2 Idiots Draft: The Saturday Night Live Fantasy Draft

Two pop culture aficionados. One historic but deeply flawed television show. Dozens of improv comedians, breakout stars and abject failures. Children, we present the Pop Culture Has AIDS official Saturday Night Live fantasy draft.

David Simon Cowell and I each drafted a cast from among every SNL player and cast member of all-time. The goal: to cull the best possible cast and create the best possible imaginary version of SNL.

First overall pick?

The rules:

  • We each draft 10 cast members in a fantasy-sports-style snake draft.
  • We must draft at least two female cast members.
  • We must draft at least one non-Caucasian cast member.
  • We must draft at least one Weekend Update host who actually performed those duties on the show.
  • When evaluating our casts, the biggest factor is what each actor or actress did while on SNL; however, extracurricular activities and post-SNL careers can also be considered to a smaller degree.
  • We must draft at least one cast member from each decade SNL was on the air, including the current decade.

Here we go. Party on, David Simon Cowell. Party on, Dilemma. (ugh)

1st Round

David Simon Cowell
In the first round of any draft, I think you have to go with the most talented person on the board.  And as much as this hurts me, Mr. Murray, the most talented cast member in SNL history was without a doubt the young and vibrant Eddie Murphy.  Any doubts?  Then take a look at his Best Of, the strongest in the show’s history, which he put together with the weakest cast of all… I seriously doubt anybody he performed with will get drafted (or would even if we went 25 rounds). Although I do know you’re a big Piscopo fan…

The Dilemma
With my first choice, I’m taking Bill Murray. I would’ve taken Eddie too with the first overall pick (and I’m actually shocked you took him given your known love for Murray, the Cubs and all things Chicago), but Murray’s not a bad consolation prize. The first pick of a draft like this has to be a superstar, capable of carrying the show on their back, with the ability to make the show entertaining even when nothing else is working — when the material’s weak, when the other cast members are inept or drunk, when the guest host is an athlete or politician. And Murray can provide that for me. He’s got the raw charisma, he’s got the reliable characters and he’s got that certain je ne sais quoi that a cast anchor needs. Murray will show up each week and guarantee a reason to watch, even if the rest of my cast sucks. Which they won’t, because…

2nd Round

The Dilemma
With my second pick, I’m taking Phil Hartman. He’s the most versatile cast member in SNL history, he’s got unquestioned professionalism, and he’s one of the best impressionists the show’s ever had. He can play the straight man and he can be the comedic focus of the sketch with equal aplomb. And his stint on Newsradio showed that he’s capable of more than SNL ever asked of him. Hartman’s my rock, and he’ll appear in more sketches per show than anyone else in my cast.

David Simon Cowell
Now that it’s getting a bit more difficult, I’m going to go with the most versatile performers left… Dana Carvey.  Probably because his career completely collapsed after SNL, and that he’s best known as a sidekick in a Mike Myers sketch, his dominance of a pretty strong ’80s cast is forgotten.  He was debatably the best impersonator in SNL history… his Bush Sr. may be the best Presidential impression.  But he could also do original characters with the best of them.

3rd Round

David Simon Cowell
And I’ll take Will Ferrell… this one is surprisingly hard, because I hated so many of his original characters on SNL (the Night at the Roxbury guys, the cheerleaders, the music teachers, etc.)  But toward the end of his run he toned down the silliness to make his characters funnier, and of course he was a great impressionist… his Bush Jr. is the other possibility for best Presidential impression, plus his Trebek, Lipton, Harry Caray, etc. were brilliant.  And there’s also his cowbell sketch.

The Dilemma
I would have struggled with whether or not to take Ferrell here because of the Look At Me, I’m Doing Something Funny Damnit! syndrome. There’s no denying that he is indeed funny, but he’s also such an attention hog that he can detract from sketches at times. That being said, I’m about to deal with that contradiction myself by taking…

John Belushi. Explosive talent, loose cannon, attention hog. I’m taking the good with the bad here, and if I have a say in it, I’ll utilize Belushi wisely. He won’t appear in many sketches, only coming out when the show needs a dose of high energy.

