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Saturday Night Live: The Longest-Running Cast Members, Ranked

MovieWeb 12/7/2022 Rafa Boladeras
© Provided by MovieWeb

Saturday Night Live (SNL) started in 1975 and has had many incredible performers in their cast: from Jim Belushi and Eddie Murphy, to Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey. In those almost fifty years, most actors have left to pursue other avenues for their careers, but some unique performers stay for longer, as they feel SNL is the perfect place for their abilities. Here are the longest-running cast members, ranked:

Tim Meadows - 10 years

One of the most prominent Black members of SNL history, Tim Meadows used to do many celebrity impersonations, including OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods, and Oprah. His ten years at SNL meant that when an ex-cast member came back to host the show, they would always joke Meadows was still there. Since he left SNL, he has appeared in all types of TV comedies and is still especially remembered as Principal Duvall in Mean Girls.

Aidy Bryant - 10 years

Aidy Bryant spent ten years on SNL and earned three Emmy nominations for her different roles on the show. She might’ve been one of the better glue-gals on the show, as even when she was just the third or fourth most important character in any sketch, she gave her all and made the scene, and her partners in it, better. The success of her TV series Shrill made her start to think about leaving, and she finally did it at the end of the last season. About why she finally left, Aidy Bryant told Variety: “I kept trying to seek one last normal year. This year wasn’t the normal year that I hoped for, but it was closer to that. It was like, “OK, it’s really time now.” And 10 felt like a nice, solid round number.”

Cecily Strong - 11 years

Cecily Strong has not only been a hilarious, repertory player with great characters like “The girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party”, but she also had a stint as a Weekend Update anchor, one we wished had been longer. Strong has been Emmy nominated twice for her performances on SNL, and has started branching out as this year she was also the lead of the TV show: Schmigadoon! After last season, Strong thought about leaving, telling InStyle: “If I do leave, it looks great — like I did it on purpose. And if I stay, maybe I've built up some performance karma or something. I never know when I'm going to love something and the audience will too, so it's always a real treat when that happens.”

Related: Best Films Based On SNL Skits, Ranked

Kate McKinnon - 11 years

Kate McKinnon is one of the greatest SNL stars today, and a leading lady. She has created many great characters, some of which have had so much success, they have become recurring. She has been Emmy-nominated nine times, and has won two awards. She might've done some movies like Ghostbusters or The Spy Who Dumped Me, but she looks at home in the show, making her colleagues break mid-sketch for her unique, all-in performances, impersonating people as different as Hillary Clinton and Russian villager Olya Povlatsky, and being one of the biggest assets SNL has right now.

Al Franken - 11 years

Al Franken had an interesting SNL career, as he appeared and disappeared from the show for many years. He started as a writer when the show began in 1975, and has been sporadically part of the cast since then and 1995. Franken started as a kid in the crowd, whom Belushi dismissed as part of the “angel dust crowd”, and ended with a recurring character of Stuart Smalley, an inept self-guru; a perfect symbol of how much time had passed since his first appearance. After leaving SNL, he went into politics and was a Senator for the state of Minnesota for eight years.

Fred Armisen - 11 years

Fred Armisen was one of the most beloved cast members of his era, as he could do everything: impersonations, play instruments, be the weirdest characters ever; everything. Not many other actors could be Obama, Prince, Liberace, Lou Reed, or the Queen and nail all of them, but he could do it all. He was also a presence on many Digital Shorts, and after leaving SNL, he created one of the funniest, quirkiest shows on television with Portlandia.

Related: SNL: Top 10 Most Prolific Alumni

Seth Meyers - 13 years

Seth Meyers left his mark on SNL as a writer, head writer, performer, and especially Weekend Update host, where he was one of the best. He still holds the record for longest-running Weekend Update anchor (although Colin Jost might take that award from him soon), and his pairing with Amy Poehler at the desk is legendary. Meyers left the show to get his own late-night program, once Jimmy Fallon went to The Tonight Show. Meyers's influence on SNL is still felt, as he’s been rumored to get the top spot on the show if Lorne Michaels ever decides to retire.

Darrell Hammond - 14 years

Darrell Hammond spent 14 seasons being part of the cast, where his most famous roles were Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Sean Connery. He was always a great bit player, who knew exactly what kind of character worked best for him. Although he left the cast in 2009, he’s still part of the SNL family, as he's been the show’s announcer since 2014, replacing Don Pardo.

Kenan Thompson - 19 years

The longest-running cast member in SNL history is Kenan Thompson, and he’s still there, so his record might keep expanding. Thompson got on the show after some teenage successes like Kenan & Kel, and The Mighty Ducks, and has spent most of his adult life on the show. Thompson has done all kinds of roles and impersonations (holding the SNL record for most people impersonated) while creating memorable characters like “Alex Tre-Black”. This year, Thompson got his Hollywood Walk of Fame Star and had his own TV show. It doesn't look like he’s going to leave SNL any time soon, so it’s going to be a long time (if ever) before someone else can be the longest-running cast member, but it’s okay as Thompson represents everything good with SNL, and we wouldn’t want to lose him.

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