Saturday Night Live has helped launch the careers of some of the biggest stars in comedy today, from Tina Fey to Amy Poehler to Andy Samberg. And the list just keeps going on and on.
However, becoming an SNL cast member does not guarantee immediate success. Sometimes, cast members don't really become famous until years after their stints on the legendary sketch show, which premiered on Oct. 11, 1975 on NBC. If you peruse a list of past cast members, you're sure to find many stars you never knew were SNL cast members. Here are 10 of the biggest stars that quietly graced the SNL stage.
1. Robert Downey, Jr. (1985-1986)
Robert Downey, Jr. is such a mega-movie star that we kind of forgot he did other things besides kicking some tail as Iron Man. He was on SNL for one season, which probably explains why, when he's not giving taking dramatic turns, he has a brilliant sense of humor.
2. Ben Stiller (1989)
Before Ben Stiller created such memorable movie characters such as Greg Focker, Derek Zoolander and Night at the Museum's Larry Daley, he was on the small screen as a featured player on SNL in 1989. If you don't remember him, that's OK. He was only on the show for two months before he reportedly left because he wasn't able to make his own video shorts. Oh, how times have changed.
3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (1982-1985)
Long before Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus showed off her comedic talent on SNL. Though Louis-Dreyfus was a cast member for a decent amount of time and got some screen time in the "El Dorko" sketches and as her recurring character Southern beauty queen televangelist April May June, Louis-Dreyfus "was pretty miserable" on SNL, she later said.
4. Sarah Silverman (1993-1994)
We were recently reminded that Sarah Silverman was once an SNL cast member when she hosted the show for the first time on Oct. 4. Silverman's monologue included old clips of her as a plant in the audience to ask the host questions during the show's opening. If only Silverman's return to SNL could have been more triumphant.
5. Joan Cusack (1985-1986)
These days, Joan Cusack is known for a wide variety of movie genres, giving each one her classic quirkiness. But back when Cusack was just beginning her career in the 1980s, she landed a spot on SNL where she snagged some memorable screen time as a movie critic on "Weekend Update" that just couldn't find the humor in the 1985 film Out of Africa. Soon enough, she would kickstart her career in the movie Broadcast News and leave her SNL past behind.
6. Gilbert Gottfried (1980-1981)
Most of us today just know Gilbert Gottfried for his, shall we say, unique voice, but the guy actually has a career beyond that. Gotffried joined the SNL cast in 1980, and his most notable appearance on the show was answering the question, "Who is Gilbert Gottfried?" in a video short.
7. David Koechner (1995-1996)
David Koechner is one of those actors who you might not know by name, but his face is instantly recognizable. He's gotten more famous in recent years for his appearances in the Anchorman movies and The Office. Koechner's SNL stint was short, but he did help originate the "Bill Brasky" sketch, and he reprised his role when Paul Rudd hosted SNL last season.
8. Janeane Garofalo (1994-1995)
Janeane Garofalo has her own distinct brand of humor and persona, it's hard to imagine her taking on various characters on SNL every week. But she did it, even if it was brief, leaving after only five months on the show. Garofalo famously told New York Magazine that starring on SNL was "the most miserable experience of my life."
9. Paul Shaffer (1979-1980)
Paul Shaffer is best known as the musical director for The Late Show with David Letterman, and he brought those musical chops to SNL as a featured player. He also has the distinction of being the first SNL cast member to say "f**k" live on the air, so that's something.
10. Randy Quaid (1985-1986)
Randy Quaid accomplished a lot before joining the cast of SNL in 1985. He was nominated for an Academy Award for "Best Actor in a Supporting Role" for 1973's The Last Detail, and he played a very memorable character in National Lampoon's Vacation. Unfortunately, Quaid didn't have as much luck on SNL, but he found enough on the big screen after that it didn't really matter.