Kristen Wiig is amongst 'top three or four' 'Saturday Night Live' performers, says Lorne Michaels. Do you agree?


Image Credit: Mathew Imaging/WireImage

As any true blue fan of Saturday Night Live can tell you, over the past decade, it’s been all about the ladies. From Tina Fey to Maya Rudolph to Amy Poehler, the women of SNL all but dominated the laughs on the long-running series. Since creator Lorne Michaels knows what does — and doesn’t — work on his own show, it was probably no fluke that he brought Kristen Wiig on board in late 2005 to keep the funny gal momentum going. It’s also no fluke that Wiig soon led most of the show’s sketches, as it turns out her boss is a really big fan of her work.

In an Wiig-centric article in the New York Times, Michaels made a bold statement about the Bridesmaids comedienne, placing her among the “top three or four” performers ever to star on the show. That’s right: Top thee or four SNL stars of all-time. I’m personally a huge Wiig fan (Gilly doesn’t even bother me… that much) and have never quite understood the relentless backlash against her. (After all, do Fred Armisen and Kenan Thompson — two players that are utilized almost as much as Wiig — get the same amount of flak from viewers?) If nothing else, she’s a team player who commits to every single sketch she’s in. Come on, admit it: It takes a special kind of lady to do this on national television.

I can’t help but wonder, also, who else appears on Michaels’ shortlist (though it’s a safe assumption Fey is at the very top). My personal picks for all-time best SNL players? Early ’90s favorites Chris Farley, Phil Hartman would definitely make the cut, as would the aforementioned Fey and Rudolph. (And if you disagree with me on Farley, try not repeating this verbatim next time you order fries.)

Only time will really tell if Wiig is as influential or effective as prior cast members (she’s already created characters that will go down as SNL classics, namely Target Lady and Junice), but for now I say let’s celebrate the heck out of her. If not for SNL, then for Bridesmaids, which I have seen and can confirm is hilarious and absolutely needs to be a huge hit this summer.

Your turn, PopWatchers: Where would you rank Wiig in Saturday Night Live history? Who are your top three or four performers of all-time?

Read more:
‘Bridesmaids’ trailer: Director Paul Feig talks making an R-rated comedy about, and for, women
Kristen Wiig’s funniest faces

Comments (342 total) Add your comment
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  • izikavazo

    He’s talking about performers. Tina Fey is an amazing writer, and she did well on Weekend Update, but she wouldn’t qualify as one of the best performers.
    No doubt Will Ferrell is on the list. The SNL writers say it was great working with him, because he would put all his effort into a bad sketch and make it good. Wiig is like that. She’s magic because she cares enough to put everything into her performance. Plus she came to the show with many characters, that’s a little unusual.

    • sally

      Couldn’t agree more izikavazo. she puts her all into every sketch.

      • Stevex

        Unfortunately, her all always stinks.

      • Frank Anderson

        Because this has NOTHING at all to do with her having a movie coming out soon. Seriously though, I do think she has great talent, but is as overused as Fred Armisten and too often has to hold avsketch on her own rather than be in sketches where ALL the actors have parts worth remembering. Honestly, Wigg is not the problem, it is how weak her supporting cast is which is often the issue. That just ends up putting a negative focus on her for many. It really is a shame.

      • Mr Eko

        The Definitive Top 5:
        1. Bill Murray – hands down (
        2. Will Ferrell
        3. Eddie Murphy
        4. Chris Farley
        5. Phil Hartman/Dana Carvey (tied)

      • Not even close

        The problem with wiig is that all of her characters/routines are essentially the same thing in different packaging – and Gilly has to be one of the all time worst characters in SNL history. I think Lorne must have a thing for her or she is blackmailing him, no other explanation

    • Kathryn

      No way Tina Fey is at the top of that list, if she’s on the list at all. I love her, but she was a writer, not a performer at all. Just Weekend Update.

      • Couchtime With Jill

        Exactly. She even says in her book how she only did sketches when they needed an extra body. She wrote, she did Weekend Update and was fantastic, and after she left she did Sarah Palin very well.

      • K

        Tina really never shined for me until she was on 30 Rock, she is brilliant on that show!

      • Riley

        I thought that was weird that this writer assumes she would be on the top of the list…of writers, absolutely, but she never really had a moment as a performer. Unless you count her Palin impersonation, but she still was just a guest performer then.

