Since its inception in 1975, the hit late-night comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live has often been called a “boy’s club” that churns out the best in male comedians and comedy writers. From Bill Murray to Eddie Murphy, there is a staggering list of male celebrity movie stars who are SNL alums, including lesser-known cast members like Robert Downey Jr. and Billy Crystal. But what about the women? These are a few of the ladies who managed to break through the so-called boy’s club and find amazing careers beyond the NBC soundstage.
As of 2015, Kristen Wiig was the only woman on FiveThirtyEight’s ranking of the most lucrative SNL stars. Her films also enjoy the second-most critical acclaim of any SNL-alum projects (after Christopher Guest, of course). It’s a stunning achievement for the fiercely intelligent, 43-year-old Wiig, who rose to fame as a cast member on SNL from 2005 to 2012. She’s also my secret reason to hop onto that stationary bike! Wiig’s financial successes include her voice roles in the animated trilogies Despicable Me and How to Train Your Dragon. She has returned as a host and special guest on SNL multiple times since her departure.
Not many people remember that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was an SNL cast member from 1982 to 1985, and she remains tied with Abby Elliot as the youngest woman ever on the show. After going on to conquer television with shows like Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and Veep, most people simply wonder how much she’s worth. Truthfully? Around $200 million from her acting projects alone. She has starred in twelve films, including lending her voice to animated characters in A Bug’s Life and Planes. She has also won the Emmy award for lead actress in a comedy for Veep every year from 2012 to 2016.
When it comes to subverting the male-dominated SNL rules, Tina Fey’s name is the usually the first one that comes to mind. Fey was a cast member from 1997 to 2006 and became the show’s first female head writer in 1999. In 2004, she wrote and co-starred in the smash hit high school film Mean Girls, that is set to be turned into a musical in the fall of 2017. From then, she went on to write and star in a television series based on her career at SNL called 30 Rock. Fey and her former “Weekend Update” cohost on SNL, Amy Poehler, have become a hugely successful duo of female comedians and celebrity movie stars.
Tina Fey’s partner in crime, Amy Poehler, joined SNL in 2001 and remained for seven seasons. The Massachusetts native got her start at Chicago’s Second City improv troupe before moving on to New York’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade. After her stint at SNL, Poehler headlined the ensemble cast of NBC’s sitcom Parks and Recreation. The award-winning show lasted until 2015. Fey and Poehler have hosted the Golden Globes together three times. Poehler is also active in women’s issues and a co-founder of the organization Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.
Versatile 36-year-old actress Casey Wilson was on SNL from 2008 to 2009 and later admitted that the show was not a “good fit” for her. However, she has gone on to many lucrative television and film roles, starring in the ABC sitcom Happy Endings and appearing in films such as Gone Girl. Wilson is also part of a new generation of comedians, embracing the technological age with her successful podcast “Bitch Sesh”, which discusses the Bravo show The Real Housewives of New York City.
Saturday Night Live remains an amazing source for discovering comedic talent, and there is little doubt that celebrity movie stars will continue to find their start there in America. But along the way, the show has proven to be more than a stomping ground for men only. These ladies and many more represent the best and brightest talent that comedy has to offer.
Images credit: NBC
Mike Jones is a Boston University graduate, with an MS in Mass Communication. He is wild about all things entertainment such as TV series, movies, and comics. His all-time favorite shows include It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Californication, and Sons of Anarchy.