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Considering SNL has been home to nearly 140 cast members across a 40-year span, it's natural that there are some interesting, strange, inspiring stories and lesser-known facts in some of their biographies. Whether it's super strict religious convictions, an unjust stay at a maximum security prison, a rough childhood, or falling flat with US audiences only to find widespread fame abroad, famous and forgotten SNL players alike have faced some unusual challenges and circumstances you may not know about, but should. In the spirit of whatever changes might come to the show this fall, here's a look at eight former cast members whose lesser known life stories might make you want go back and rewatch some of their few — or many — SNL moments.
Vitale caught the attention of then-former SNL producer Lorne Michaels, who in 1983 was scouting for talent for The New Show on NBC. While Vitale bombed during his first audition after lashing out at the audience (he wasn't familiar with Michaels's strict no-laughter audition policy), he landed a spot after his second tryout, followed by a starring role opposite Joe Mantegna in the pilot Big Shots in America produced by Michaels, written by SNL's Alan Zweibel, and recorded in SNL's Studio 8H in front of a live audience. While the pilot didn't land a series order, Michaels let Vitale re-audition for SNL in fall 1985 and hired him as a featured player. According to Vitale, Michaels hired him and said the following: "Dan, in the words of the Kennedy brothers talking about LBJ … I'd rather have you inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in." (Read More)
Since then, the legal news items for Quaid have only multiplied — he and his wife were charged in 2009 for failing to pay a $10,000 hotel bill and later fled to Canada to avoid their arrest. As of last month, Quaid's request to gain permanent residency status in Canada has been denied; he is in the process of appealing his request to the federal court. "The refugee claims should remain intact as should Evi and Randy Quaid's heads remain attached to their necks," the Quaids said in a joint statement in January following the decision, "and it is their firm belief that their lives are at stake and being racketeered on." Here's hoping that Randy and Evi Quaid can continue to avert the danger of the Hollywood star whackers into the unforeseeable future. (Read More)
Morgan's childhood, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, was hard. His Vietnam vet father came back from the war a heroin addict and died from AIDS when Morgan was a teenager, and his relationship with his mother was often strained. From a young age, Morgan turned to comedy to cope with his early traumas and defend himself against school bullies. "When kids are making fun of you in the schoolyard, you go get your big brother, and he comes back with you and he turns into the Incredible Hulk," Morgan told Time in 2009. "But my oldest brother was born with cerebral palsy. So I had to develop a sense of humor." (Read More)
Siobhan has since admitted to turning down sketches that went against her Catholic morals, a practice she would continue throughout her film and television career — something very unusual in the world of show business and comedy given her steady success as a character actress. What's even more unusual is that she managed to still be liked, respected, and hired, hinting that she's always professional, kind, and fun to work with, otherwise one can't imagine her returning, for example, to be in shows like 30 Rock where she played one of Jack Donaghy's overbearing Catholic siblings in "The Fighting Irish." (Read More)
Somehow they buy this shit in Britain. Brits are just glad you showed up. In America, I bomb. I just get open-mouthed fish faces. Americans kind of see standup comedy as a sort of illegitimate form of entertainment. Why would I go back to America? … It is important every 10 years to shift and try something new when you are a comedian, and I have been doing this for 59 years, which is pretty astounding considering I am only 55. (Read More)
After touring ended in the late seventies, Weathers briefly returned to New Orleans and worked as an Elvis impersonator at the Playboy Club in the French Quarter, but he soon grew frustrated with the confines of the King routine and moved to New York to find steady work playing Manhattan clubs, writing for National Lampoon Magazine, and even collecting coke-stained tips as a Studio 54 bathroom attendant before auditioning for SNL in 1980. (Read More)
Here's where Rosato's story tragically veers from the typical single-season SNL bit player: In 2005, he was arrested on criminal harassment charges after complaining to police that his wife and infant daughter had been abducted and replaced with "imposters." Instead of getting mental health treatment, Rosato was kept in maximum security prison while awaiting conviction for two years, which was more "than any other convicted prisoner in Canada has ever spent on the same charges." To his credit, Rosato's comedic instincts remained even during his imprisonment — one letter he wrote to his lawyer included the line "Please, I beg of you, look into this before I become like Jessica Lange in Frances." (Read More)
In 1991, Vance was diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer. She channeled her battles with the illness into a one-woman play The Radical Girl's Guide to Mastectomy, which ran Off-Broadway the same year. Her last film credit came with her supporting role in 1992's Jumpin' at the Boneyard, and in 1993 she did another solo show and revived her Harriet Hetero character, this time pulling off her shirt to expose her scarred torso to the audience. "This wasn't something I wanted to do," she told The New Yorker, "but I had to show, for other women, that this body is still O.K. I think my scar is beautiful." (Read More)