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The Best SNL Cast Members Of The Past Decade

Since it began its run on NBC in 1975, Saturday Night Live has established itself as a breeding ground for comedic greatness, spawning stars from Will Ferrell and Tina Fey to Amy Poehler and Eddie Murphy. Showrunner Lorne Michaels and his intrepid cast have long been a magnet for creative genius, and the 2010s are no exception. This decade's cast had some big shoes to fill in the absence of departed veterans like Ferrell, Fey, Poehler, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, and more, but luckily, this group was more than up to the task.

During this decade, SNL hit a huge milestone with its landmark 45th season, and throughout the 2010s, the show has been shepherded by some of the funniest and most talented players around, whether or not they're really "ready for prime time." From SNL stalwarts to new additions and Emmy winners, here are the very best Saturday Night Live cast members of the past decade.

Kenan Thompson (2003-present)

By the end of the 2010s, Kenan Thompson became the longest-running cast member in Saturday Night Live history, with a whopping 16 and a half seasons under his belt before the show took its year-end break in December of 2019. A reliable staple of SNL since joining the show in 2003, Thompson, who got his start in the '90s on Nickelodeon's All That (another sketch show that took plenty of inspiration from SNL), is one of the most versatile comedians working today. From his pitch-perfect Steve Harvey impression to his Black Jeopardy! host, Thompson has become the heart and soul of the show, and it isn't lost on the crew behind the scenes. In 2014, Brian H. Tucker, the head writer at the time, said that when the writing staff didn't have a joke handy, they would simply write "Kenan reacts" on a cue card. Lorne Michaels has also said he relies on Thompson more than any other cast member.

Thompson has dabbled in other projects during his SNL tenure, including some feature film work, but he's said that SNL is his "forever plan," and it's easy to understand why. In 2019, SNL's constant finally won an Emmy for his work on the show; alongside one 2018 nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy, he picked up a statue for the original song "Come Back Barack," which he wrote with Chance the Rapper.

Bill Hader (2005-2013)

Despite the fact that Bill Hader spent more time on SNL during the 2000s than he did during the 2010s, a list of 21st century SNL greats would simply feel incomplete if you didn't include this versatile, clever performer. After essentially stumbling onto the show with a mostly improvised audition, Hader became one of the sketch show's best utility players, thanks to impressions of everyone from Vincent Price to Al Pacino alongside incredible original characters like Herb Welch and, of course, Stefon.

Since leaving the show in 2013, Hader has shown no signs of slowing down, steadily building up his film career with projects like 2014's The Skeleton Twins (alongside fellow SNL breakout and alum Kristen Wiig), a leading role in Amy Schumer's 2015 romantic comedy Trainwreck, a voice role as the droid BB-8 in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and a starring turn in 2019's It: Chapter 2. However, his biggest post-SNL success is definitely HBO's Barry, a dark comedy series created by Hader and Alec Berg that began its run in 2018. As Barry Berkman, a dangerous assassin who tries to reinvent himself as a Hollywood actor, Hader has proven that his talent has some serious depths — and won multiple Emmys along the way.

Bobby Moynihan (2008-2017)

After getting his start with the online sketch group Derrick Comedy — which also featured a young up and comer named Donald Glover — Bobby Moynihan joined the cast of SNL in 2008, remaining on the show and making his mark for nearly a full decade. Moynihan boasted plenty of impressions, mimicking everyone from Jersey Shore's Snooki to director Kevin Smith, but his original characters were pretty unforgettable, most of which served as correspondents during the show's Weekend Update segment. Between Anthony Crispino (a news reporter who never gets anything right), Riblet (a rowdy childhood friend of Update co-anchor Michael Che), and Drunk Uncle (which is exactly what it sounds like), Moynihan's time on SNL was certainly well spent.

Since leaving SNL toward the end of the decade, Moynihan has mostly appeared in animated features and shows, lending his unmistakable voice to projects like Inside Out, Monsters University, The Secret Life of Pets (as well as its sequel), and the DuckTales revival. In 2018, he also fronted his own show for NBC, Me, Myself, & I. Unfortunately, the show was quickly canceled, but he'll return to the small screen with a 2020 project from showrunners Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, starring alongside comedy legend Ted Danson.

Vanessa Bayer (2010-2017)

Thanks to her spot-on Miley Cyrus impersonation and an insane coterie of original characters, Vanessa Bayer's seven years on Saturday Night Live made her a comedy star on the rise, evidenced by her Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her time on the show in 2017. She also narrowly edged out SNL veteran Maya Rudolph to become the longest-running female cast member on the show, with 149 episodes to Rudolph's 146. Bayer fit in perfectly with the rest of the ensemble, bringing an earnest quirkiness to each of her roles, whether she was mimicking Friends' Rachel Green, reading her Torah portion as Weekend Update guest Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy, or misguidedly trying to sell off-brand crystals alongside Cecily Strong.