4th Round

The Dilemma
With my fourth pick, I’m going with positional scarcity and selecting Tina Fey. In the same way you take shortstops higher than you otherwise would in fantasy baseball drafts, because there are so few good ones, you have to take any female cast member with a modicum of talent and accomplishment higher than she probably deserves. Fey can serve as my Weekend Update anchor if I don’t take someone else down the road, giving me added flexibility. She’s obviously bringing that killer Palin impression to the table, and I think she was under-utilized in sketches during her run on the show. Her episodes as host have shown a better-than-previously-thought versatility. Plus, she’s cute and so damn lovable.

David Simon Cowell
Because you decided to ruin my draft, I’m forced into taking Tina Fey Lite… Amy Poehler.  Can do Weekend Update as well, and I need a recent vintage of SNL chick… they just didn’t have much to do until recently.  After the two of them, the list of women gets really narrow.

5th Round

David Simon Cowell
I’m also going to go niche with my second choice and grab the best all-time Weekend Update anchor… Norm MacDonald.  Anyone who pissed off NBC management so much that they forced his ouster is in my wheel-house, plus he was the only good ESPY host (insert Charles Woodson joke here).  And I think his recent return on Sports Show shows he still has his chops.

The Dilemma
With my next pick I’m taking my favorite current cast member, Bill Hader. He’s incredibly underrated — people think of him as just an impressionist, but he creates good, interesting characters, does good Weekend Update guest segments and can fit in to almost any sketch. He’s another versatile, Hartman-esque guy for me. I’m loading my team with the equivalent of players who qualify at multiple infield positions in baseball.

6th Round

The Dilemma
My second pick here might be a bit of cheat, but I think it’s technically valid within our rules. I’m taking Robert Smigel. He was a featured player on the show, appearing in sketches from 1991-93, but obviously I’m grabbing him for his animated short films. Those are crucial in breaking up the monotony of the show, and adding something different than just presidential impressions and fake game shows. And I’m gonna work him into the ground.

David Simon Cowell
I can’t take the risk of you taking both the two good 70s left… it’s hard because they’ve both been so unfunny for so long.  I’m going with Chevy Chase.  Although I’ve certainly seen clips of the ’70s, I wasn’t there, so I have to go on legend.  And Baby Boomers revere Chase’s time on SNL… he was the far and ahead breakout star… it wasn’t until he left that even Belushi started getting noticed.  Aykroyd probably has a broader body-of-work, but I’m grabbing Chase for the charisma.  I’ll pair him with Murphy as my Manny and Papi.

7th Round

David Simon Cowell
As my Smigelesque cheat, I’m taking Ben Stiller.  He was only on for four episodes, but that seems like it was because of some personality or whatever problem.  Because he went over to Fox and killed it on his own sketch comedy show (regardless of how long it lasted).  If I can just get him to sublimate his ego a bit, he’d be a nice role player with the potential to lead (let’s say my Lamar Odom) behind Chase and Murphy.

The Dilemma
Yep, I’m taking Aykroyd. He’s not my favorite or anything, but he’s solid and reliable, and I can now re-team him with Belushi. I’m envisioning a Blues Brothers competition where Aykroyd and Belushi enter a dance off with Jim Belushi and Goodman. And…umm…Coneheads? Sweet.

8th Round

The Dilemma
Then, I’m going with Tracy Morgan. He’s obviously blossomed post-SNL, and keeping him with Tina Fey will be good for both of them. She’ll keep him honest and he’ll keep her loose. Morgan will also be good for some free publicity at least a couple times a year when he makes headlines for whatever crazy shit he’s done now. Also, I would have felt weird going with an all-white cast. I wouldn’t want to have to do a Fred Armisen-as-Obama type thing.

David Simon Cowell
I’m going to go with another guy who had a cup of coffee at SNL, but was also let go because of non-performance issues (ad-libbing and changing a sketch while it was one the air)… Damon Wayans.  He was the most talented member of In Living Color (which was better than SNL during its first few seasons).  Plus, he’s going to be a great sidekick with Eddie Murphy.

