With the release of yet another film starring former Saturday Night Live stars trying in vain to recapture the glories of their Lorne Michaels days - that would be The Benchwarmers starring David Spade and Rob Schneider - we figured now is as good a time as any to determine which SNLers did the best after leaving the NBC womb (or while they were still on the show), which ones fared the worst, and which ones have reached both ends of the spectrum. Below, our (purely subjective) findings. Don't agree? Leave a comment below.
1. Bill Murray, Ghostbusters – Murray plays Dr. Peter Venkman – back off, he's a scientist – who, along with his fellow ghostbusting cohorts, saves the city from the return of Gozer. But it's his effortless deadpan sarcasm that makes him the easy choice for the top of this pile.
2. Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop - Axel Foley might be the funniest, smartest cop in the history of funny, smart cops. Nobody else in any other year could have done that better than Eddie Murphy in 1984.
3. John Belushi, Animal House – Belushi plays the future Senator Blutarsky and permanently cements his place in film history with one great speech. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?
4. Will Ferrell, Anchorman - “I don't know how to put this, but . . . I'm kind of a big deal”
5. Christopher Guest, Waiting For Guffman – Guest plays Corky St. Clair, the community theater director responsible for, among other things, a stirring stage adaptation of Backdraft. This Is Spinal Tap predates his SNL work, so it doesn't qualify here. . .
6. Harry Shearer, This Is Spinal Tap – But it does count for Shearer, who was on SNL in Lorne Michaels's last season before quitting in 1980. Shearer left, too, and came back with Guest in the Ebersol years after Tap performed on the show. They did not do "Stonehenge."
7. Dan Aykroyd, Dragnet – Underrated film that actually casts Aykroyd as the straight-laced Joe Friday with Tom Hanks (not yet the drama powerhouse he is these days) as his slovenly sidekick. I actually enjoyed this one more than Blues Brothers. There, I said it.
8. Chevy Chase, National Lampoon's Vacation - “This is crazy . . . this is crazy . . .” Stiff competition here from Funny Farm and Caddyshack.
9. Mike Myers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery – Myers's tribute to English spy classics saw him interpreting James Coburn and Michael Caine as the film's titular protag and, though he denied it when asked in Live From New York, Dr. Evil is basically a Lorne Michaels imitation.
10. Dana Carvey, Wayne's World – Carvey's awkward second banana Garth is funnier than Myers's leading man, Wayne. Unfortunately, this discrepancy was not reflected in their subsequent film careers.
11. Phil Hartman, So I Married an Axe Murderer – The late, great Hartman only has a small role as a tour guide at Alcatraz, but damn if it isn't a doozy: “They took turns pissing into the bitch's eyes . . . this way to the cafeteria!”
12. Jon Lovitz, A League of Their Own – Another small part with a big impact: “The way it works is the train moves, not the station!” I wish I could nominate him for The Critic, but what can you do?
13. Chris Farley, Tommy Boy – Some people found him grating, but you'd have to be made of stone not to chuckle at this one.
14. Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer – The only Sandler film (other than Punch Drunk Love) where he actually plays a human being, instead of some weirdo who makes weird faces and voices. Could do without the ironic references to the future, though.
15. Chris Elliot, There's Something About Mary – Woogie!
16. Janeane Garofalo, Wet Hot American Summer – Some have called her the second-worst SNL cast member in history (behind the late Charles Rocket,) and her film career was never as good as some people would like it to be, but she's great as every kid's camp director.
17. Sarah Silverman, The Aristocrats – People forget she was on SNL, probably because she made, like, four appearances the whole year she was there. And in a sea of forgettable versions of “the joke,” Silverman stands out as an island of warped creativity.
18. Tim Meadows, Mean Girls – He was a trooper for nine years of SNL, and continues to play the good sport as the principal who's stuck in a world of rioting high school girls.
19. Joan Cusack, School of Rock – A forgotten Ebersol cast member, Cusack is amazing as the uptight principal. She almost steals the film from Jack Black.