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SNL Cast Members Who Only Lasted One Season

With over 300 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and creeping up on 50 seasons and 1000 episodes, "Saturday Night Live" is the undeniable apex of variety television. Spawning nearly a dozen spinoff feature films and being a mainstay on late-night television since the late 1970s, "SNL" can best be described as an entertainment dynasty. Aside from having an influence on news and politics, the long-running franchise has also bred some of the most significant comedic superstars for generations.

There are dozens of names that have graduated from "SNL" to the bright lights of Hollywood. Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, and Adam Sandler are just a few alumni that have gone on to headline their own feature films and make millions in the process. It seems as if almost every cast member who has appeared on the show has eventually found fame and fortune through some other venture. Well, there have been some "SNL" alum who took the opportunity and ran with it much quicker than others.

While some stick around on the sketch comedy show for extended runs, such as Kenan Thompson's 20-year tenure, others walked away after just a few episodes. Below we will explore some of the surprising entertainers that were gone by the end of their first season of the show. Keep reading and discover some of the biggest names you probably forgot had a one-year stint as an "SNL" cast member.

David Koechner

Best recognized as the infamous Todd Packer in NBC's "The Office," David Koechner has brought his big brand of comedy to many notable roles in comedies such as "Anchorman" and "Thank You for Smoking." While more often utilized as a character actor, his recognizable bolstered composure has made him a stand-out in film and television since the late '90s. And while some of his best roles are often beside other former "SNL" cast members, not many fans remember Koechner had his own stint on the late-night series.

Koechner, a graduate of comedy group Second City, was a part of a 1995-1996 "SNL" cast rebuild, that included new hires such as Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, and Colin Quinn. Although he was only there for 20 episodes, Koechner had a significant placement on the series as a repertory player and had many roles, including the fictional brother of "Weekend Update" host, Norm MacDonald. The comedian chose to walk away after his inaugural year and went on to work at "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" simultaneously kicking off an acting career that is still flourishing today.

Janeane Garofalo

By the time "Saturday Night Live" cast Janeane Garofalo, the comedian was already well established, and featured in prominent roles in the short-lived "The Ben Stiller Show" and "The Larry Sanders Show." Unfortunately for her, Garofalo joined "SNL" in 1994 for a season that long-time producer Lorne Michaels has called "a disappointment" and "incredibly difficult" (via Sun Sentinel). It was an infamous season for the show as a significant portion of cast members said their goodbyes, including Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, and Al Franken.

Still, in the season that initiated a changing of the guard, Garofalo's short stint on the series brought newsworthy implications. Reportedly, the actress had started off on the wrong foot with Sandler and was often limited in the types of roles she could portray. Garofolo was undoubtedly miserable during her tenure and exited stage left after 14 episodes. When speaking to Broadway World in 2012, the comedian did not look back fondly at her spell on "SNL." "I don't know if the comedy being done that year was that great," she said. "I just have to say that, in my opinion, the comedy was just not what it could have been."

Anthony Michael Hall

While he may not be instantly recognizable today, at one time Anthony Michael Hall was one of the biggest up-and-comers in Hollywood. Thanks to casting in John Hughes classics such as "The Breakfast Club," and "Weird Science," Hall built himself a reputation for being a stand-out "geek" actor. However, in a shuffle to avoid being typecast as the "bratty bright kid," Hall joined the cast of "Saturday Night Live" for the 1985-86 season. Surprisingly, the budding actor was only 17 years old when landing the gig making him the youngest cast member ever to appear on the show –- "and probably one of the least funny," Hall later jested in an interview with Jam.

Alongside a crew of newcomers, Hall was recruited to an "SNL" series that was attempting to redefine itself in mid-disaster. The season prior was riddled with a writer's strike, potential cancellation, and the ejection of every cast member after the season finale. As such, Hall was one of the many eclectic actors brought in to form a skeleton cast that was shipped out at the end of an infamously forgettable season.

"It was far more competitive and aggressive environment than I thought it would be," Hall told The Dead Zone. "But that's also where the people who do well with that thrive. My year there, I didn't have any breakout characters and I didn't really do the things I dreamed I would do, but I still learned a lot, and I value that."

