Sketch comedy and improvisation are the two major training grounds for comedy stars. When we think about a sketch comedy star making it, we tend to think of Lorne Michaels’ comedy machine over at Saturday Night Live. It is true that SNL has a robust track record of churning out chart-topping comedy performers, but SNL isn’t the only show to produce A-list talent from their sketch comedy rank and file. SCTV, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, In Living Color, Kids in the Hall, and many other sketch shows throughout the years have featured casts that made an indelible mark on pop culture. One of the best parts of watching new sketch shows is to see what talent will break out and launch their careers. With shows like The Kroll Show, Inside Amy Schumer, The Birthday Boys, and truTV’s new Friends of the People on the air, there are more opportunities than ever on the comedy landscape to find that next breakout star.
How do you identify the next comedy superstar when they are just one piece of a talented ensemble? That’s a hard question to answer. Among the breakout stars of sketch comedy there is no consistent comic style, no box they tend to fit in—no pattern at all really, except for talent. Will Ferrell’s absurdly naïve manly-man characters didn’t look anything like Chevy Chase’s rakishly charming smart-asses. Amy Poehler’s exuberant, self-aware comedy stands in sharp contrast to Bill Murray’s low-key sardonic sensibility. As we enjoy an era in comedy where great comedians are getting an unprecedented amount of exposure, let’s look back on the rise of some of the greatest stars in comedy history. Here are 10 A-List Stars Who Got Their Start in Sketch Comedy.