Saturday Night Live, which is scheduled to embark on its 49th season in October 2023, is one of the great engines in American pop culture. It been delivering sketch comedy live from New York for nearly half a century, giving us a broad range of memorable characters (Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, Mr. Robinson, Mary Catherine Gallagher, Harry Caray, Stefon, etc.) , not to mention catch phrases such as “We are two wild and crazy guys.“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me,” and “I live in a van down by the river!” . The lists could go on and on, and they would just be the beginning of the show’s influence. Because Saturday NIght Live has also been the launching pad for men and women who have gone on to star in scores of brilliant movies and television shows.

Seriously, if you had to choose between only watching movies and shows that featured SNL alums or limiting yourself to movies and shows that had no one from Saturday Night Live in the cast—no Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Kate McKinnon, Mike Myers, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Martin Short, Robert Downey Jr. (yes, the future Iron Man was on SNL, though he lasted only one season) and on down the line— which would you choose? That this is even a viable discussion is a tribute to the magic that longtime producer Lorne Michaels has been able to conjure up from his casts.

Here we pay tribute to SNL with photos of the stars of its early years and the first few turnovers of a cast that is always evolving as it keeps people laughing.

Original SNL cast member John Belushi and with frequent guest host Steve Martin, 1981.

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Original SNL cast member John Belushi with frequent guest host Steve Martin, 1981.

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Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, circa 1985.

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Dan Aykroyd, 1988.

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Gilda Radner.

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Chevy Chase and SNL producer Lorne Michaels attending Saturday Night Live 25 party at NBC/Rainbow Room in 1999.

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Cast members Eddie Murphy (left) and Joe Piscopo (right) appearing with guest Jerry Lewis on Saturday Night Live, 1984.

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Comedian Eddie Murphy (left) and singer Rick James following Murphy’s performance at Madison Square Garden, 1986.

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Robert Downer Jr., 1989.

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Martin Short in his dressing room at Roundabout Theater, 1998.

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Brad Hall, who was a Weekend Update anchor on Saturday Night Live, with wife and former SNL cast member Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the Golden Globe Awards, 1994.

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Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman, 1987.

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Myers Mike and Dana Carvey/

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Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri.

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Molly Shannon surrounded by women dressed as her Saturday Night Live character Mary Catherine Gallagher.

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Victoria Jackson, 1989.

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Kevin Nealon and Rob Schneider.

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Jan Hooks, 1991.

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Chris Farley, David Spade and Adam Sandler, 1990.

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Chris Rock, David Spade and Chris Farley, 1994.

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Adam Sandler with Chris Rock, circa 1988.

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Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell, who played the Butabi brothers together on SNL and in the movie A Night at the Roxbury.

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SNL Lorne Michaels speaking a Conehead, 1994.

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