Saturday Night Live has been on for an impressive 42 seasons. In that time, there have been a lot of amazing cast members… and some, erm, forgettable ones. When you think about some of the less successful cast members and hear about the people who auditioned, you might wonder what was going on during the auditions.
Some people who went on to have major success as actors, actresses and comedians tried out for SNL but didn’t make the cut. Unfortunately, all of their full auditions haven’t been released so we cannot judge for ourselves to see whether they deserved a shot or not. But when you know what they’ve gone on to achieve, it’s pretty easy to assume that – yeah – they deserved a chance. Here are 16 celebrities who got rejected from Saturday Night Live.
16. Donald Glover
When Donald Glover hosted Saturday Night Live in May 2018, a large part of his monologue was dedicated to the fact that he did audition for the show, but didn’t make the cut. When he first opened up about it, he said, “That’s not a joke, I’m just still pissed.” He apparently auditioned around the time he appeared on 30 Rock. If the audition worked out for him, who knows what would have happened to Atlanta, Solo: A Star Wars Story and all of the other projects he’s credited as writer, director, actor, etc. Still, think of all the missed opportunities!
15. Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart has had an amazing few years with hit movie after hit movie, so you cannot help but wonder why he didn’t get on Saturday Night Live. When he hosted the show for the first time in 2013, he discussed his failed audition from over a decade ago and how they asked him to do impressions, despite not being very good at impressions. He explained that he impersonated Denzel Washington in Training Day despite never seeing the movie and even tried to be Robert De Niro by only using facial expressions.
14. Aubrey Plaza
Here’s something you might not know: Aubrey Plaza was an intern at NBC in 2005 before she auditioned for SNL in 2008. Some might think that would have helped with her audition, but when she later tried out as a comedian, she didn’t make the cast even though she had also been taking improv classes and grew up watching the show. It might have been a blow, but things seemed to have worked out. Shortly after the audition, she got a part in Funny People and her most famous role as April on Parks and Recreation.
13. Jim Carrey
Jim Carrey is a comedian who is known for having his own eccentric comedy style. Some think it’s brilliant while there are others who simply might not get it. That could be the case of why he didn’t end up on Saturday Night Live after he auditioned in 1980. Lorne Michaels revealed that he wasn’t at the audition, but the people who were there said “I don’t think Lorne would like it.” He said they might have been wrong or right, but no one will ever know.
12. Geena Davis
Geena Davis auditioned for Saturday Night Live way back in the 1980s. She didn’t get end up getting cast, but things worked out pretty well for her. Not that long afterwards, she hosted the show in 1989. She then went on to star in 1991’s Thelma and Louise, which made her a household name. We could go on and on about her credits since then. SNL‘s loss!
11. John Goodman
John Goodman has hosted Saturday Night Live a whopping 13 times (and counting) since his first hosting gig in 1989. Not to mention that he has appeared on the show a handful of additional times just to play specific characters (hello Rex Tillerson). Clearly the show execs seem to love him, so why didn’t he get casted? It’s a big question that many would like to know the answer to after he auditioned in the 1980s but got rejected.
10. Lisa Kudrow
Can you imagine someone ever rejecting Lisa Kudrow, aka Phoebe from Friends, in a comedy role? How could they not see the genius of someone who would make “Smelly Cat” a classic? Looking back, Lorne Michaels admitted, “Lisa Kudrow gave a brilliant audition, but it was at the time when it was Jan Hooks and Nora [Dunn].” So, what? Too many funny women? No such thing! The audition took place pre-Friends in 1990 and it was Julia Sweeney who ended up getting the part.
9. Kathy Griffin
Some might wonder what went down during the 1990 audition for Saturday Night Live because a lot of major names were majorly snubbed. Kathy Griffin was another one who auditioned alongside Lisa Kudrow and Julia Sweeney. As we just discussed, you’ll know how this story ends. Lisa and Kathy didn’t make the cut, but Julia ended up nabbing the spot. Kathy apparently later said that she thought the show made the right choice. Her brand of humor might not be quite in line with SNL‘s.
8. Jennifer Coolidge
The name “Jennifer Coolidge” might not ring a bell, but perhaps Stifler‘s mom from American Pie will. Or the evil stepmother in A Cinderella Story? Or Paulette in Legally Blonde? Yes, now you know. The funny lady was at the popular 1995 audition alongside Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan and Cheri Oteri. The three others ended up getting cast, with Will and Cheri getting the parts right away and Chris eventually getting a callback. As for Jennifer, they never called. Looking back, she doesn’t seem to have regrets. She said in interviews the show’s environment probably wouldn’t have been good for her.
7. Paul Reubens
Yes, Pee-wee Herman himself auditioned for Saturday Night Live. Paul Reubens auditioned (not in character) in 1980. He lost out on a part, but if he had gotten the role, Pee-wee might not have ever come to fruition. Following the failed audition, he created a show around Pee-wee, a character he had been developing with Phil Hartman. Things came full circle when Paul appeared as Pee-wee on SNL‘s 11th season.
6. Zach Galifianakis
A beardless Zach Galifianakis auditioned for the TV show back in 1999. Part of his audition was shown during Saturday Night Live‘s 40th anniversary special, along with a few of the other people on this list. He might not have ended up on camera, but it wasn’t a total rejection because he was hired as a part-time writer. He went on to have some big acting roles and has hosted the show a few different times.
5. Jack McBrayer
Jack McBrayer ended up another hit NBC show, 30 Rock, but he didn’t make the cut when it came to Saturday Night Live. Jack actually tried out for SNL at the same time as Seth Meyers. The two later talked about the auditions on Late Night With Seth Meyers. Jack said, “Seth and I auditioned on the same day in July 2001 and I haven’t heard anything back yet.” FYI: The interview was from 2013. ~LOL~
4. Louis C.K.
At one time, Louis C.K. was one of the most popular hosts of Saturday Night Live. So, some people might be scratching their heads about why he didn’t end up getting a spot on the show when he auditioned. He actually auditioned as a group and everyone lucked out but him. Ouch. Reflecting in more recent times about the failed audition, he wrote in an essay for The Hollywood Reporter, “You, know, I’m so glad I didn’t get cast on SNL. I’m way better off because I host it now.” He continued, “That’s a million times cooler and more fun because to be a cast member there or a featured player or writer is a perilous, difficult, grueling office job.” It’s safe to say he won’t be hosting any time soon.
3. David Cross
David Cross is a stand-up comedian, actor, writer and producer who is known for his role as Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development. All of his performances make it pretty obvious that he has a knack for comedy, but things didn’t work out when he auditioned for SNL in the 1990s as part of the Cross Comedy troop. In fact, it’s said that the audition bombed.
2. Steve Carell
Steve Carell has been involved in countless hit comedies on television and movies, so how could he not end up on SNL? The show’s Executive Producer Lorne Michaels shed some light on the subject during the show’s 40th season. He explained about Steve and Stephen Colbert (see below). “There were lots of people who you’d see how brilliant they were, but you knew on some level that it wasn’t going to work,” he stated. Steve auditioned in 1995, which was one of the show’s “growing years,” with new cast members including Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan, Colin Quinn and more.
1. Stephen Colbert
Speaking of Stephen Colbert, the guy has his own show and has how many Emmy Awards to his name> It seems like he’s always had success as a comedian, but that’s not completely true. Back in the 1990s, he auditioned for Saturday Night Live. He did get a final callback, but ultimately didn’t score a place on the show. What’s even more interesting is that Stephen was at the callback with Tracy Morgan, who did get the job. Stephen brought it up to Tracy during an interview, but apparently Tracy didn’t remember him.