    • Cygnus

      Wiig has her moments, but like most good things on SNL over the years, she got played and played until she was ran into the ground. Every significant character she played was some crazed woman, which is her schtick. It’s old and not funny any longer. I agree with Fred Armiston getting too much. It seems he’s the designated “ethic” character. Arabs, Hispanics, Jews, etc. He’s the goto guy. I disagree with Kenan. I think he’s hilarious in anything he does.

    • Josh M

      1) Murphy
      2) Hartman
      3) Ferrell
      4) Carvey
      5) Farley

      Wiig doesn’t come a mile within that list.

      • JT

        Pretty much sums it up. I kept thinking during the 2008 election of the potential of what Carvey could have done with John McCain.

      • Dave

        I would actually reverse your 1 through 5 exactly…but the names are right. Wiig is not too far away from this list though…she’s really solid. Tine Fey and Maya Rudolph are pretty terrible selections BTW…not even anywhere near consideration for a top 20 IMO.

      • racefan111

        Agreed on Hartman. “I got chucks of guys like you in my stool”.

        My next four might be Murphy, Belushi, Akroyd, and Farley.

      • RM

        Good list but I wouldn’t put Murphy since he wasn’t on there for many seasons.

      • Candy Jo

        What about Mike Myers?

      • chris c

        what about Rachel Dratch?

      • Strepsi

        Eddie Murphy — his Buckwheat was so amazing he even had a multi-episode “character arc”. And James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub! HOT TUB!
        My Top 10 of all time:
        1. Eddie Murphy
        2. Mike Myers
        3. Gilda Radner
        4. Dan Aykroyd (whom I always found funnier than Belushi)
        5. Jan Hooks
        6. Dana Carvey
        7. Will Ferrell
        8. Joe Piscopo
        9. Amy Poehler
        10.Bill Hader

      • Riley

        My List:
        1.) Molly Shannon
        2.) Will Ferrell
        3.) Chris Farley
        4.) Amy Poehler
        5.) Dany Carvey
        Honorable Mentions:
        Rachel Dratch, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Hadar, and Kris Kattan (solely for Mango)

        My list reveals my age – I never watched too many of the older years, and when I do now, I don’t find them as funny. This is probably because many of the sketches are topical and it is hard to identify with them since I am not “of that era”.

      • CandaceTX

        @strepsi called it exactly

      • Alex

        My top list would have to be:
        1. Phil Hartman forever and ever
        2. Will Ferrell
        3. Chevy Chase
        4. Kristin Wiig
        5. Maya Rudolph/Amy Poehler (tied)

        Tina Fey is my all time favorite comedian on SNL, but I agree with other people that she (like I) comes out the most in writing.

    • Shaun

      Will Farrell? Ugh. Loud and unfunny. Just like Adam Sandler.

      My List: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Phil Hartman, Eddie Murphy, and Gilda Radner.

      • Dave

        I think Belushi is among the most overrated funnymen of all time.

      • Dee

        That’s more like it, Shaun! I do think that Mike Myers fits also!

      • Dee

        Oh yeah, and Darrell Hammond!!!

      • TJ. Church

        Don’t lump Sandler in w/Will’s crap. WF went to movies b/c he couldn’t do TV/.

      • Riley

        Boooooring — I feel that is what people think they are supposed to say….think for yourselves people!

    • Mr Eko

      Wiig reminds me of Gilda Radner. Just because she is loud and obnoxious, does not make her funny.

  • Sara

    Totally disagree…I can’t even tell the difference between any of her characters.

    • Billy F

      I fikin’ love Wiig. She’s not only hilarious, but a fantastically committed performer. What I disagree about is Farley. Now, THAT is annoying and repetitive. Just like Michael Cera, Farley always played the same one-note character in every sketch.

      And while we’re at it…why doesn’t Lorne bring in more women of color? Mad Tv hit the jackpot when they discovered Debra Wilson, who memorably played a cracked out Whitney Houston, Oprah, and the original characters HarifahLatifahShalifaBunifa Jackson and Chlorine. Too bad Michaels seems to have a problem with non-white representation in the show.

      • @Billy F

        How’s Mad TV doing these days? Oh, right. Maybe that’s why.

