For almost four decades, Saturday Night Live has been America's premier sketch comedy show, spawning dozens of memorable characters, launching comedians into near-iconic status and, of course, making us laugh, cry and hurl.
SNL's presence has become a part of our national DNA, ranging from Monday morning water-cooler conversation about the latest Target lady sketch to scathing political commentary on pretty much everyone in Washington's sphere.
Tomorrow night marks the start of the show's 37th season, and it will also be a milestone for Alec Baldwin, who will host for a sixteenth time, breaking Steve Martin's record of 15 turns.
For us at Art Attack, who came of age watching the show during the Mike Myers-Phil Hartman-Dana Carvey-Julia Sweeney era (which was a helluva cast to grow up with -- it ensured our love for the show as a whole, beginning with its '70s debut and ending with, well, now), the beginning of each season is a special time for us: What new neurotic characters will we fall in love with? How will they handle rising politicians (such as Rick Perry)? Which products will be the writers' latest flaks for fake commercials?
In honor of the weekend, we wanted to do something special; something that would nod to the entire show, not just one cast or era; something that will cause fistfights and send us hate mail.
So we came up with our dream cast, limiting ourselves to only six boys and six girls over 36 years of great comedy. It wasn't easy. Would we want Chris Farley if we could have John Belushi? What about Phil Hartman over Darrell Hammond? Do we forget about the dry well that was the early '80s? (Probably).
As an extra special special, we also chose our all-time host and our all-time Weekend Update team. That was tough, too. Nealon over McDonald? Fey and Poehler over Aykroyd and Curtin?
Fortunately, we're not the casting agents for SNL, and we're pretty sure we would get nothing done if we were. But in anticipation of those seven words spoken at the beginning of each show, that even now make our hair stand on end with glee, here is our dream cast.
It's hard to quantify the power of a performer like John Belushi, who died in 1982 after leaving with the original cast. He appeared in the first sketch ever, with Michael O'Donoghue, in 1975, who was trying to teach him English. Later on, we would know him as Jake Blues, The Samurai, and the best friend that little chocolate donuts ever had. He also somehow managed to play John Lennon, Elvis and Joe Cocker, with the real Cocker and Belushi taking the stage together in the second season.
Cheri Oteri helped create some of the most realistic characters ever onSNL
. We all knew the bubbly, idiotic cheerleader (from her Spartans sketches with Will Ferrell), and each of us has a pill-popping Collette Reardon in the same family, sad to say. Our favorite Oteri sketches were the ones with Chris Kattan, who was sort of a dual comedic foil to her, carrying the same energy. And her Barbara Walters came in handy asThe View
premiered in 1997.
Radner blazed a trail for women in comedy, and would go on to influence laterSNL
cast members of both sexes, including Mike Myers and Tina Fey. Radner was really more of a broad actor than a comedian, and created such vivid characters as Roseanne Roseannadanna, Emily Litella and Judy Miller (the neurotic Brownie scout). A great ensemble performer, she played off of Bill Murray and host (and real-life friend) Madeline Kahn perfectly. Yet she could also be subdued, as in the arty short "La Dolce Gilda" and "Dancing with the Clowns" with Steve Martin.
Long before he was Austin Powers or (shudder) the Love Guru, Myers was beloved as Wayne Campbell, Simon, Linda Richman and pretty much any member of the Royal Family. Myers's colorful characters were almost always drawn from real life: Wayne was his teenage self, Richman was his mother-in-law. Myers grew up watchingSNL
. He loved being on the show, and you can tell.
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Over seven seasons, Carvey inhabited the roles of Garth Algar, The Church Lady and Hans, and was able to knock most any celebrity impersonation out of the park, and his targets didn't seem to mind because he was so masterful at it. There was George Bush Sr., Mickey Rooney, Ross Perot, Johnny Carson and Ted Koppel just to name a few. His short-lived sketch comedy show on ABC was offensive, crude and everything about it was prophetic.
Debbie Downer, hands down, had the greatest ability to make other cast members and guest hosts lose their composure live. There was aging Hollywood exec Abe Scheinwald with his bowl of cottage cheese, and Zazu from the bumbling, drunk Bahstun teen sketches, too.
Sorry for the video quality; we couldn't find any of Nealon's famous "Subliminal Editorials" from when he was anchor. Our favorite dark horse choice for Weekend Update host is Norm MacDonald, but no one likes his era, because it was too weird and no one thought the Frank Stallone and David Hasselhoff stuff made sense (except a seventh grader in Pearland). For this dream cast, though, we split the difference between Tina Fey and Kevin Nealon. Together they would have the most dry and sarcastic team to ever man the Update desk.