‘MADtv’ Apparently Paid Better Than ‘Saturday Night Live’
In the 1990s and early aughts, MADtv was the Pepsi to the Coke of Saturday Night Live. Or maybe In Living Color was the Pepsi, and MADtv was, like, the RC Cola? In any case, MADtv was, at one point, the cool new upstart alternative to SNL, sometimes even besting its popular rival by taking bigger chances with sketches like Malcolm X in the Middle, or the time they made a pitch-perfect parody of Friends that also called out the sitcom’s glaring lack of non-white characters.
But MADtv was never as popular as Lorne Michaels’ iconic comedy institution and was ultimately canceled in 2009. This makes it extremely surprising that MADtv actually paid better than SNL?
Only two performers have ever been regular cast members on both MADtv and Saturday Night Live: Jeff Richards and Taran Killam. The always hilarious Killam recently appeared on the Inside of You podcast and revealed that MADtv wasn’t such a bad gig after all. When Michael Rosenbaum questioned Killam about his MADtv exit, the host speculated, “They weren’t paying you well there. No way.” To which Killam responded, “They were paying me $3,000 more a week than when I got SNL 10 years later. So I made more at MADtv per week than what I started getting paid at SNL.”
Sure, Lonely Island music videos and Michaels’ fancy dinners with Paul Simon don’t grow on trees, but this is still a pretty shocking discrepancy. Killam was paid $3,000 less on a network show watched by millions more people a decade later? How much less is that when you take inflation into account?
Killam, who was only on MADtv for 13 episodes, has previously highlighted the differences between the two shows, namely that, while SNL has Michaels, the “captain of the ship” who ”gives the show direction,” MADtv had “maybe one too many cooks and was a bit more chaotic creatively.” But presumably the extra three grand a week helped to make up for the chaos.
This isn’t to say that MADtv was a paragon of fair pay. Original cast member Debra Wilson revealed in 2021 that she departed the show, just a year after Killam left, in part because she found out that she was being paid less than several newly hired white male performers. So maybe that extra $3,000 wasn’t such a good thing after all.
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