      • @ @Billy F

        So MadTV was cancelled BECAUSE it featured a prominent black female actress? Stupid point.

      • Chris

        Debra Wilson played Cloret. Not Clorine. She was the best performer on MadTV. Thank God for that show. It was so much better than SNL. They had some of my favorite characters like Ms Kwan and Stewart.

      • JD

        @ @Billy F – Are you an utter moron? A) MADTV had thirteen seasons, which is great by any measure. Sure, not nearly as many as SNL, but still great. B) Having a colored actress on the show has nothing to do with it not running any more. What a useless point.

    • RK

      Amen. She does the same thing every time, and I hate it. That Target skit? Ug.

    • cindy

      well most people like that same character she plays

      • bob

        no, most people don’t watch SNL.

    • Cheryl

      Care about pop music? Nope. I generally diismss what I don’t like and leave it at that. No torches and pitchforks from me, but I just thought she gave an outstandingly awful performance to the point I was wondering if it was parody, or she just couldn’t give a crap about being on SNL (and if that was the case, why go on?). If her performance style is always that low-key, well, okay. But her singing was terrible too. And she didn’t seem to care. Maybe she was ill and she was a trooper and went on anyway. I’d like to hear that’s the case, honestly. As I sat listening to her I thought that this is a song I might really like, and she was doing her best to make me not like it.I really don’t like to pile on and trash anyone, really. But man, it was one of the worst performances I’d seen on the show, and I can’t say I’m surprised a lot of people agreed.

  • Molly

    I really like Kristen Wiig about two years ago, but now she just gets on my nerves. I rarely enjoy her sketches.

    • Shannon

      I agree. I find her extremely annoying.

      • dianne

        Amen – can’t stand her!

    • katie

      ^^^^THIS. I thought she was brilliant when she was first on (like when Amy was still there, so Kristin wasn’t in every single sketch). Now she just annoys me and I rarely find her funny.

  • Captain

    I love Kristen Wiig and she would definitely be on my list of best SNL performers of all-time but not nearly THAT high. She’d probably be on top of my list of best performers in the past 5 years but she’s no Amy or Cheri.

    • lesfull

      Yeah, I can’t understand why most people aren’t putting Amy Poehler near the top of the list. She did a ton of characters like Wiig, she was awesome on Weekend Update, and unlike Wiig, they didn’t use her to the point of exhausting all the humor in her performances. She is up there with Bill Murray and Phil Hartman for sheer brilliance.

      • TJ. Church

        She is above them… Oh, & exhausting Kristen’s humor is too easy, unlike Amy.

    • Riley

      Oh she is really great, but I haven’t LOVED too many of her characters (except for the doll hands girl) like I have other performers from the past.

      • Riley

        And the Target Lady….I still crack up over the Justin Timberlake episode with the Target Lady….Gilly, no thanks.

  • Pagey

    Not sure how you settle on three. Would be hard to even pick 3 from each era.

    I would include that many from original cast. Belushi, Aykroyd and Bill Murray all belong on the list. Gilda Radner was amazing.

    Eddie Murphy, Joe Piscopo.

    Dana Carvey.

    Amy Poehler. There are too many!


    • SMPnyc

      Seriously…. John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Phil Hartman, Maya Rudolph, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Dan Akroyd, Bill Murray, Julia Louis-Dreyfus… I’d have trouble putting her in the top ten.

      • Mac

        Top Ten (in no particular order):

        Bill Murray
        Gilda Radner
        Phil Hartman
        Eddie Murphy
        Mike Meyers
        Any Poehler
        Will Ferrell
        Molly Shannon
        Billy Crystal
        Chris Farley

      • Squishmar

        Mac… I think that is my list, exactly! I was thinking of Billy Crystal, because, like Eddie Murphy, he literally saved the show because he was there. They both stood out at times when there was almost nothing else and they stood out well. Martin Short did too, but he was only one season, so I wouldn’t count him. Really, your list is perfect, I think.

      • Squishmar

        I have to say it would be a tie between Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, though…. I’d have to put them both.

  • Steve

    Yep, no doubt about Fey and Ferrell as izikavazo said. Ferrell seems to be universally regarded as an all-time great among current and former cast members.

