The writers on Saturday Night Live tend to toil away in obscurity while the performers on the show get all the laughs, enjoy name recognition and go on to lucrative careers in film and other television programs. Yet the writers on SNL are more responsible for shaping the program and its enduring popularity than anyone else. Every great character and skit—from the Coneheads and Church Lady to the Jeopardy parodies and Californians soap opera, all of them were given life in the writers’ room at SNL and as concepts on paper. And the number of talented and famous people who have worked as writers on SNL surprises most people. Here are 10 people you didn’t know worked as writers on SNL over the show’s 40 plus year run.
10. Harry Shearer
He’s best known for voicing numerous characters on The Simpsons, notably Principle Skinner and Mr. Burns, but one of Harry Shearer’s first jobs in show business was as a writer on SNL in 1979. Shearer got to write sketches for many of the original cast members, including Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, and came up with several funny fake commercials, including one for the world’s most expensive utility wrench. Unfortunately, Harry Shearer’s time as a writer on SNL was short-lived. He left as a writer after one season and focused on performing, starring in classic movies such as This Is Spinal Tap and The Right Stuff, where he played a NASA recruiter. However, Harry Shearer returned to SNL in 1984 for an additional season—this time as a performer alongside real life friends Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal and Martin Short.