Watching Bill Hader make his triumphant return to Saturday Night Live made me think about who I would put on the show, in their prime, if I were tasked with putting together an SNL Dream Team. In that I have posting privileges on this site and the magical power of the internet instant-gratification machine at my back, I decided to turn this foggy-headed late night thought into something like an article for your eyes and all that they are connected to. Including your heart.
To make this list, though, I would have to follow a few simple guidelines. This isn’t a “Best Castmembers Ever” list, this is me assembling a roster, so some omissions may be surprising. I also took a stab at crafting a Dream Writers list.
Here goes nothing.
The Writing Staff:
Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase, Anne Beats, Al Franken, Tom Davis, Don Novello, Michael O’Donoghue, Tom Schiller, Jim Downey, Robert Smigel, Jack Handey, Paula Pell, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, Bob Odenkirk, Adam McKay, Tina Fey and Seth Meyers.
Michaels should be obvious since he created the show in 1975 and he is still the key voice in deciding what lives on the air or dies in the room. Chase was such a widely acknowledged force as a writer and performer in his first season that I have to give him a job working on Weekend Update next to Seth Meyers under my political satire guru Jim Downey.
Other names are legends like Al Franken, Tom Davis, Tina Fey, Michael O’Donoghue and Robert Smigel (the latter three are my Head Writers) and valuable workhorses who had a big hand in the shape of their eras on the show like the Turners, Tom Schiller, Don Novello, Jack Handey, Paula Pell, Bob Odenkirk, Adam McKay and Anne Beats.
Repertory Company: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader
Featured Players: Norm Macdonald (Weekend Update), Chevy Chase (Weekend Update), Andy Samberg (SNL Digital Shorts), Kate McKinnon and Amy Poehler
Honorable Mentions: Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Darrell Hammond, Molly Shannon, Jason Sudeikis, Jan Hooks, Maya Rudolph, Jane Curtin, Jimmy Fallon, Martin Short, Jon Lovitz and Dennis Miller (for Update)
I was aiming for versatility with the cast and I think that I accomplished that with utility players like Phil Hartman, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Dana Carvey, Kate McKinnon and Aykroyd. That’s a lot of “glue” and a lot of talent that had the ability to save bad sketches.
Belushi, Radner, Murray, Myers, Ferrell, Wiig, Crystal and particularly Murphy are on the list to be the home run hitters. Chase would be used in sketches, but his biggest impact on the show was on the Update desk. Pairing him with an in-his-prime Norm Macdonald would be a joy to watch. Andy Samberg’s Digital Shorts are a mandatory part of a Dream Show. The same thing can be said for Tom Schiller’s short films and Robert Smigel’s Saturday TV Funhouse.
This list is full of legends but so is the list of honorable mentions. The hardest people to keep off the Dream Cast were Molly Shannon and Dennis Miller. In the case of the latter, I just couldn’t give him one of the Update chairs over Chase or Macdonald. Shannon is a victim of the same thing that Farley, Sudeikis, Rudolph, Curtin, Hooks, Lovitz and Hammond are: they’re amazing talents but people like Wiig, Carvey, Belushi, Hartman, Aykroyd and Murray do what they do and they do it a little bit better. No one does what Martin Short did, but I went with Crystal over him.
Despite my occasional annoyance with Jimmy Fallon’s over-abundant enthusiasm, I will say that he was very close to making the cast list but it honestly came down to him or his update replacement, Amy Poehler, and she had the slightest edge because I feel like she had more range on the show. Also, Samberg gets you a lot of what Fallon does, but he seemed like a more focused performer.
Since I’m having so much fun, I feel like going a bit further so I’m going to breakout a list of 22 hosts for this imaginary season — 11 legendary hosts and 11 people who would or would have made amazing hosts.
Previous Hosts: Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Buck Henry, Tom Hanks, Paul Simon, Candice Bergen, Drew Barrymore, Christopher Walken and Jon Hamm.
First-time Hosts: The Kids in the Hall, Key and Peele, Whoopi Goldberg, David Letterman, Will Smith, Patton Oswalt, Stephen Colbert, Donald Glover, Jeffrey Tambor, Will Arnett and Nick Offerman.
Baldwin, Martin and Goodman are honorary cast members at this point and they’ve hosted and popped in enough to have almost a season’s worth of appearances on Saturday Night Live. Like that trio, past hosts like Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore, Christopher Walken, Candice Bergen, Paul Simon, Buck Henry and Jon Hamm are notable for the way that they surrendered themselves to the show. The best hosts are the ones who seem like they will do anything. The ones who take the role seriously and want to compete with the cast and the show’s legacy.
The Kids in the Hall and Key and Peele have their own legacies as two of Saturday Night Live’s best rivals, but both teams could stand in with the best of what Saturday Night Live has to offer. That was kind a prerequisite for inclusion on this list, being able to hold your own.
In another life, Glover, Tambor, Colbert, Oswalt, Arnett and Offerman could have been stand-out cast members on the show due to their comic skill and versatility.
I feel like Whoopi Goldberg could have been a top 10 cast member had the stars aligned and both her and Will Smith’s absence from the hosting post are wrong that should be righted. David Letterman’s inclusion is sort of a wild card, but I would love to see his weird energy crash up against the show.
So, that’s my weird fantasy article about a full Saturday Night Live Dream Cast for a dream season that can never happen.