    I agree with the lofty placement of Wiig, who I’ve long felt is their best female cast member ever. Hartman and Mike Meyers would probably round out my top 4.

    • tracy bluth

      Wiig the best female cast member ever?! There’s no way.

      • Celimene

        Seriously. There’s at least 5-7 other women I’d put ahead of her. My personal top 10 would include Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph. And is Wiig honestly better than Jane Curtain, Jan Hooks or even Cheri Oteri? I don’t think so.

      • Lois

        Female cast members funnier than Wiig:
        Amy Poehler
        Rachel Dratch
        Jan Hooks
        Molly Shannon
        Cheri Oteri
        Jane Curtin
        Gilda Radner
        Julia Sweeney
        Julia Louis-Dreyfus
        Nasim Pedrad
        Michaela Watkins (HUGE mistake firing her)

    • Chris

      Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri are the two greatest women on the show of all time.

      • SaM

        Jan Hooks was the best ever

      • Riley

        Molly Shannon, I AGREE!

  • Brett

    Michaels is entitled to his opinion, but I’ve never found any of her characters remotely funny. She wouldn’t make my top 20 list of all-time SNL performers.

    • Brenda Barrett

      I like the Target lady, but Wiig wouldn’t make my top ten SNL performers.

    • TorontoTom

      She wouldn’t make my Top 50. KRISTEN WIIG IS NOT FUNNY. Irritating and scenery-chewing? Yes. Funny. Not a chance.

  • Debbie

    This woman’s characters are like fingernails on a blackboard! Nobody likes to watch people who twitch and contort in ways that are just plain unpleasant to witness. I always wondered why she got so much screen time and now this explains it. Lorne, this is NOT FUNNY!

  • tracy bluth

    My problem with her is that it’s the same socially awkward character, just with different weird hair, every single time. And it’s not even funny, it’s just uncomfortable.
    Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, and Amy Poehler should all be ahead of her on the list. The best SNL cast members ever are Dan Aykryd, Chevy Chase, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Darrell Hammond, Will Farrell…people who are miles ahead of Wiig.

    • no cars go

      agree, i feel like very little if anything she does is original or funny.

    • Wendy

      Thank you! I so agree. There’s no way she is better than Eddie, Gilda or Phil(just to mention a few of my favorites). Every character is annoying in a sightly different way but not funny. I don’t hate her or anything but one of the best. NO WAY!

    • Hans

      That’s really the thing. Her siginng isn’t particularly GOOD, but it’s not particularly BAD, either, especially in the modern era. She’s got a weird voice and siginng style, absolutely, and it’s not my cup of tea. But I popped on the clip expecting something awful and instead just got her standing very still siginng a song that sounds exactly like the YouTube video.

  • Brian

    you think Maya Rudolph is a top five performer? seriously?!?! name me one good sketch she was the lead in…

    • Mireille

      Donnatella Versace

      • Molly


      • Lois

        Awesome, and a more memorable character than Target Lady!
        I also liked when she was Beyonce in “Prince Show” sketches, and her Whitney Houston.

      • Squishmar

        Let’s give a shout out to Fred Armisen for doing a fantastic Prince in those Prince Show sketches. I’m a huge Prince fan and always found those hilarious!

    • Fabe

      Megan in “Wake Up Wakefield!”, Nuni in “Art Dealers”, Jodi Deitz in “Bronx Beat”.

    • Dave

      Couldn’t agree more…that was the strangest point in the article.

    • TJ. Church

      Maya may not be top 5, but she’s so far above Wiig, I can’t believe names are on the same page!

  • Raunchy

    She has her good moments, but overall I wouldn’t put her in my top 20. In fact, I find some of her characters so off-putting that it makes me kind of dislike her good work.

  • LOL

    Phil Hartman, Darrell Hammond, and Amy Poehler all rank ahead of Wiig. Even other obvious stars (whether I cared for them or not) like Sandler, Spade and Farley rank ahead of her. If you go back ever farther, Bill Murray, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, the list goes on and on. I actually like Wiig, but I doubt she is even in the Top 20.

  • JimmyH

    Wiig is the single most annoying performer to ever appear on SNL. She’s just plain NOT funny.

  • @tracy bluth

    “My problem with her is that it’s the same socially awkward character, just with different weird hair, every single time.”

