The One Left Behind
Dan Aykroyd racked up hits with SNL’s Eddie Murphy in Trading Places and Bill Murray in Ghostbusters—then flopped with his forgotten directorial debut, Nothing But Trouble, bottoming out in Crossroads, as Britney Spears’s dad.
Once the most precocious SNL alum, Eddie Murphy plummeted from the heights of Beverly Hills Cop. After lampooning Mr. Rogers and playing blue in Raw, he got caught with a pre-op transsexual prostitute named Shalimar in 1997, but recovered at the box office by churning out enough parent-approved pap (Daddy Day Care and the upcoming Daddy Day Camp) to shrug off his flop Pluto Nash.
Big in Atlantic City
Only Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy survived the SNL purge of 1981; now Piscopo, a cancer survivor, is back on the casino circuit. Last spotted performing on the Ameristar Casino Hotel riverboat in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Mike Myers played the game brilliantly, writing his own script—and check—with Austin Powers ($690 million worldwide—not counting Dr. Evil plushies); now he’s minting money with the green-machine Shrek.
After losing his funnier half, Chris Farley, to drugs, the floppy-mopped David Spade hibernated for six long sitcom years on Just Shoot Me. Now the 1-800-COLLECT vet is mouthing the “Yeah, It’s Like That” slogan for Sierra Mist soda. Up next: a cartoon animal named “Scuzz.”
Colin Quinn smartly stuck with stand-up, emceeing clubs and booking his comic brethren on Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd.
Wild and Crazy Auteur
Frequent guest Steve Martin used SNL to take his career to the next level, then blazed the Tom Hanks route, balancing comedic box-office ca-ching (The Jerk) with critical respect (L.A. Story). Now he can play goofy dads by day (Cheaper by the Dozen) and host the National Book Awards at night.
Jane Curtin played it safe with Kate & Allie, then coasted on 3rd Rock From the Sun; now she’s cashing residual checks in perpetuity.
Hall of Famer
The Caddyshack groundskeeper and loverboy Ghostbuster Bill Murray is one of the only alums to be taken seriously as an actor. He selected smart roles with young directors—a strategy that brought him an Oscar invite with Lost in Translation.
Chevy Chase’s fatal mistake may have been lip-synching on Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” video in 1986. Before “Call Me Al”: Fletch, Vacation, Caddyshack, and ¡Three Amigos!. After: Fletch Lives, The Chevy Chase Show, and an upcoming role as “Voice of Cho-Cho” in The Karate Dog.
John Belushi earned his wild-man immortality in 1978’s Animal House—but he overplayed the wild-man act off-screen, dying four years later from a coke-and-heroin overdose.
Hyperactive wacko Rob Schneider tried far too hard: impersonating women in The Hot Chick and, worse, aping apes in The Animal. The new low: Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, with Eddie Griffin.
Only Chris Rock, the funniest man in America, could survive flops like Pootie Tang ($3 million gross) and preserve his own TV-special-and-concert-tour empire.
Mr. Right Now
Underrated Will Ferrell played to his strengths and jolted the box office with Old School, then shocked everyone with Elf. Next up: the summer comedy Anchorman and the Steven Soderbergh–scripted adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces.
Unlikeliest Leading Man
Fresh out of SNL, nobody but Adam Sandler would have cast the spastic “Chanukah Song” singer as a romantic lead—so he co-wrote Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison and started his own production company. A superstar, so long as he stays away from prestige projects like Punch-Drunk Love.
SNL’s women just don’t get the marquee parts men do, so deserving actresses like Nora Dunn (Ginny in Working Girl; “British designer” in Zoolander) must make the most of supporting roles.
Al Franken, writer and star of 1995’s Stuart Saves His Family ($900,000 gross), somehow became one of the country’s most influential political figures—in print, and on radio.