Ben Stiller

Son of the comedy duo known as "Stiller and Meara," Ben Stiller was seemingly destined to be a comedic force. With an affinity for making sketches, a young Stiller created a short spoof of "The Color of Money" which landed in the hands of "SNL" producers who aired it on the show. Shortly after, Stiller was extended an invitation to join the variety show as a writer and performer in 1989, while still in his early 20s. Landing in the series at a time when Jon Lovitz, Phil Hartman, and Dana Carvey were splitting sides, it seemed like a prosperous place for up-and-comers like Stiller and fellow greenhorn, Mike Myers. Unfortunately, Stiller's time on "SNL" was not what he anticipated.

At the time, Stiller wanted to create pre-recorded shorts for the sketch show, akin to how Albert Brooks did in the early years. Sadly, that was not in the plans, and Stiller was limited to performing live, prompting him to leave after only four episodes. Nearly a decade later, after making a name for himself, Stiller returned to the set as a host. More recently, the comedian has been known to make cameo appearances on "SNL," particularly in 2018 with the recurring role as Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former attorney.

Gilbert Gottfried

Despite never headlining a movie or being the star of his own television series, Gilbert Gottfried was instantly identifiable for his shrill and loud voice that featured in "Aladdin" or the Aflac duck commercials. With such a successful career as a character actor, few will remember Gottfied as a cast member of "Saturday Night Live." Unfortunately, for the comedian, his time on the late-night variety show was short-lived at a time when the entire original cast of the show had stepped away.

Gottfried was hired as part of a whole new cast for Season 6. All the names that had helped start the series had moved on, including Lorne Michaels. As such, Gottfried was brought in alongside the likes of Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo, as well as a slew of other cast members whose time on the show would be short. Amidst a writer's strike and changeover between two executive producers, the 1980-1981 "SNL" season was limited to 13 episodes, with Gottfried sent packing at the conclusion of the 12th. Surprisingly, one would hardly be able to recognize Gottfried's characters during his time on "SNL," as he tended to perform with a subdued and natural voice compared to later onscreen personas.

Rob Riggle

Rob Riggle is a comedian that seemingly pops up everywhere. From being a correspondent on "The Daily Show" to being the antagonist gym teacher in "21 Jump Street," Riggle has had minor roles in a slew of popular films and television shows. Still, long before the entertainer was partaking in the "Fox NFL Sunday" pregame shows, he was a bustling stand-up comedian building a reputation alongside long-time friend and partner, Rob Huebel. The pair got their big break in 2004 when they were invited to audition for "Saturday Night Live." Unfortunately, only Riggle was invited to join the cast as a featured player for the 2004-05 season.

Riggle's time on "SNL" may have been limited to one season but he managed to form friendships with future stars such as Will Farrell, who he would later appear onscreen with in movies such as "Step Brothers" and "The Other Guys." Fittingly, the comedian admits that landing a short-lived spot on the late-night variety show helped him realize that he could make a career out of making people laugh. "That was my first job, ever," said Riggle in an interview with Uproxx. "I had a feeling that I could probably, probably, hopefully, fingers crossed, make a living doing comedy at that point, and wouldn't necessarily have to have a day job."

Robert Downey Jr.

Today, audiences cannot help but connect Robert Downey Jr. with the iconic lead Marvel role of Iron Man. Nowadays, Downey has his pick of roles following his triumphant exit from the MCU, however, before he was one of the biggest names in Hollywood, the actor had a versatile career that ranged from portraying the bully in "Weird Science" to a surprising stint on "Saturday Night Live."

Interestingly, Downey Jr. joined the star of the John Hughes film, Anthony Michael Hall, in the cast of "SNL" for a tumultuous 1985-86 season. Like many other of the repertory players of the season, Downey Jr. was let go after the season finale as the series returned to more comedic minds rather than established actors. During his time on "SNL," the future savior of the Marvel Universe delivered some entertaining impressions of musicians such as Elvis Presley and John Cougar Mellencamp, Rolling Stone selected him as the worst "SNL" cast member of all time. Subsequently, Downey Jr. would return to host in 1996's season 22 but has surprisingly not returned since.

