The 4 Worst Choices ‘SNL’ Has Ever Made

How could they hire Aykroyd and Belushi? (Jim and Peter, I mean)
The 4 Worst Choices ‘SNL’ Has Ever Made

The worst decisions ever made at Saturday Night Live

There’s a lot of competition for this list, including the call to fire Chris Farley and Adam Sandler in 1995, inviting folks like Donald Trump and Andrew Dice Clay to host, giving Norm Macdonald the axe over his O.J. Simpson jokes, allowing Kanye to do a pro-Trump rant, not ripping the rasta wig off of Adrien Brody,  tempting viewers to vote Andy Kaufman off the show, and depending on your point-of-view, either hiring Shane Gills in the first place or asking him to host after kicking him to the curb. 

With those missteps in mind, here are four more of the worst decisions in SNL history…

Hiring Aykroyd and Belushi (The Brother Versions)

I’m not usually one to cry about nepo babies, but early SNL was shameless in its hiring of its stars’ considerably less talented comedy brothers. In the early 1980s, Jim Belushi tried to fill John’s role as the show’s resident force of nature, but it was impossible to measure up. When he became one of the first white men in comedy to prove that he could rap, the cringe was downright excruciating. 

If you didn’t know Peter Aykroyd was a cast member, I wouldn’t blame you — there’s not a single YouTube clip from his short tenure on the show. But there he is in the opening credits of Season Five, a picture you’ve never seen before and will likely never see again. 

Brian Doyle-Murray, you get a pass — barely. 

Spending the 1990s in the Movie Business

Blame it on Wayne’s World. After taking a decade break after Blues BrothersSNL got back into the movie-making business with one of the most successful comedies of the ‘90s. So why wouldn’t Paramount look at Saturday Night Live with dollar signs ka-chinging in its eyes? The show was a potential treasure trove of hit comedy movies, with already beloved characters brought to life by gifted comic actors. Just blow those four-minute sketches into 90-minute features and watch the money roll in.

What followed was one bomb after another, including Night at the Roxbury, Superstar, The Ladies Man, Coneheads and It’s Pat: The Movie. The string of failures doomed Lorne Michaels’ movie producer career and cast an ugly shadow over what were originally pretty funny sketches. 

Lorne Michaels’ Drunken Casting in Season 11

After a five-year exile, Michaels returned to Saturday Night Live with the chance to rebuild the show from scratch. But rather than doing what worked the first time around (hiring seasoned comedians with a strong background in Second City-style sketch comedy), he inexplicably opted for a mismatched set of movie actors including Anthony Michael Hall, Randy Quaid, Robert Downey Jr. and Joan Cusack. Hall and Downey were way too young to pull it off, and the rest of the cast failed to jell. 

Michaels decided to fix his problem by setting the cast on fire at the year’s end and starting over again in Season 12.  

Doubling (and Tripling) the Size of the Cast

The most inexplicable SNL decision of the century was continually expanding its comic roster until it was nearly impossible to fit everyone in the cast picture. Even in the show’s early years, cast members like John Belushi complained about not getting enough screen time — and that was when there were only seven comics! Now we're at 20 if you count the guys in Please Don’t Destroy (and since they’re on nearly every week, why wouldn’t you?)

These days, simple math decrees that a handful of funny people will barely get on the show at all. Earlier this year, I proposed splitting the cast in two with the dual groups alternating weeks on the show. But even that “split the baby in half” solution would result in casts larger than the original. 

A bloated cast allowed established stars like Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong a little time off to make movies, but the trade-off isn’t worth it. As Dana Carvey says all the time on his Fly on the Wall podcast, it took him years of constant screen time to reach the top of his game. Today’s SNL cast members simply aren’t afforded the luxury of getting good. 


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