9th Round

David Simon Cowell
Although he’s not a favorite of mine, my cast is bit cerebral at this point, so I’m going to fill the slapstick gap with Chris Farley.  Like Will Ferrell, he also had some super-annoying moments, but his highlights (the motivational speaker, the Chippendales dancer, the interviewer) were some of the strongest laugh-out-loud moments in the show.  Plus I can’t ignore the reverence his fellow castmates had for his talent.

The Dilemma
I didn’t want any part of having Farley and Belushi in the same cast, for a lot of reasons, but primarily because the two of them would constantly be competing for attention and trying to one-up each other with fatty-fall-down antics.

We’re getting down to scraps here — even among everyone who’s ever appeared on SNL, it’s not easy to assemble a great cast. With my second-to-last pick, I’m taking Chris Elliott, because I think my casts needs his left-field, oddball mentality. I’m set on straight men, and set on “wacky hijinks” with Belushi and Morgan, but Elliott will bring a different dimension. I’m picturing him starring in one or two late-show, writers’-pet sketches that give off that “I can’t believe I just saw that on network TV” vibe. Elliott was disappointing on his SNL run, but proved he can nail sketch comedy with Letterman, and proved he can carry a show with Get a Life.

10th Round

The Dilemma
I guess that I have to take another chick with my last selection. So many wonderful choices. Should I take Victoria Jackson to attract the crazed, right-wing audience? Or that ugly woman whose only job was to play Tori Spelling? Nah. I’ll go with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss. Just for sheer likability.

Your turn — who is this draft’s Ms. Irrelevant?

David Simon Cowell
Wow… I guess Chris Elliott had his moments on Letterman, but he’s never been a favorite of mine.  No way I would pick him over a bunch of people left.

It’s definitely a mistake on our collective parts that Mike Myers wasn’t drafted… he’s annoying, but is a really strong sketch/character guy.  Ditto with Billy Crystal.  I would have taken both of them over Morgan/Elliott/Akroyd.

I need both a woman and a current cast member, so I’ll go with Kristen Wiig.  I haven’t watched the show in at least a decade, but she was funny in Knocked Up.   To me the weakest categories are women and current cast, so I’ll combine them so they only polluate one spot. And if Bridesmaids hits (not that I’m counting on it), maybe I’ll get some value there.

The Results

David Simon Cowell’s Cast
Eddie Murphy
Dana Carvey
Will Ferrell
Amy Poehler
Norm MacDonald
Chevy Chase
Ben Stiller
Damon Wayans
Chris Farley
Kristen Wiig

The Dilemma’s Cast
Bill Murray
Phil Hartman
John Belushi
Tina Fey
Bill Hader
Robert Smigel
Dan Aykroyd
Tracy Morgan
Chris Elliott
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss

The Breakdown

DSC: Looking at my squad, I’m feeling pretty good.  I have Murphy and Chase, the two biggest break-out stars in the show’s history, as the leading men.  I’ve got Carvey and Ferrell to do topical impressions and memorable characters.  I’ve got Stiller as the swingman, able to go into either category, plus making some little movies.  I’ve got Wayans to team with Murphy to do some actually relevant black sketches (which SNL has never done, leading to In Living Color’s popularity), and to do characters.  I would try to team him with Stiller in stuff as well, which I think would work.  I’ve got the best ever Weekend Update anchor in McDonald, plus Chase and Poehler to do bits.  I’d try to paid Poehler with MacDonald, but if the chemistry doesn’t work (I actually think it would) I’ll go with him and use her in sketches. I’ve got  Farley for the fatty-fall-down stuff that’s super popular. And hope that Wiig shows she has versatility… if not, just have her do her Knocked Up schtick every once in a while, which is really good.

