Nerve has waded through all of 92 cast members who have been on Saturday Night Live since 1975, ranking them from worst to best. It’s amazing how much raw talent SNL has chewed up and spit out over the years; the sheer number of incredibly talented people who could never find a voice on the show is astounding: all four members of Spinal Tap, Chris Rock, Robert Downey, Jr., Tracy Morgan, Joan Cusack, Chris Eliot, Julia Louis Dreyfus, the list goes on.
I’ve never been more than a sporadic fan of the show since the early years, so a lot of these people are just names to me, but it’s tough to argue with Victoria Jackson as the worst of all time, though that is due less to what she did on the show than to ukulele-strumming, birth-certificate-demanding bag-lady-in-waiting she’s become. My least favorite cast member of all time is Jim Breuer (never funny, not for a moment), followed closely by Jimmy Fallon (though he’s coming into his own as a talk show host), Chris Kattan (see Breuer, Jim), and David Spade (smarminess personified).
On the best list I would put Bill Murray at the very top. I was a huge fan of the show during its first three or four seasons and it’s impossible to overstate how much Murray changed the basic energy and spirit of SNL when he came in as a replacement for the overrated and unlikable Chevy Chase. The show became less dark and cokey and more fun and goofy. Just the way he changed the energy of the Point/Counterpoint bit with Jane Curtain from the casual misogyny of “Jane, you ignorant slut,” to more genuine back and forth between the two of them, with Murray, playing the ‘new guy’ card, actually making himself the butt of the joke. Other favorites for me are Jane Curtain, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Dana Carvey. As for Nerve’s top choice, I seem to the be the only person in America who has never like Eddie Murphy (though James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub Party is among the best sketches ever).