During her time on SNL, Bayer appeared in guest roles on shows like The Mindy Project and Modern Family as well as films like Trainwreck (alongside Bill Hader) and Office Christmas Party, making sure to remain visible beyond the sketch show. After 2017, Bayer went on to headline Netflix's original film Ibiza alongside Phoebe Robinson and Gillian Jacobs as well as fit in more small-screen appearances, including scene-stealing guest turns in What We Do in the Shadows and I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.

Taran Killam (2010-2016)

Like fellow cast member Kenan Thompson, Taran Killam came of age on Nickelodeon comedy shows, cutting his teeth in projects like Amanda Bynes' The Amanda Show before moving on to a gig at MADtv at just 19 years old in 2001. After several years working in television, Killam finally got his big break in 2010, when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, debuting impressions of everyone from Christoph Waltz to former Speaker of the House John Boehner as well as original characters like old-timey movie critic Jebidiah Atkinson.

Though Killam left fairly abruptly after six years on the program, his status as one of SNL's most solid utility players ensured that he wouldn't want for work after his exit. After showing his range during his SNL tenure by taking a dark supporting role in 2013's 12 Years a Slave, he returned to the small screen, appearing occasionally alongside his real-life wife Cobie Smulders on How I Met Your Mother as well as multiple turns on Drunk History. Eventually, that led to a leading role of his own on ABC's 2018 sitcom Single Parents, but Killam, a man of many talents, also boasts credits beyond his television and film work. In 2017, Killam made his Broadway debut as King George III in the smash hit musical Hamilton, joining a long line of illustrious previous Kings that included Jonathan Groff and Andrew Rannells.

Kate McKinnon (2012-present)

It's hard to imagine that anyone has played a larger volume of roles on Saturday Night Live than Kate McKinnon, whose impressions are so varied and skilled that every single mimic falls to her — in the final episode of 2019, the comedian even had to pull a seriously quick change during the cold open so that she could play Senator Elizabeth Warren as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. McKinnon's skills in the second half of the decade put her in high demand, since she could play everybody from Hillary Clinton to Rudy Giuliani to Angela Merkel without batting an eye, but McKinnon's strength when it comes to her original characters is her willingness to get as weird as possible, an admirable quality which often makes her castmates break on set.

Volumes could be written about McKinnon's SNL prowess — she won two Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy in 2016 and 2017 — but this SNL superstar apparently doesn't rest, as she also appears in plenty of other projects. On the big screen, McKinnon has headlined huge films like Paul Feig's 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, Rough Night, The Spy Who Dumped Me, Yesterday, and Bombshell, as well as television side projects like The Magic School Bus reboot (on which she voices Ms. Frizzle) and Hulu's The Dropout, where she's starring as notorious scam artist Elizabeth Holmes as well as executive produce.

Cecily Strong (2012-present)

As someone who grew up watching Phil Hartman and wearing out VHS tapes of classic SNL commercials, it was a lifelong dream for Cecily Strong to join the cast of SNL, and she achieved that momentous dream in 2012. Between her celebrity impersonations, which include multiple members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Academy Award winners Olivia Colman and Marion Cotillard (the second of which is helped by the fact that she speaks fluent French), First Lady Melania Trump, and bombastic Fox News anchor Jeanine Pirro, among many others, Strong also has plenty of original characters, including Kyra (the host of The Girlfriends Talk Show), The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party (which is pretty self-explanatory), and the airheaded British socialite Gemma.

Strong devoted most of her time to SNL during the decade, but memorably, she still found time to host the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 2015, lampooning everything from President Barack Obama's tenure to the popular podcast Serial (which she also mocked on SNL as host Sarah Koenig). Along with former SNL co-star Vanessa Bayer, she also made a memorable appearance as a bitter, angry housewife on Netflix's sketch series I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson.

Aidy Bryant (2012-present)

2012 was a strong year for freshman female performers — alongside Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant joined the cast that year and quickly became one of SNL's most valuable players. Bryant's sheer comedic talent mixed with her cheerful earnestness has made her a true SNL staple, from her alter ego Lil Baby Aidy to the flirtatious teenager Melanie, who makes it a habit to hit on any attractive dad she meets. Bryant brings incredible energy to each of her sketches and appearances; even when she breaks, it's charming — and, in some cases, can even improve a middling sketch.

