Seth Meyers explains difference between the Lonely Island and SNL cast

Though often linked, they are two different camps.
2019 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 3
2019 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival - Day 3 / Josh Brasted/GettyImages

The Lonely Island were a Saturday Night Live staple in the 2000s and early 2010s. They helped to bridge the gap between old-school sketch comedy and the YouTube humor that spread like wildfire online. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer rose to fame on SNL.

But, crucially, they were never officially cast members. Seth Meyers delved into this odd distinction during the first episode of the Lonely Island and Seth Meyers Podcast (truth in advertising there). Seth Meyers was the head writer on SNL when the Lonely Island was brought in, so he has better insight to discuss the topic than anyone.

Lonely Island members spent years as "featured players"

Meyers noted that Samberg, Taccone and Schaffer were credited as "featured players" during their time on the show, and were never officially promoted to cast members. "It means nothing," Meyers quipped. "It mostly is, I think, a way to signal to the audience: don't expect too much from this person yet, they're new."

Andy Samberg chimed in, noting that "featured player" also meant significantly less pay than a real cast member. Meyers elaborated on the concept, and noted that there's a general rule of thumb that a cast member spent two years as a "featured player" before getting promoted.

Andy Samberg was eventually promoted to cast member

Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg
PaleyFest LA 2024 - "Late Night With Seth Meyers" / David Livingston/GettyImages

Samberg, ironically, was the only Lonely Island member who got the full-time promotion to cast member. Meyers drew up his own experience as a "featured player," and admitted that he too spent two years making significantly less than others. The payoff, though, is worth it:

"When you get full cast, your friends think you have accomplished something other than just the passage of time."

Taccone and Schaffer may not have had the breakout career that Samberg has in front of the camera, but they have also found success. Schaffer was hired as a writer on Saturday Night Live from 2005 to 2011. He wrote 116 episodes and directed a whopping 68. Taccone also has writing credits on over 100 episodes of the sketch show.

All things considered, these "featured players" made out just fine.

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