Looking at 'SNL' One-Season Wonders

by Caroline Pate

It must be hard to be the first new hire from the 2013-2014 season to get fired from Saturday Night Live , but things aren't all bad for Brooks Wheelan. First of all, he's far from the first person for this to happen to. Take a look at the Wikipedia page for Saturday Night Live cast members, and you'll see upwards of 40 comedians who got the axe after just one season, or sometimes even earlier.

And while it may not be encouraging in and of itself to belong to the one-season club, Wheelan is in some pretty good company. Sure, there are a lot of one-season names that have since faded from public memory: Nancy Walls, Dan Vitale, Tony Rosato, Ann Risley, Denny Dillon... the list goes on.

But more often than not, comedians who were let go after an unusually short tenure at Saturday Night Live used it as an opportunity to move on to bigger and better things. After all, if you've made it all the way to SNL, you must be pretty talented in the first place. Here are some of the comedians to changed the story from "Was once on Saturday Night Live" to "I didn't know they used to be on SNL!" Who knows, maybe Wheelan will be the next name on the list.

Billy Crystal

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Fired: Crystal was fired after his first run on Season 10, during a tumultuous time for Saturday Night Live. Lorne Michaels had recently been re-hired, and in his re-tooling of the cast and the show's format, Crystal was not asked to return.

Since then: Crystal had the biggest moments of his career after leaving Saturday Night Live, including The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, and City Slickers. But he's become such a household name that I didn't even need to tell you that, did I?

Joan Cusack

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Fired: Season 11 of Saturday Night Live didn't connect with viewers, so Michaels saved it from cancellation by promising to hire a new cast. Thus, John's sister Joan was out.

Since then: Cusack has been a powerhouse in most of the movies and shows she's been cast in, including Working Girl, In & Out, School of Rock, and most recently HBO's Shameless.

Robert Downey Jr.

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Fired: Robert Downey Jr. was hired for the same Season 11 cast as Cusack, so like her, he got the boot before Season 12.

Since then: Downey Jr. has found more success using his wit in more serious roles like in the films Less Than Zero, Chaplin, and Natural Born Killers, although today you might know him solely as Iron Man.

Janeane Garofalo

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Fired: Actually, Garofalo wasn't fired. She quit. While Garofalo was hired in Season 20, she jumped ship before the season ended, citing a work environment that operated as a boy's club, and calling many of the sketches juvenile and homophobic.

Since then: Garofalo became the '90s resident queen of sarcasm with movies like Reality Bites and Wet Hot American Summer.

Gilbert Gottfried

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Fired: He was canned after Season 6, in which Dick Ebersol was brought on as a showrunner and subsequently fired most of the cast, including the recently-hired Gottfried.

Since then: This was one of Gottfried's first gigs, so since then he's become the squinty-eyed, shrill-voiced comedian we all know and love (or hate), most notably so voicing Iago in Disney's Aladdin.

Christopher Guest

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Fired: Post-This is Spinal Tap, Guest actually hosted "Saturday Night News," a "Weekend Update" predecessor, when he joined the show in Season 10, but ultimately found the show too demanding and decided not to return.

Since then: Guest has become the king of the mockumentary genre, making films such as A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, and For Your Consideration.

David Koechner

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Fired: Dodging threats of cancellation in Season 21, Saturday Night Live let a couple new cast members go, one of whom which was David Koechner.

Since then: He's become Champ Kind in Anchorman, and a million other bit parts in blockbuster comedy movies.

Laurie Metcalf

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Fired: Metcalf was hired in the middle of Season 6 by Dick Ebersol. But when the Writer's Guild of America strike forced the show to go on hiatus, Metcalf wasn't asked back on the show when it returned.

Since then: Metcalf won Emmys for her performance as Jackie on Roseanne.

Rob Riggle

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Fired: After some less than memorable sketches on the show, Riggle was both hired and fired in Season 30.

Since then: Riggle was hired as a correspondent on The Daily Show and has had memorable performances in big-budget comedies like Talladega Nights, The Hangover and Step Brothers and shows like Happy Endings and Children's Hospital.

Sarah Silverman

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Fired: Silverman worked on the show as both a writer and featured player, but although she appeared in a few sketches, nothing she wrote made it to air. So, Silverman was fired.

Since then: Silverman has become a singular comedic voice, working on Mr. Show with Bob and David and going on to get her own show on Comedy Central.

Jenny Slate

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Fired: Slate had some pretty memorable moments in Season 35, both good and bad. Her Tina-Tina sketches were hilarious, but she also said "fucking" on live television in her first episode. Ultimately, her contract was not renewed at the end of the season.

Since then: Jenny Slate is quickly becoming the Next Big Thing, creating the famous Marcel the Shell and having her starring vehicle film, Obvious Child, receive rave reviews.

Ben Stiller

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Fired: Stiller joined the show in the middle of Season 14, but left during the same season due to "creative differences" with Lorne Michaels.

Since then: Stiller became the Frat Pack actor we all know today, starring in films like There's Something About Mary, Reality Bites, Zoolander, Meet the Parents, and The Royal Tenenbaums.