The creative geniuses on Saturday Night Live are known for character impersonations that bear an uncanny resemblance to real people, and for creating hilarious fictional characters. Some of them appear over-and-over again on the show. Some even inspired catch phrases and spin-off productions. Here are 10 of the funniest Saturday Night Live characters — real and fictional — that stood the test of time.
“Wayne’s World” began as a recurring sketch on SNL but became so popular that it blossomed into two movies. Wayne Campbell, the long-haired, slightly airhead metalhead was played by Mike Myers and the character appeared in about 20 SNL episodes.
Algar is another fictionalized character played by Dana Carvey, the sidekick to Wayne Campbell. Algar is shy, sometimes neurotic and also loves heavy metal.
Velvet Jones was a fictional character created and played by actor Eddie Murphy. Jones was full of get-rich-quick schemes, and made how-to videos with a trashy element such as “How to be a high-paying ho.” The character appeared several times on SNL between 1981 and 1983.
Leading up to the 2008 presidential election, SNL aired several sketches in which comedian Tina Fey did an impersonation of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. For this role, Fey won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress on a Comedy Series.
Played by actor Chris Farley, Foley is a fictional character — a motivational speaker with less-than-motivational character traits such as clumsiness and bad luck. Farley played Foley in several other comedy groups before playing him on SNL but the character was so well received on SNL, he made eight appearances.
Alex Trebek is a Canadian-American TV host best known for hosting the show “Jeopardy!” For six years, SNL aired a sketch that parodied “Jeopardy!” known as “Celebrity Jeopardy!” on which actor Will Ferrell portrayed Trebek. Farrell’s character portrayal of Trebek often questions Trebek’s sexuality, and implies he had sexual relations with his mother.
Will Ferrell once again portrayed one of the most popular characters on SNL when, during the 2000 election, he portrayed George W. Bush. Ferrell painted Bush as a childlike, innocent and naïve person. In one famous moment, Ferrell aka Bush gets distracted by a toy while Jeb Bush (played by Val Kilmer) speaks with Al Gore.
Bruce Dickinson is an English musician best known as the lead vocalist of heavy metal band Iron Maiden. Actor Christopher Walken played a character known as “The Bruce Dickinson” in a sketch that fictionalized the recording of a heavy metal song. The sketch imitates a VH1 “Behind the Music” episode. Throughout the session, “The Bruce Dickinson” keeps pausing the band asking for the cowbell to be played louder. As a result, “More cowbell” is now a pop culture catch phrase.
Caray was the most famous baseball broadcaster on TV and radio. Following his death, the Cubs wore a patch on their sleeves with a caricature of Caray during the entire 1998 season. Will Ferrell depicted Caray in several Weekend Update segments on SNL in which Caray veered off topic into far-fetched, hypothetical situations, such as what would happen if people tried to eat the moon.
Linda Richman is a fictionalized character from the SNL sketch “Coffee Talk with Linda Richman.” Mike Myers played Richman as a stereotypical middle-aged Jewish woman with a gaudy style and big hair which she spends most of the segment adjusting. The character was a parody of Myers’ real life mother-in-law.
Hans and Franz
This pumped up duo played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon was a spoof on Arnold Schwarzenegger. The two were hilariously obvious buff body suits and went out of their way to talk about how buff they were, how manly they were, and how they weren’t “girlie men.”
Otherwise known as “The Ladies Man,” Leon Phelps gave dramatized, oddball love and sex advice, sometimes playing up stereotypes women deal with, sometimes saying what’s on everyone’s minds like the time he told one 76-year-old caller that he just shouldn’t be having sex anymore, no matter how great the Viagra is working, not at all answering the caller’s question.
Anyone who lives in Los Angeles or a city where your server is always also an actor will appreciate this character. Played by Jon Lovitz, this character speaks in an awful Shakespearean accent and talks constantly about how seriously he takes his acting craft, but always misunderstands the clear direction in his scripts.
Debbie Downer was played by Rachel Dratch and the first time this character aired, the other cast members were having a tough time not laughing. Debbie Downer is so above and beyond morbid, often not even commenting on the conversation she is in, it just becomes funny.
You wouldn’t know it by the giant shark head, but this character was played by comedic genius Chevy Chase. A satirical look at door to door salesmen, the Land Shark would tell women what they wanted to hear so they’d open the door, tricking them into believing anything from the plumber was there to flowers from a secret admirer had arrived.
This is one of Christopher Walken’s most known and loved roles. “The Continental” sketch is always shot from the point of view of a woman we never see, who is constantly trying to avoid the too-corny-to-be-threatening advances of The Continental.
Dieter was played by Mike Myers and was an explosive combination of Andy Warhol and Bruno (if you can imagine that). Dieter, who spoke in a comical (German?) accent reviewed all things pop culture and fashion with a sharp but sometimes seemingly drunk tongue.