    And then you say that one of the best is Chris Farley? The same guy who played the same inept,morbidly obese, socially awkward character every single time?
    Gimme a friggin’ break.

    • tracy bluth

      The big difference- in my opinion- is that Chris Farley managed to keep it funny and endearing while Wiig has made it annoying.

      • kj

        I love Farley, he’s for sure in my top five and i’m not sure if Kristen Wiig makes the top ten, even though i am a fan of hers, BUT in all fairness, Farley was not on the show for nearly as long a Wiig has been, so while people are annoyed by Wiig and feel she’s overexposed she’s been on the show for significantly longer than him, also Farley and Sandler and a bunch of other amazing comedians were fired at the same time, I think its hard to judge a current cast because we all remember the “Best Of” sketches previous casts have done, but we don’t see all their bad sketches week after week

      • Squishmar

        Very good point, kj. We can look back with sentimentality and fondness at the good stuff of the past and conveniently forget that there were just as many sucky sketches every single year the show has been on. That said, I do think Wiig has probably stayed too long… And I love Fred Armisen but I think he’s worn out his welcome by overexposure. But he has also been brilliant over the years.

    • Karate Pants

      Chris Farley was fantastic. Take his Chippendales dancer, Gap salesgirl, van down by the river guy, or Da Bears fan character performances up against any of that one-note garbage Wiig puts out any day. It might be stupid-funny, physical comedy, but you’ll laugh.

      • vin

        Chris Farley is my fav too. Whigg drfinately is in my top three though.

      • Kim

        My favorite Gap girl moment ever- “Lay off me man, I’m starving!”. I almost died. Love Chris Farley.

    • Pedro

      So funny, because when I was wnhitcag the performance, all I could think of was Kristen Wiig. I thought maybe Lana cancelled and they just decided to throw her in at the last minute as a joke. It was such a lifeless performance. I kept skipping through to see if maybe her voice would hit a high note and she’d redeem herself but nothing.changed.

  • Karate Pants

    I am so fond of the late 80’s/early 90’s cast. Phil Hartman, David Spade, Mike Myers, Will Ferrell, Chris Farley, and Dana Carvey were brilliant, hilarious, and no one (save for Tina Fey) has come anywhere near their talent since.

    • Pittner

      I feel the same way about the late 80’s/early 90’s years. That was definitely my favorite time.

      • Anna

        Lana Del Rey is great. She is a great writer with great mdeloies and lyrics. The author of the post admits that she is new, so some stage fright is to be expected. I disagree with anyone saying she didn’t care, I believe she cared VERY much, which is usually when we tighten up the most. Her recorded material is exceptional, check out either track she performed on SNL, as well as what I consider her best yet, Born to Die . The comparison to Kreayshawn is a bit too much. Kreayshawn wrote a great pop song, very fun and bouncy. Lana Del Rey digs much deeper for her inspiration. If anything, I think Lana Del Rey could have been too excited about SNL, b/c she changed at least half of her mdeloies, and one of the great things about her songs are the huge variety of mdeloies within each song. The other mistake I believe she made was playing with a band that was absolutely too loud. With more understated musical accompaniment (think Adele on Someone Like You ), her lyrics and mdeloies will pack more punch. Saturday night she was struggling to keep up.Like Tim Tebow, she will just keep getting better and better.

    • Brenda Barrett

      The glory years, for sure. No one was ever better than Phil Hartman..Frankenstein, Bill Clinton — everything he did was fantastic.

      • Tim

        I agree, plus Phil playing Frank Sinatra….

      • Kim

        The Sinatra Group was pure gold, baby!

      • Cate

        The McLaughlin Hour sketches were some of my favorites…”WRONG!”

      • Squishmar

        Hartman also did an incredible Ronald Reagan in one of the funniest sketches ever.

    • shawnuel

      Ferrell didn’t start until those others you mention were gone. He was in the next wave, with Oteri, Shannon, Kattan, MacDonald et al.

    • Kim

      For sure, those were my favorite years of the show ever. I loved all of them except Adam Sandler. I later came to really appreciate his Hanukkah song and his Canteen Boy sketch with Alec Baldwin, but I found him incredibly annoying on the show otherwise. In later years, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, and Molly Shannon were some of my favorites. I honestly couldn’t put Wiig up that high, even though I really do like her a lot.

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