as a cast member of “Mad TV” with Keegan-Michael Key. So, it’s not like he wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure. And it’s still absurd they cast Armisen as Obama, considering, you know, he’s not Black. What do you think Luther would have to say about this?

#6: Stephen Colbert


Not many TV hosts can say they’ve achieved success portraying real and fictionalized versions of themselves, but Stephen Colbert is a special case. The host of “The Colbert Report '' and “The Late Show” was apparently not quite up to snuff for “SNL,” at least, not as a performer. Colbert came to audition in 1992 after “SNL” writer Robert Smigel saw him perform as a member of Chicago’s Second City troupe. But he was not the show’s first choice, and series creator Lorne Michaels turned him down. Colbert did later contribute some freelance writing before becoming a household name. Michaels later expressed some remorse about his decision to not cast Colbert. Yeah, we would too.

#5: Geena Davis


There’s really no telling what exactly will happen with rejected “SNL” auditioners. Some fade into obscurity right away, and others go on to win Oscars. Five years before taking home the Best Supporting Actress trophy for “The Accidental Tourist,” Geena Davis auditioned for "SNL's" 10th season. Cast member Harry Shearer described it as being "Awkward and uncomfortable for everybody involved." Pamela Stephenson ended up with Davis' spot on the show, but Davis became a bonafide movie star and hosted the show in 1989. We definitely think she got the better end of the stick there.

#4: Donald Glover


Donald Glover has one of the most enviable resumés of any artist working today, with hit movies, hit TV shows, and hit singles. So, why didn’t he make it on “SNL?” When Glover was working as a writer on “30 Rock,” he auditioned specifically to play then-presidential candidate Barack Obama for the show’s 33rd season. And, as we mentioned, the part went to Fred Armisen. This might have been a blessing in disguise, as the 33rd season was largely truncated due to the ongoing writer's strike. Donald Glover hosted the show in Season 43 and performed under his musical alter-ego, Childish Gambino. Is there anything he can't do?

#3: Lisa Kudrow


The people who are asked to audition for “SNL” are all understood to be talented. But sometimes, things just don’t go their way. That’s what happened when future “Friends” star Lisa Kudrow missed out on joining the show’s 16th season cast. A member of famed Los Angeles comedy troupe The Groundlings, Kudrow was vying for a spot with fellow member Julia Sweeney, who was ultimately cast. Regarding her showcase audition, Kudrow described herself as "unnerved and clearly not ready." But she didn’t give up, and a few years later, she established herself as one of the funniest people in entertainment.

#2: Kevin Hart


So far, Kevin Hart has hosted “SNL” three times, and we expect many more hosting gigs to come. So, how does someone with so much clear talent and comedic energy not get cast? According to Hart, it was his choice of impression. In an interview with Conan O'Brien, Hart said he spoofed Avery Johnson, basketball coach and previous point guard for the San Antonio Spurs. Lorne Michaels was reportedly clueless about who Johnson was, and Hart was rejected by "SNL." Maybe he should’ve done his Shaq impression instead.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Zach Galifianakis
"The Hangover" Star Auditioned in 1999

Jennifer Coolidge
The Comedic Actress Was Passed Over for Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, & Chris Kattan

Kumail Nanjiani
Nanjiani Ended Up Writing for “SNL” for One Week

#1: Jim Carrey


Not only was Jim Carrey, a man whose comedic energy could wreck the Richter scale, turned down by “SNL,” he was turned down twice. He first auditioned for the show’s sixth season, its first without creator Lorne Michaels. Carrey tried again for Season 11 but was again rejected. Michaels says that Carrey never personally auditioned for him, which seems like a pretty good way to save face for such a blunder. The rubber-faced Carrey later found a home on another sketch show: “In Living Color.” And his success as a movie star eventually brought him to the "SNL" stage. Success really is the best revenge.
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