A list of alumni from “Saturday Night Live” will read like a who’s who in the world of comedy. From John Belushi to Tina Fey to Jason Sudeikis, SNL has proved to be a veritable training ground for some of the best comedians in the business.
SNL is a late-night live television show that features sketch comedies, monologues and musical performances. It has won 36 Emmy Awards, three Writers Guild Awards and a Peabody Award. It has also been consistently named as one of the greatest television shows of all time.
The show made its debut in 1975 with cast members like Belushi, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd. Cast members at that time were paid $750 for each episode. The show’s success allowed their rates to be bumped up to $2,000 in the second season before it doubled to $4,000 by season four. In the late 90s, salaries were scaled depending on the cast member’s length of service. New members earned $5,500 per episode.Those in their second years got $6,000 per episode, while long-time members could get as much as $12,500 per episode. Will Ferrell was earning $17,500 per episode in his sixth year in 2001. The likes of Billy Crystal and Martin Short were earning up to $25,000 per episode back in the mid-80s, but the two were already established stars back then.
In other words, cast members earn almost equal amounts as the salaries are within a tight range. They start earning huge amounts of money, however, once they start hitting it big on their own through their own television series, movies or even television hosting gigs. Jimmy Fallon now has his late night talk show and is worth $16 million. Recent cast members like Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig are worth $6 million to $8 million. Jason Sudeikis has assets worth $4 million. Amy Poehler has her own sit-com and is believed to be worth around $18 million.
Still, they pale in comparison to other former cast members. Here is a list of the top 10 highest earning SNL cast members.
10 Tina Fey - $45 million
She started out as a writer in SNL after a stint with the improvisational comedy group called The Second City. She eventually became a performer and the show’s head writer. She co-starred in and wrote the 2004 film “Mean Girls.” In 2006, she created the award-winning show called “30 Rock.” She is known for her spot-on impersonation of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008.
9 Chevy Chase - $50 million
He was an SNL pioneer and was behind the popular “Weekend Update” portion of the show. The skit eventually became a staple of the show. Chase then left to focus on movie acting, starring in a series of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movies. He also starred in “Caddyshack,” “Fletch” and “Three Amigos!” He was also part of the NBC comedy entitled “Community.”
8 Chris Rock - $70 million
He was already a stand-up comedian before he became a cast member of SNL in the early 90s. He has been hailed as one of the greatest stand-up acts of all time. His HBO comedy special in 1996 entitled “Bring the Pain” won for him widespread critical praise and two Emmy Awards. He also hosted his own talk show called “The Chris Rock Show” that won an Emmy for best writing. Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly have both called him the funniest man in America. Another HBO special called “Kill the Messenger” also won an Emmy for outstanding writing.
7 Eddie Murphy - $75 million
He was a regular in SNL during the early part of the 80s. He then turned to the big screen where he got acclaim and nominations for his performances in “48 Hours,” “Trading Places,” “The Nutty Professor” and the “Beverly Hills Cop” series. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his supporting performance in “Dreamgirls.” His box-office earnings have made him the second highest grossing actor in the US.
6 Will Ferrell - $80 million
He started out as a cast member in SNL before he turned to the big screen. He starred in hit comedies like “Old School,” “Elf,” “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights,” “Blades of Glory,” “Semi-Pro” and “The Other Guys.” Ferrell is part of a generation of young comedians called the Frat Pack, which includes Jack Black, Steve Carell, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and the Wilson brothers, Luke and Owen.
5 Robert Downey, Jr. - $85 million
Robert Downey, Jr. was briefly a part of SNL in the mid-80s. After leaving the show, he appeared in several Brat Pack films, including “Tuff Turf” and “Weird Science.” He also starred opposite Molly Ringwald in “The Pick-Up Artist.” He received critical acclaim for the 1987 movie “Less Than Zero.” He then turned in an Oscar-nominated performance in “Chaplin.” He suffered a downturn because of drug addiction, but has since recovered to star as “Iron Man.”
4 Ben Stiller - $115 million
He was a part of SNL for four episodes in 1989 but had to leave because of his desire to make short movies. He starred in HBO’s “The Ben Stiller Show” in 1991, before Fox picked it up in 1992. He then directed “Reality Bites” in 1994. He has since starred in blockbusters like “Meet the Parents,” “Zoolander” and “There’s Something About Mary.”
3 Bill Murray - $120 million
He goes this training from The Second City before appearing in SNL. He played roles in “Caddyshack,” “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day.” He finally got acting recognition in “Lost in Translation,” which gave him an Oscar nomination.
2 Adam Sandler - $300 million
From SNL, he went on to star in several big hits like “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “The Waterboy,” “Big Daddy” and “Mr. Deeds.” He established his own movie and television production company called Happy Madison. The outfit has been responsible for several movies that starred SNL alumni like Rob Schneider and David Spade.
1 Julia Louis-Dreyfus - $2.9 billion
She has a billionaire father and her family owns the Louis Dreyfus Group, a multinational company engaged in commodities and shipping. She was part of the cast of “Seinfeld,” one of the most successful shows of all time. She has received 13 Emmy nominations for her performances in “Seinfeld,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Veep.”
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