We were pretty bummed to hear that Saturday Night Live's promising Michaela Watkins will not be returning for a sophomore year on the sketch show, after Lorne Michaels decided to do another cast shake-up. She was consistently great, whether as the frustrated straight-man Hoda to Kristen Wiig's nutso Kathie Lee, a shut-in disaster of a gossip blogger, or as bird-voiced Arinna Huffington. She laid a solid foundation this past season, and now she won't have an opportunity to build something on it. That makes us sad. It also made us think about other talented folks who only got a year to work their funnybone on the show before being let go. So we compiled a list of our five favorites!
The morbidly funny Kightlinger is known mostly for her darkly hilarious stand-up and the IFC series The Minor Accomplishments of Jackie Woodman (she was also a writer and guest-star on Will & Grace), but she was indeed a featured cast member on the 1994-1995 season of SNL. She didn't get to do much--a few impressions (Marcia Clark, Paula Poundstone) here, some background bits there--but there was something about her that just caught the eye. But since she didn't immediately pop out with any zany and memorable franchise characters, she exited the show and we never got to see where that promise might have taken her. Kightlinger is one of those comedians who almost makes it big, only to be thwarted by the cruel machinations of showbiz. Maybe a few more seasons on SNL could have inoculated her from some of the industry's slings and arrows.
Known now as the blustery fat guy in all those Will Ferrell movies, Koechner got his first big break on SNL during the 1995-1996 season. His best work was as a member of the hideously drunken quartet of middle-aged men who liked to get together and talk about their old pal Bill Brasky. The Brasky sketches were weird city, but Koechner always seemed to get every odd beat, to pick up on every sly joke. Alas he wasn't long for the late night world, though don't worry about him, he's doing fine. Koechner befriended Ferrell while they were on the show together, and he's had a steady stream of work in hit comedies both Ferrell-related (Anchorman) and independent (Thank You for Smoking). Still though, we wonder what another few seasons could have brought. Maybe a better platform for his T-Bones character, who later floundered on Comedy Central's The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show.
Short is a comedy genius, as evidenced by the wonderful Primetime Glick alone, and yet he only lasted one brief season on SNL, 1984-1985. If he had stayed longer, maybe he'd be as big a star as Will Ferrell or Bill Murray, instead of something of a comedy almost-was who had a run of good work in the 80s. Maybe bigger stardom would have kept Glick on the air for a little bit longer. Which would have been a very good thing.
Cusack is one of Hollywood's most dependable character players, always lending a slight air of insanity to what could otherwise be boring best-friend roles. Though she didn't get much time to show her comedic flair when on SNL for the 1985-1986 season. She had a funny bit as an awkward girl named Salena, but... that was about it. And just think of the stardom, the starring movie roles!, that could have ensued had America had a little more time to be inured to Cusack as not just the funny lady who shows up in her brother's movies for a few minutes (though, "That is shocking... I am shocked" may be the best moment in all of High Fidelity). Maybe she left for her own reasons, but it's hard to imagine that she would leave at the point when her career was just beginning. Ah well. She's still around, still doing her Joan Cusacky thing (with a couple of failed sitcoms under her belt to boot), but maybe if she'd had a little more profile early on, she could have been something even bigger. Sure she has two Oscar nominations, but still.
Yes, the Stiller was on SNL for exactly one year, from 1988-1989. And maybe if he'd lasted a bit longer, he could have really made something himself, maybe-- Oh, wait. No, never mind. He's done just fine.