The 7 Best Recurring 'Saturday Night Live' Characters Originated by Non-Cast Members

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The 7 Best Recurring 'Saturday Night Live' Characters Originated by Non-Cast Members

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | December 10, 2013 | Comments ()


There are not a great many recurring characters on Saturday Night Live originated by non-cast members. It takes a special combination of factors for that to happen, specifically a great guest host is who not only good enough to create a memorable character, but popular and enduring enough to host Saturday Night Live on multiple occasions. That’s more rare than you’d think over the 38 year span of SNL. Honestly, there are only a handful of hosting candidates even eligible, and expectedly, the list is dominated by — in my opinion — the two greatest hosts in SNL history: Justin Timberlake and Tom Hanks, the latter of whom I personally believe is the show’s best overall host, owing to the fact that, during his heyday, Tom Hanks was the perfect comedic voice for the show and a spectacular complement to the late 80’s/early 90’s cast. He was so omnipresent on the show, and so good that — like Steve Martin — some often assume that he is a one-time cast member.

He is also dominant on the list of the list below of the best recurring SNL characters originating with a non-cast member.

The Barry Gibb Talk Show (Watch Here)— One of two Justin Timberlake sketches on this list, the first time they brought out this bit was the first time I ever really loved Jimmy Fallon. What’s interesting about this sketch is that it’s recurred five times, but only in the first was Fallon a cast-member, so the other four times neither Barry nor Robin Gibb were played by existing cast members. The sketch has been excellent all five times, but nothing beats the first, when Timberlake couldn’t keep a straight face.

The Stand Ups (Watch) — Debuting in the 85-86 season, before Seinfeld, Tom Hanks basically does a perfect Jerry Seinfeld impression, satirizing the banality of his stand-up act at the time. Mocking the “What’s the Deal?” jokes was a thing long before the sitcom came around (I had forgotten how popular Jerry Seinfeld was before Seinfeld).

Girl Watchers (Watch Here) — I may be wrong, but I am fairly sure that Tom Hanks appeared with Jon Lovitz each time this sketch aired. Debuting during the 87-88 season, pretty much every guy in America quoted this sketch after getting rejected by a woman. I know I did, and I was only 12.

The Continental (Watch Here)— I had originally thought that “More Cowbell” may have been a Walken recurring sketch, but he actually only appeared on it the first time (it was a Ferrell sketch), though Walken debuted “The Continental” during the same episode. It’s a sketch that would never work with anyone except Walken. Interestingly, the voice-over at the beginning of the sketch is provided by Phil Hartman, and the same voice over has been used three times since Hartman’s death.

Mr. Short Term Memory (Watch Here) — Not only the best Hanks’ recurring character, but one of my all-time favorite SNL sketches (along with Massive Head Wound Harry), this is the sketch — debuting in 1988 — that I think made Tom Hanks an SNL sensation. It was also the perfect complement to the style of sketch that succeeded in the late 80s, like “Toonces, the Driving Cat” (which debuted during the same season).

The Festrunk Brothers (Watch Here) — Steve Martin’s half of the sketch, Yortuk, was so popular that he actually appeared on Martin’s 1979 record (Wild and Crazy Guy), which won the year’s Grammy for Best Comedy album. Given that the Festrunk Brothers reappeared last season, and debuted in 1977, I think that means this is the longest-running recurring character in SNL history. Aykroyd, God Bless him, looked every bit like a guy that’s been doing the sketch for 36 years.

Mascots (Watch Here) — This generation’s Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake immediately positioned himself as one of the most popular hosts in this show’s history with his first appearance in “Omeletteville,” and there was no doubt that they’d bring the character back when Timberlake hosted again. In fact, I think Timberlake may be the only contemporary host that currently has recurring characters on SNL, save for Jonah Hill’s Adam Grossman. “Mascots” has recurred in each of Timberlake’s six hosting stints, and it’s always a crowd-pleasing hit.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • with_club_sauce

    "The generation's Tom Hanks".


  • Sara_Tonin00

    Let's not forget that Timberlake was on the Mickey Mouse Club. He knows his way around a skit.

  • Calla Dain

    Bring It On Down To Omeletteville!