Beyond SNL, Bryant has another high-profile project on the small screen; in 2019, she launched the Hulu original series Shrill, adapted from a book of essays by the same name by Lindy West. Bryant starred in, wrote, and executive produced the series, which focuses on a young woman who decides to love herself despite criticism from everyone around her. Encouragingly, her stint on Shrill likely doesn't mean the end of her time at SNL, which is excellent news for fans who love her weekly work as well as her signature show.

Beck Bennett (2013-present)

Every SNL cast needs a solid everyman, and while Beck Bennett definitely serves that purpose, he also has a truly weird side as a performer that makes his impressions and characters complex as well as completely hilarious. After joining the cast in 2013, Bennett blessed audiences with original characters like the Baby Boss (an adult man trapped in the body of a baby) and the host of the fictional talk show Inside SoCal, which he leads alongside Kyle Mooney (the two have been friends since college and frequently collaborate on SNL). As far as impressions go, Beck has a wide-ranging roster which includes political figures like Vladimir Putin and Mitch McConnell as well as celebrities like Javier Bardem, Nick Offerman, and more.

Bennett, like some of his castmates, dedicates most of his time to SNL, though he occasionally finds spare time to appear on shows like Shrill (alongside his SNL co-star Aidy Bryant) as well as the Netflix revival of Arrested Development. However, he's most valuable right where he is on SNL, and fans can only hope this excellent player sticks around for as long as possible.

Leslie Jones (2014-2019)

Leslie Jones might have had one of the shorter SNL stints of the decade, but it doesn't make her time on the show any less memorable. Jones' origin story could rival that of any superhero; after randomly performing in front of Chris Rock, he wrote her name down on a list he keeps of people he finds funny, and the sky was the limit from there — Rock was instrumental at getting Jones her gig at 30 Rockefeller Center.

Throughout her SNL career, Jones served as both a writer and a cast member, and though she often struggled with character work, she shone when she was allowed to play to her strengths, including her appearances as herself during Weekend Update. As the oldest incoming cast member at 47 years old and one of two African-American female performers during her tenure, Jones changed the landscape of the show for the better, and though she exited ahead of SNL's landmark 45th season, her time on the set put her on a path to stardom.

Mikey Day (2016-present)

Many SNL writers go on to join the cast full time, and this is the exact journey that Mikey Day took after becoming one of the show's writers in 2013. Day, who had previously worked with Taran Killam on Wild 'n Out, wrote plenty of sketches with his longtime co-star, and his hard work clearly paid off; in 2016, he was finally promoted and became a featured player.

Day appeared in tons of sketches in the second half of the decade, but one of his most memorable came early in his career. In 2016, he played one of the two dancing skeletons alongside Tom Hanks' David S. Pumpkins in a sketch that went massively viral, which made Day instantly recognizable to SNL fans. Since then, he's played everyone from Donald Trump Jr. to Willie Geist, but Day does his best work when playing a befuddled straight man, letting his reactions continuously escalate as weirder characters work around him.

Alex Moffat (2016-present)

Often paired alongside Mikey Day, Alex Moffat also became a featured player in 2016 after training extensively at several different improv institutions in Chicago, including the Second City. Much like his co-star Day, Moffat is fantastic at playing bewildered straight men, but he also boasts an impressive arsenal of impressions, including Billy Bush, Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough (opposite Kate McKinnon's Mika Brzezinski), Prince William, Chuck Schumer, and most amusingly, Eric Trump, who often appears alongside his brother Don Jr. (played by Day).

However, every new performer on SNL hopes to lock down their legacy with a recurring Weekend Update character, a goal Moffat met with "Guy Who Just Bought a Boat." A pompous, preppy jerk who peppers dating and life advice with frequent references to his lacking manhood, the character was a runaway hit, and throughout his run, he's been joined by celebrities like Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds.

Heidi Gardner (2017-present)

The 2010s offered up a bounty of incredibly funny women on Saturday Night Live, and Heidi Gardner, who joined the show as a featured player in 2017, made for a perfect addition to the cast. Gardner, who worked as a hairdresser before booking the gig of a lifetime, has sharp comedic timing and the ability to mimic any number of accents and voices, serving as a perfect utility player for any sketch.

Gardner is one of the show's most versatile performers, appearing in several sketches per show. She got her start with a few recurring Weekend Update characters, including Bailey (a teenaged movie critic) and Every Boxer's Girlfriend, who's always on the verge of taking the kids and going to stay with her mother. While Gardner is versatile enough to play just about any part, these original characters have become her calling card, serving as a bright spot during several lackluster Weekend Update segments.