Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” hosting gig and Seth Meyers’ assumption of Fallon’s “Late Night” duties offer just a few examples of “SNL” alums ruling today’s entertainment world.
Veterans of the 39-year-old NBC sketch-comedy show enjoy more prominence today, as a group, than ever. Granted, the sheer number of alums able to contribute vastly exceeds those available in that other golden era, from the mid-1970s to the mid-’80s, when Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy were movie stars.
But there have been a lot of “SNL” alums for decades now – decades with enough “MacGrubers,” “Ladies Men” and “Hot Rods” to argue that “SNL” stardom was not a surefire path to success in other entertainment ventures.
But January’s Golden Globes, at which Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted, Poehler won for “Parks & Recreation,” Andy Samberg won for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and Will Forte was up for a Globe for his role in “Nebraska,” suggest a new critical mass of “SNL” influence.
So why now?
“I think we were all doing it long enough that now’s a chance for us to get out and do other stuff,” Meyers said. His fellow alums “have been lucky to have it all do so well.”
Here’s a look at “SNL” alums beside Fallon and Meyers who are making things happen:
Fred Armisen: He is not moving mountains or walking on the Willamette. But “Portlandia,” his IFC Channel sketch show with Carrie Brownstein, now sits in the cultural consciousness thanks to its skewering of hipsters, hippies, aggressive foodies and would-be “artisans.” Thoughts of Armisen and “Portlandia” soothe each time some busybody gives you the side eye for not bringing your own bag to the farmers market.
Will Ferrell: He overdoes it. With cowbell, sports comedies, exposure of his hairy midsection, Internet comedy shorts, an over-the-top promotional campaign for “Anchorman 2,” the overlong film itself. But it’s a numbers game. Ferrell is hilarious 70 percent of the time. That’s enough.
Tina Fey: Audiences and critics were indifferent to Fey’s 2013 starring vehicle “Admission.” But Fey remains atop the heap of recent “SNL” alumni in terms of sterling reputations. She’s beloved for her smarts, her Palin and the great-when-it-was-good “30 Rock.” This fall, Fey and producing partner Robert Carlock will debut their new NBC sitcom starring Ellie Kemper (“The Office”) as a woman just sprung from a doomsday cult.
Will Forte: 2010’s “MacGruber,” based on Forte’s “SNL” character, flopped. But he’s quietly making a successful shift to drama. Lauded for his gentle performance as a man on a dubious road trip with his alcoholic, distant dad (Bruce Dern) in “Nebraska,” Forte also stars in the video-on-demand title “Run & Jump,” in which he plays an American doctor living with an Irish family while conducting a study.
Amy Poehler: Equally lovable in duos (Tina & Amy) and ensembles (NBC’s “Parks & Recreation”), Poehler finally received her due with a best comedic actress Globe after several acting and writing Globe and Emmy nominations, going back to “SNL,” without a win. Her Leslie Knope ranks with Steve Carell’s Michael Scott and Mary Tyler Moore’s Mary Richards as best-ever centers of workplace comedies.
Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, David Spade: As much as we’d like to devote this article only to “cool” projects, there’s no denying $133 million at the U.S. box office for “Grown Ups 2.”
Andy Samberg: Gift-box misuser, mother lover, Globe winner? Globe voters recognized that Samberg had found the perfect show for his talents in Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which plays Samberg’s goofiness off Andre Braugher’s stoniness.
Jason Sudeikis: He became a genuine movie star when his 2013 fake-family comedy “We’re the Millers” passed $150 million at the box office. Next question is whether he can drop the smarm.
Kristen Wiig: The “Bridesmaids” star was all over the place this winter: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Anchorman 2” and the IFC Channel spoof “The Spoils of Babylon,” in which her character is obsessed with her adopted brother. A sibling relationship also forms the core of the drama “The Skeleton Twins,” a recent Sundance Film Festival hit in which Wiig and fellow “SNL” alum Bill Hader play long-estranged twins who reunite.
Call The Bee’s Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.