  • Phil Hartman! oh, I will never cease to be sad about him.

  • Tammy

    So, I was an alt-rock kid in a Boy Band World in high school; following the grungetastic days of my big brother's high school years, the music scene of my late-90s teenaged life was a wasteland of cavity-inducing pop nonsense, or, (even worse), the hacky, screamy bro-sounds of LImp Bizkit and Kid Rock. No one was listening to the kind of music I liked, and I blamed the N*Syncs of the world for all of it.

    All of this to say, I HATED Justin Timberlake and everything he stood for.

    Until Omeletteville.
    God help me, I resisted. Through the earlier sketches, I thought "OK, he's kind of funny, but still. It's JT. It sucks by association."
    But when he showed up as a singing, dancing breakfast of charisma, my cold little alt-girl heart melted.
    Thank you, JT, for donning that omelet. (And also for Dick in a Box, which my boss and I watched roughly 27 times in the office the day after that aired.)
    I may not buy your records, but I will watch EVERY time you're on SNL.

  • Ian Fay

    Walken hasn't been on in ages, and I really wish he'd come back.

  • e jerry powell

    Talk to the troll that's guarding the bridge. Cand1ce Bergen hasn't been on in forever either.

  • Ian Fay

    As much as I love Candace Bergen, it's not like she's doing anything these days.

    Walken comes out with a movie more often than I get my haircut. He's gotta be promoting something...

  • e jerry powell

    It's not as though she's been completely useless. Bergen is a five-timer (the first woman who could say that). She hasn't hosted since 1990 (the peak of Murphy Brown), and her last uncredited appearance was at Justin Timberlake's joining the five-timers club this year. The fact that Walken still has projects to push at age 70 while Bergen, at 67, is mostly doing supporting work on TV and in the occasional film is opening a can of worms that is perhaps best left unopened at present.

  • Three_nineteen





    We now return you to your regularly scheduled comments thread.

  • For once Canada has the jump on you guys, we have had it on our Netflix forever, love it!

  • Three_nineteen

    Oops. Netflix Instant has Spaced now. As of 12/17 it will no longer be on Netflix Instant.

  • Ahh my bad, that's a shame they are taking it away.

  • Reach

    Fairly certain The Continental goes way back to the early 1990s, not the Cowbell episode.

  • fracas

    This is true. I remember watching The Continental when it aired when I was a kid back in the 90's, but I didn't see the cowbell sketch until years after it came out. I wasn't watching SNL anymore then.

  • Alec Baldwin's Tony Bennett is pretty good. I assume you're only using non-impression characters?

  • There you go! Tony Bennett!

    It's a great, great... greatgreat impersonation.

  • At first blush, I thought this list was incomplete for not including some of Alec Baldwin's reoccurring characters. But aside from Pete Schwetty - who I think he only performed twice - I couldn't think of any.

  • pajiba

    I looked that one up to make sure (because it was my first thought, too), but yeah, that sketch appeared a couple of times w/out Baldwin.

  • What's nuts about Baldwin is the indelible mark he's made as host. He's had scores of memorable characters. Just not *reoccurring* characters - which is an interesting distinction.

    Compare him to John Goodman - who's hosted nearly as many times... I can't think of a single character he's performed (reoccurring or not) that's left a big mark except maybe Linda Tripp during the Clinton/Lewinsky years.

    Of course, he hasn't hosted since 2001, either.

  • Aaron Schulz

    It wasnt recurring but you just reminded me of a bit where Goodman played a new orleans cajun chef guest spotting on Phil Harmans Anal Retentive Chef recurring character. Its a opposites thing but something about it is amazing, i think its just Hartman and Goodman selling the shit out of their characters, now i need to find that bit.

  • Sean

    Isn't Goodman hosting this week?

  • Actually, yes he is. With Kings of Leon as musical guest!

  • JenVegas

    Isn't Goodman one of the Da Bears' Superfans?

  • Gentleman Farmer

    That's George Wendt I think, and that's a recurring sketch that always had him in it.

  • JenVegas

    Nope. Goodman joined them after Mike Myers left SNL. But also Wendt...he was an OG Superfan.

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