Besides the two I mentioned, I think the only other people who could make a claim of being overlooked are the Spinal Tap trio.  Of the three, I think the best fit is Harry Shearer.  He’s more of a Stiller/Wayans pick (although he did have many more moments on the show… his sketch with Christopher Guest as synchronized swimmers might be the best in the show’s history).  That he was made a cast member in 1979 to fill the hole left by Belushi and Ackroyd shows he was pretty good back then as well (although he obviously didn’t succeed).  Guest would be a great guy to make shorts for the show. McKean seems like the one without a case… more of an actor than a sketch guy.

I guess a case could be made for Martin Short, based both on his popular characters on SNL and the stuff he did on SCTV… I’ve never really found him funny though.

The only Kids in the Hall (Mark McKinney) doesn’t have a case.  It probably doesn’t help that he’s at best fhe fourth of that five.  And the  other veteran of The Ben Stiller Show was an absolute travesty… SNL to me marks the definitive moment where Jenneane Garofalo went from lovably crusty to unbearably shrill (and that was 15 years ago).

TD: Mike Myers was a definite stay-away for me. He’s emblematic of a type of cast member I don’t want anywhere near my show: the self-satisfied, smirking guy who tries to turn every one of his characters into a breakout character, and shoves them down our throats ad nauseum, no matter how unfunny they may be. (Remember Simon, the little English boy in the bathtub?) I’d put Myers, Adam Sandler, Carvey, Jimmy Fallon and Wiig into this category, at the least. They all annoy the fuck out of me. And Billy Crystal? No fucking way do I  want that pseudo-Catskills hack polluting my show.

My strategy for this draft was two-fold: 1) lock up Fey early, and 2) Stay away from the bigger names in favor of versatility and consistency. I think I stuck to my goals pretty well. I’m thrilled to have Phil Hartman, I’ve got Bill Murray as my ace, and I’ll deploy people like Belushi and Tracy Morgan sparingly when the show needs energy. I also love having Smigel for the TV Funhouse stuff. Who knows, since it’s an NBC show, maybe I can convince him to let Triumph the Insult Comic Dog make occasional appearances.

I think your cast has the potential to knock it out of the park on any given night, but I’ll take mine for putting on a consistently entertaining show week in and week out (which is something else SNL has never done — something that became easily apparent as we discovered how difficult it is to find 10 decent cast members from the show’s entire run).

Bonus! We Draft the Worst SNL Cast Member of All Time

The Dilemma
For our mini-draft of the worst cast members of all time, I’ll grab with the esteemed senator from Minnesota, Al Franken. Holy shit, I don’t know what this guy had on NBC executives, but I don’t know how he was allowed to appear on the show as often as he did over the years. His Weekend Updates guest spots were insufferable, and Stuart Smalley is one of the worst recurring characters (and movies!) of all time. The Decade of Al Franken — ha ha ha ha! Great stuff!

David Simon Cowell
My number one bad draft choice may be a “had to be there” thing.  I don’t think I will be able to convey to my children the dread that filled me whenever I heard Dennis Miller introduce A. Whitney Brown. I still have nightmares about the five minutes that felt like an hour, the awkward chuckles from the audience, the screaming of “why is he on tv again!” that filled my head.  Watching him on SNL was like watching Todd Collins in the NFC Championship game.



Filed under David Simon Cowell, Television Has AIDS, The Dilemma

5 responses to “2 Idiots Draft: The Saturday Night Live Fantasy Draft

  1. Pingback: 2 Idiots Draft: The Beastie Boys Fantasy Draft | Pop Culture Has AIDS

  2. Pingback: The Sports Broadcaster Fantasy Draft | Pop Culture Has AIDS

  3. Pingback: 2 Idiots Draft: The Bill Murray Fantasy Draft | Pop Culture Has AIDS

  4. Tom Hanks and Kanye West.

    Reasoning: I might have gone with Alec Baldwin, but with Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan, I didn’t want my show to become a 90-minute version of 30 Rock.

    And I took Kanye because a) he’s one of the only performers to every do something truly unique on SNL, and b) the sound mix is notoriously shitty and a lot of great bands end up sounding muddled and awful.

  5. Musky Canadian Scent

    Who would you guys draft for guest star and musical guest out of those who have been on the show (in those roles – no Tina Fey coming back to host stuff) if your cast only got one show?

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