Damon Wayans

The Wayans brothers are no strangers to sketch comedy, with Keenan Ivory Wayans creating and producing his own Fox series, "In Living Color," which featured many members of the Wayans family. However, the popular competitor to "SNL" may have never flourished if Damon Wayans had never gained the experiences that he gained with his temporary stint on the NBC variety series. Wayans joined the infamous 1985-86 "SNL" cast that featured one-season wonders like Robert Downey Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall. However, Wayans' time on the show was cut even shorter than his peers.

Wayans was fired after breaking form in his 11th episode. After rehearsing a skit as a straight-faced police officer, Wayans changed tune during the live performance, giving his character a flamboyant flare. "What happened was, Eddie Murphy had just left ["SNL"]. And so, Lorne Michaels was trying to — he thought — protect me from being compared to Eddie Murphy," Wayans shared in a 2015 interview with "The Breakfast Club" (via The Comic's Comic). "I'm like, 'Look. You give me the ball or let me go. Fire me from the team.' So, he wouldn't give me the ball, so I just switched characters during a live taping. I wanted to get fired." Michaels invited Wayans back for an appearance during the season finale and subsequently returned to host the show in 1995.

Jenny Slate

With recurring roles in "Bob's Burgers" and "Big Mouth," Jenny Slate has built a substantial career in voiceover work, especially thanks to her ongoing character, "Marcel the Shell with Shoes on." More than just a talented voice, the actress has landed some memorable live-action roles in sitcoms like "Parks and Recreation" and films such as "Venom" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once." Still, before the comedian started her notable career in Hollywood, she was making news for blundering during her "Saturday Night Live" premiere.

Slate landed a featured player role in the 2009-10 season of "SNL," putting her in the illustrious company of Will Forte, Andy Samberg, and Kristen Wiig. However, the newcomer certainly stood out during her first appearance when she accidentally dropped an f-bomb during the live performance. Canned after her inaugural season, there was speculation that Slate was let go because of her profane slip-up. "That's not why I got fired," the actress said in a 2019 InStyle interview. "I just didn't belong there. I didn't do a good job, I didn't click. I have no idea how Lorne [Michaels] felt about me. All I know is, it didn't work for me, and I got fired." On the contrary, critics enjoyed Slate's performance on "SNL," making her dismissal a controversial choice for fans.

Sarah Silverman

An undeniable comedic force, Sarah Silverman seems like a perfect fit for "Saturday Night Live." The actress has produced her own Emmy-nominated comedy series, "The Sarah Silverman Program," and made a splash in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Silverman admits that she was not ready when she was signed on as a writer and cast member for the 1993-1994 season of "SNL." Openly, she had only started her comedy career a year prior and "wrote not a single funny sketch" during her time on the series resulting in her being canned through fax, she told The Hollywood Reporter.

"I could see how it wouldn't work at 'SNL' because she's got her own voice, she's very much Sarah Silverman all the time," Bob Odenkirk told The New Yorker (who worked with Silverman at "SNL" and later on "Mr. Show"). "She can play a character, but she doesn't disappear into the character — she makes the character her. She doesn't really do character voices. She puts out stuff that she would appreciate and then you can like it or not." Interestingly, like many other former "SNL" cast members, Silverman returned to the series as a host nearly 20 years after her unceremonious dismissal.

Christopher Guest

It is extremely rare that an established and celebrated actor and director, especially one in Christopher Guest's league, would join the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in the middle of their career. Traditionally, "SNL" is a jumping-off point for budding young comedians to build themselves to the stature that Guest was already at when he signed on for the 1984-85 season. Surprisingly, Guest's addition to "SNL" happened at the same time the actor released his most memorable movie, "This is Spinal Tap," but he was already landing plenty of television and film roles.

Guest joined a collection of established comedians for the revitalized Season 10 of "SNL," including Harry Shearer, who returned after previously being a cast member in Season 5. While Guest was featured in several sketches, his most notable role was as host of the "Saturday Night News," which would be retitled "Weekend Update" when Dennis Miller took over a year later. Unfortunately, Season 10 was almost the last for "SNL" and it was briefly canceled before being saved by Lorne Michaels. However, Guest, as well as the rest of the cast and writing crew, either left the series or were fired before the show's attempt at a comeback a year later.

