There have been over 160 main and featured cast members throughout Saturday Night Live’s illustrious 48-and-counting seasons. Some became household names during their tenure on the late-night comedy institution, while others only achieved that status after seemingly sinking amidst the show’s notoriously competitive and stressful environment. Others disappeared almost without notice, their one big shot on the launching pad that SNL has become over the decades fizzling out in a nondescript series of tiny roles and desultory goodnight waves from home base at Rockefeller Center.

But who, among this dizzying and varied collection of comic performers, were truly the best of the best? Well strap in, as we run down the greatest cast members in Saturday Night Live history.

The rules for this ranking are relatively straightforward, considering only each performer’s time on the show, and not anything they did before or afterward to earn greater acclaim and/or fame. Such a system leaves out ringers from the 1984-1985 season like Martin Short, Billy Crystal, Harry Shearer, and Christopher Guest, whose pre- and post-SNL work is much more significant, as well as unimpeachably important figures like Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, and Amy Poehler, whose time as head writers and/or anchors on the Weekend Update desk are considered separate from the cast ensemble concept. It also sets aside for later those talented performers who, after being let go from the show, showed their true talents elsewhere. (Sorry to Joan Cusack, Michaela Watkins, Jenny Slate, Casey Wilson, Damon Wayans, Sarah Silverman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tim Robinson and others. You know who you are. )

Now that that’s all settled, let’s get to the list — and the inevitable arguments. Just remember, if your favorite didn’t make it, they were definitely at number 25.

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