5 ‘SNL’ Stars Who Were Discovered on the Internet

5 ‘SNL’ Stars Who Were Discovered on the Internet

Back in the days of Saturday Night Live 1.0, training with Second City (John Belushi, BIll Murray, Gilda Radner) was the surest route to becoming a Not Ready for Primetime Player. Twenty years later, working with the Groundlings (Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman, Kristen Wiig) was the pipeline to comedy stardom. But in this century, more and more of SNL’s biggest stars have been discovered online. Here are five SNL success stories that began on the internet…

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Chloe Fineman

Okay, okay, Fineman also trained with the Groundlings. But what really got her noticed were “weird videos” and celebrity impressions she posted on Instagram. 

Celebs like Drew Barrymore herself weighed in (“@chloeiscrazy is the greatest thing”), and casting directors took note, Fineman told Bazaar. Next stop: 30 Rock.

Andy Samberg

Is Samberg the first SNL comic discovered on the internet? When Samberg auditioned, he says in SNL oral history Live From New York, “the SNL powers-that-be asked, ‘So what’s the deal with these guys?’ And they were like, ‘They’re a group and they work really well together, they have this website with all these videos,’ and there was material to be looked at if someone cared to look at it.”

The videos were funny enough that SNL hired Samberg’s Lonely Island partners Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer to write on the show as well.

Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett

As members of the YouTube comedy collective known as Good Neighbor, Mooney and Bennett amassed millions of views with videos like “Toast.” Mooney’s solo channel, aptly named “Kyle,” also had more than 100,000 followers. When the Lonely Island guys departed, SNL hired the pair in an effort to make lightning strike twice. 

James Austin Johnson

Johnson was invited to audition for SNL after his TikTok impressions of Donald Trump went “super viral,” he told Brooklyn Mag. (It didn’t hurt that he also did a killer Joe Biden.) 

Johnson knows that Trump is aware of the impression since he supposedly told a crowd, “They got a new guy doing me. I heard it’s pretty good. We don’t watch the show, it’s such an awful show. But apparently the new guy is better than Alec.” 

Please Don’t Destroy

It’s easy (and lazy?) to pin the success of Please Don’t Destroy on famous fathers, but your dad writing for SNL in the 1990s isn’t an easy formula for going viral during the pandemic. (Honestly, can you name any SNL writers who aren’t also performers? If not, it’s hard to credit nepotism for PDD blowing up on social media.)

“Watching them, they reminded me of when I was a teenager, and it was like the first time I saw (the sketch group) Stella or the first time I saw Jack Black,” says SNL’s Heidi Gardner in a Vulture interview conducted before PDD found their way to the show. “And I was just like, Holy shit. I could watch this all night long. I almost felt embarrassed of how much of a fan I quickly became.”

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