The Funniest Women to Ever Grace Saturday Night Live

From the early era to the current season, we've rounded up some of the funnies women to ever grace the 8H stage.

By Kelsey Klemme 06 Jan, 2021 2:00 PMTags
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It's Kate McKinnon's birthday and we're celebrating by honoring some of the best SNL funny ladies of all time.

When it comes to the best in comedic talent, we know we'll find it on Saturday Night Live.

The long-running, Emmy Award-winning show has introduced us to some of the best women in comedy, whose killer impressions and original characters have us tuning in every weekend.

We've even seen many of these celebrities, such as Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, become stars of their own shows, like Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock, respectively.

And then there's b-day girl McKinnon, who turns 37 today. In addition to winning Emmys for her hilarious SNL characters, she's gone on to star in major box office films like Ghostbusters, Rough Night and The Spy Who Dumped Me.

While every woman whose been on the show has made us laugh, we rounded up a list of the ones whose sketches, impressions or characters have made them synonymous with the show in honor of McKinnon's birthday.

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Kate McKinnon's Best Roles

Take a look below and try not to LOL!

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Gilda Radner

(1975-1980)

Gilda Radner was one of the original cast members in the first season of Saturday Night Live, making her one of the players who paved the way for the women we see in the current season. In fact, she was the first person hired altogether.

Her standout performances and high energy nabbed her an Emmy.

Memorable Moment: Roseanne Rosannadanna on Smoking

Jane Curtin

(1975-1980)

Another one of the OG SNL players, Jane Curtin was cast in the first season of the series who balanced some of the wilder characters with her ability to deliver a solid, straight man character.

However, she still got to shine with her own fun sketches, like the one below.

Memorable Moment: The Nerds: Nerd Prom

Cheri Oteri

(1995-2000)

There are so many iconic sketches and characters that Cheri Oteri is responsible for that there is even a best of DVD collection you can order to catch them all.

However, our favorite memories have to be watching her play a spirited chess cheerleader and a completely unconcerned nurse that needs you to, "Simma down now."

Memorable Moment: Spartan Cheerleaders at a Chess Tournament

Molly Shannon

(1995-2001)

Molly Shannon's high-energy characters were so iconic that audiences were clapping before she even uttered a word when they recognized who she was playing.

Between her characters Sally O'Malley and Mary Katherine Gallager (the latter of which got its own spinoff movie, Superstar), Shannon was an unforgettable part of the late '90s SNL era.

Memorable Moment: St. Monica's Spelling Bee

Ana Gasteyer

(1996-2002)

Gasteyer overlapping both the era of Oteri/Shannon and then another golden era of female cast members that included Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler was a huge gift to any fan of the show.

From her impression of Martha Stewart to her popular NPR Delicious Dishes sketches, Gasteyer has remained one of the most iconic cast members to date.

Memorable Moment: Schweddy Balls

Rachel Dratch

(1999 - 2006)

Dratch's ability to deadpan as Debbie Downer or channel a soulful lover in a hot tub made her one of the series' best cast members ever, especially in powerhouse group sketches with Fey, Poehler and Gasteyer.

Plus, she's a pretty believable Harry Potter.

Memorable Sketch: Debbie Downer: Disney World

Tina Fey

(1997-2006)

Fey is SNL royalty as the show's first-ever female head writer, being an iconic cast member and also being the host of "Weekend Update." 

From her unforgettable Sarah Palin impression to her perfect two-liner timing, Fey is one of the most instrumental women to ever grace Stage 8H.

Most Memorable Sketch: Sarah Palin and Hillary Address the Nation

Maya Rudolph

(2000-2007)

Where to begin? From her impressions of Oprah and a prank-pulling Maya Angelou to her side-splitting sketches as a showcase model and National Anthem singer, the actress has a range that makes her one of the greats.

Memorable Moment: National Anthem

Amy Poehler

(2001-2008)

She could pull off warm or edgy characters, gave us the most iconic Hillary Clinton impression of the show's history (although, we still love Kate McKinnon's!) and made the "Weekend Update" section of the show a must-watch instead of a bathroom break.

When Poehler joined Fey behind the desk, it was the first (and remains the only) time we saw two female cast members hold the role, but we'd also argue the pairing remains the strongest.

Memorable Moment: Mom Jeans

Kristen Wiig

(2005-2012)

From a 405-fearing Californian to the Target Lady to various drunk Disney princesses, Kristen Wiig embodied some of SNL's most iconic characters before she hopped to a burgeoning movie career. Later this year, we'll get to catch her in Wonder Woman 1984.

Memorable Sketch: Target Lady: Classic Peg

Kate McKinnon

(2012 - Present)

If you're a public figure, there's a pretty good chance that McKinnon can nail an impression of you. 

And it's not just her ability to pull off playing Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Justin Bieber, Jeff Sessions, Ellen Degeneres and many more; even when she's given an original character, her unique and quirky approach always makes her a standout, and often makes her fellow castmates break.

Memorable Moment: Close Encounter

Aidy Bryant

(2012-Present)

One of the most memorable cast members is also one of its more recent with Aidy Bryant, whose ability to play both lovable and badass (such as when she channels her inner Cardi B) makes her one of the series' best assets.

It's no surprise that the SNL now stars in her own show, Shrill, on Hulu.

Memorable Moment: Aidy B & Cardi B

Leslie Jones

(2014-2019)

Are you even watching the Olympics if you don't also tune in to Leslie Jones' commentary?

The star, who left just last year, frequently was the best part of "Weekend Update" and sketches around inter-cast dynamics, like her relationship with castmate Kyle Mooney, made us feel more like a part of the show than ever before.

Memorable Moment: Leslie and Kyle

Melissa Villaseñor

(2016 - Present)

Melissa is probably the most underutilized on this list: she's a talented impressionist who, as a dang good singer, can genuinely channel musicians in a way that no other cast member can.

Even though we frequently feel robbed of screen time with her, she still has managed to pull off some unforgettable moments, often on the "Weekend Update" section where her characters truly get to shine.


Memorable Moment: Weekend Update: Melissa Villaseñor's Grammy Awards Picks

Heidi Gardner

(2017-Present)

The newest cast member on our list is Heidi Gardner, a Groundlings alum who in her three short years on the show has already proven to be a breakout with her original characters, such as a typical boxer's girlfriend and teen-aged movie critic.

We can't wait to see her continue on the show and predict she'll be another eventual alum to hit big success outside of the show, too.

Memorable Moment: Weekend Update: Angel

(Originally published Mar. 5, 2020 at 6 a.m. PT)