Last week, we dug into the comedy of what could’ve been when we shared a list of 32 Famous People Rejected by Saturday Night Live. But rejection is a two-way street at Studio 8H, as these 10 equally funny famous people proved when they gave SNL the cold shoulder.
1. MINDY KALING
Saying “no” to SNL wasn’t really Kaling’s idea. But timing wasn’t on her side. In a 2007 interview with The A.V. Club, she revealed that she had auditioned for SNL just a few months earlier (a year after The Office’s American debut). “They didn't offer me a part, but the audition went pretty well, and that night, they were like, ‘Do you want to come write for the show?’ [The Office creator] Greg [Daniels] used to write for SNL, and he had known that being on SNL was my great dream. He said, ‘Listen. If you get cast on the show, I'll let you break your contract and go do it, but if they ask you to write, I can't, because you have a job writing here, plus you're on the show. So I'm not going to let you leave the show so you can go be in New York.’ At that time, I missed New York so badly. I hated L.A. for a long time, and I wanted to leave it. I had these fantasies of going to SNL and falling in love with some writer on SNL, of getting married and living in New York. That was really heartbreaking to have to turn down, but then I got to guest-write in the spring.’”
2. JOHN CANDY
SNL got a serious shakeup in the early 1980s. Following Lorne Michaels’ departure, the show was turned over to producer Jean Doumanian, who was replaced by Dick Ebersol after one season following bad reviews. Just as Doumanian had tried to retool the show, Ebersol did the same, and set his sights on some of Second City’s most talented players. There was only one problem: The legendary comedy group had its own sketch comedy show, which featured John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, and Harold Ramis. That small detail didn’t stop Ebersol from trying to recruit Candy to SNL. According to Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad’s book, Saturday Night, Candy “was mortified at being caught in the middle of the tug of war between Saturday Night and SCTV.” He stuck with the latter, but did host SNL in 1983 (and made a couple of cameos).
3. CATHERINE O’HARA
Dick Ebersol’s SCTV poaching efforts were slightly more successful with Catherine O’Hara. She signed up to be a part of the 1981 season, but didn’t last long. “Maybe two [weeks],” she told the Toronto Sun of her SNL tenure. While many reports state that she was scared off by an incident in which writer Michael O’Donoghue yelled at the show’s other writers, O’Hara simply says that she made a mistake in leaving SCTV in the first place. “I hung out with some nice people, tried to come up with some ideas ... but I never really felt involved,” she said of her decision to depart before the season even began. “I had to leave. I said I’d made a huge mistake. I'm not proud of that. I felt stupid doing it. But I had to come home. I couldn't not be with them.”
4. JOHNNY KNOXVILLE
“The ball was rolling on Jackass, but it was going slow,” Jackass co-creator Jeff Tremaine said in a 2006 interview with The A.V. Club. “We made a little tape basically showing what Jackass was. It was going around, and it was really popular. SNL got a hold of it.” The show’s producers liked what they saw and offered Knoxville a spot on SNL, which would make use of his stunting abilities. “It was at the point where I either say yes to my friends, where we had all the control, or yes to Saturday Night Live, where none of my friends were really going to be there and I had no control,” Knoxville told the Washington Times in 2005 of his choice to just say, "no."
5. BONNIE HUNT
Bonnie Hunt’s decision to turn down a role on SNL all came down to one question she posed to Lorne Michaels. “I asked, ‘If there's an end of a scene that doesn't feel like it's working, can you improvise?’” Hunt recalled to the Los Angeles Times. “And he said, ‘Absolutely not.’” And that was it.
6. ANDY DICK
“Early on in my career they just asked me if I wanted to do Saturday Night Live. Literally, they were just offering it to me,” Andy Dick told Laughspin in 2011. “I said no because I had just come off The Ben Stiller Show, but the truth of the matter is I was afraid I would not be able to do a few characters every week. I didn’t have the confidence that I do now... I can do it now,” Dick continued, “but I’m 45 years old. What’s the point? I’m too old for that club, anyway. They wouldn’t have me—unless they start a Saturday Night Live: Seniors; Saturday Night Dead.” When pressed as to whether he would say “yes” if offered a part on the show today, Dick replied that he “would jump at that opportunity. But you’re talking to a guy who, if Dancing With The Stars called, I’d say, ‘I’m putting my tap shoes on now, bitch.’” He wasn’t kidding: Dick hoofed his way to a seven-week stint as a contestant on the reality dancing show in 2013.
7. AMY SEDARIS
Following Janeane Garofalo’s departure in 1995, SNL was in need of another funny lady and Amy Sedaris auditioned for the spot, but at the same time she was starring in a play she had written with her brother, David. “I met with Lorne Michaels, but at that time we were doing our play One Woman Shoe, and it was everything I wanted,” Sedaris told Interview Magazine in 2001 of her decision to pass. “Maybe even three years earlier it would have been great, but at that point it was like, oh, it’s too late. A few years later Strangers with Candy fell into my lap. But television’s not something that I ever thought about or planned.”
8. JENNIFER ANISTON
Though the story of whether or not Jennifer Aniston was ever really, truly offered a spot on SNL has been heavily questioned, it’s Aniston herself who started the rumor. While promoting Just Go With It on Oprah in 2011, Aniston’s co-star—and SNL alum—Adam Sandler recalled, “being on the ninth floor where Lorne Michaels’ office was, and seeing Jen come in,” back in the early 1990s. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God. There’s Aniston. Is she about to be on our show?’” But Aniston, who was getting ready to star on Friends, says she declined because, “It was a boys’ club. They thought I was making a huge mistake.”
9. THE BEATLES
In 1976, six years after they had disbanded, The Beatles were offered $230 million by promoter Sid Bernstein to reunite—an offer they promptly declined. Shortly thereafter, Lorne Michaels made a live plea to the Fab Four to reunite as musical guests on SNL, stating that NBC had authorized him to offer them “a certified check for $3000.” In David Sheff’s book All We Are Saying, Lennon shared that they actually considered it: “Paul and I were together watching that show,” Lennon said. “He was visiting us at our place in the Dakota. We were watching it and almost went down to the studio, just as a gag. We nearly got into a cab, but we were actually too tired.”
10. CHARLIE BARNETT
Legendary street performer and comedian Charlie Barnett, who was a mentor to Dave Chappelle, spent many years smarting from his missed opportunity with SNL. Barnett advanced quickly in the audition process but ended up ditching a final reading when he became concerned about his lack of education (Barnett had dropped out of school in the eighth grade). “I was too scared,” he admitted to People Magazine in 1983. “I read good, but I read slow.” Though he ended up finding success on his own terms (he had a recurring role as “Noogie” on Miami Vice during its heyday), Barnett admitted that for a long time he was extremely jealous of Eddie Murphy, the man who ended up taking what could have been his spot on the show.
Images courtesy of Getty Images