Joan Cusack

Having Robert Downey Jr., Damon Wayans, and Anthony Michael Hall in an "SNL" cast alongside Jon Lovitz and Dennis Miller should have worked on paper, but unfortunately, the season ended with most of the cast being removed. But the most shocking one-season wonder of the infamous 1985-86 season is undeniably Joan Cusack. Long before the actress was being nominated for Academy and Emmy awards, the voice of Jessie for the "Toy Story" franchise was part of the temporary cast that attempted to breathe life into a dying "SNL" during the mid-80s.

Amidst her time on the late-night sketch show, Cusack had some notable impressions, including parodies of Jane Fonda and Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately, aside from Cusack's professionalism and a few other bright stars from the season, nearly the entire cast was shipped out at the end of the year for even more fresh faces. Even an entire episode where famed director Francis Ford Coppola was given complete creative control failed to keep the sinking ship afloat. Sadly, while Cusack struggled to create any breakout characters in her minor stint on "SNL," the beloved actress surely would have faired better in some of the show's stronger seasons.

The Muppets

"Saturday Night Live" has allowed many future stars to make an impression on a wide audience, including a puppetry technique mastered by Jim Henson that would inevitably take the world by storm. Way back in the first season of "SNL," Henson's Muppets were a part of the original cast alongside icons such as Dan Akroyd and John Belushi. However, these were not the brightly colored family-friendly Muppets that audiences have grown to love. While Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog were making people laugh with appearances on other late-night shows, Henson created a new troupe of Muppets specifically for "SNL."

"The Land of Gorch" was unlike other Muppet projects, as it featured troll-like creatures from a fantasy planet facing adult themes such as sex and alcohol. Sadly, Henson's vision for how his puppets fit into the late-night series differed from Lorne Michaels and crew. "What we were trying to do and what his writers could write for it never jelled," Henson later told Muppet Central. "When they were writing for us, I had the feeling they were writing normal sitcom stuff, which is really boring and bland." The Muppets and "SNL" parted ways on good terms after the first season, and Henson quickly moved on in creating a new sketch show for his creations, "The Muppet Show." And the felt creatures remain relevant today with another new series on the way to Disney+, "The Muppets Mayhem."

Martin Short

Still iconic today for solving mysteries in the true crime inspired "Only Murders in the Building," Martin Short can be considered a founder of sketch comedy television. Alongside comedians like Dave Thomas and Eugene Levy, Short was one of the originators of "Second City Television (SCTV)." After a successful run on the Canadian series, Short made the jump to "Saturday Night Live" for the 1984-85 season. Bringing along fan-favorite characters like pointy-haired Ed Grimley, Short helped to reinvent "SNL" after the show lost star Eddie Murphy the year prior. Unfortunately, Short, as well as the entire cast, left the show at the end of his first season expecting the series to be canceled.

Despite his minimal run with "SNL," Short has remained a consistent guest on the series, making numerous cameos throughout the years. Additionally, Short has been invited to host "SNL" on four separate occasions, most recently sharing the duty with "Only Murders" co-star Steve Martin in December 2022. Regardless of only being a repertory cast member on "SNL" for one year, Short made a significant impact on the series — and it made an impact on him. "It was so stressful," Short said during a 2021 appearance on "Late Night with Seth Meyers." "I treated it like final exams every week. I think if I'd known I was going to be there for five years I would have taken it easy."

Billy Crystal

Martin Short and Christopher Guest were not the only one-year additions to "SNL" in 1984, they also brought along Rich Hall, Harry Shearer, Pamela Stephenson, and most notably, Billy Crystal, who had hosted the show on two separate occasions in the previous season. Interestingly, Crystal was nearly included in the first ever episode of the series back in 1975 when it was titled "NBC Saturday Night." Unfortunately, Crystal was cut out of the premiere just two hours before they were set to air.

Wanting to be a part of "SNL" from the beginning, Crystal made the most of his one year as a repertory player. The actor's parodies of Sammy Davis Jr. and Fernando Lamas have become iconic moments from the show's history, with Crystal's catchphrase, "you look mah-velous," becoming an instant sensation. The actor's performance on the late-night sketch show was so entertaining it earned him his first Emmy nomination, an award he would later win on five separate occasions. Surprisingly, Crystal never returned to "SNL" after his lone season despite becoming an A-list movie star in films such as "When Harry Met Sally" and "Monsters Inc."