“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” For more than 40 years, Saturday Night Live has been a staple of the television industry — and has created some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.
Notable alumni of the comedy variety series include Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, Tina Fey and Adam Sandler, who have all forged their own paths in the comedy world since exiting SNL. Despite leaving the Emmy-winning series, many of the show’s biggest names still look back fondly at their time as cast members.
“I was 23 years old when I started here,” Sandler said during his May 2019 hosting gig. “I had some of the best years of my life here. I always tell [my wife and kids] how SNL was the greatest time in my life. My daughter asked me, ‘If it was the greatest, then why did you leave?’”
The Happy Gilmore star was fired from SNL in 1995 and opened up about the experience on The Howard Stern Show in late 2019.
“I was probably sad, covering up the sadness with being mad, saying ‘yeah f–k you,’” he said at the time. “I am f–king old enough now. I realize what Saturday Night Live did for me … Everything turned out great. … Maybe I would’ve never left because I’m not good at saying goodbye. They had to get rid of me somehow.”
Other SNL stars like Pete Davidson and Kate McKinnon have launched successful film careers before even leaving the comedy series. After joining the cast in 2012, McKinnon’s quirky comedic style landed her roles in 2015’s Sisters, 2016’s Ghostbusters, 2017’s Rough Night and 2019’s Yesterday.
Davidson, for his part, has starred in several movies since his 2014 SNL debut and has fascinated fans with his dating life. Despite making controversial comments about the show that sparked his career, the Staten Island native has nothing but love for his SNL family.
“I will be there as long as they allow me to be,” he told Entertainment Tonight in June 2020. “I think I’m very lucky to be on that show and I’m really lucky to have Lorne Michaels as, you know, not only a mentor and a boss, but a friend. I’ll be there as long as they allow it.”
One year later, the Suicide Squad star admitted that he wasn’t certain he’d return to Studio 8H after season 46 came to an end.
“Speaking for myself, I don’t know what the plan is. Everything’s kind of up in the air right now just depending on scheduling,” he said during an interview with Gold Derby. “It is my seventh year and that’s what the contract is usually for. [The finale] was really emotional. I worked with these guys for a fourth of my life. … I started there with acne and left with tattoos. It was just like a crazy, long period of time, and [I] wasn’t ready for the season to end yet because I was really having so much fun.”
He previously joked during a roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter in May 2021 that he was “ready to hang up the jersey” after seven seasons on the show.
Scroll down to see more of SNL’s most successful cast members.