‘Saturday Night Live’ Cast in High Demand for Commercials After Years of Making Fake Ads (2023)

Some of the most-watched sketches featuring cast members of “Saturday Night Live” aren’t taking place on NBC’s venerable late-night show.

Several of “SNL’s” popular players have in recent months started showing their stuff on a decidedly different stage.Kenan Thompson, who has been with “SNL” since 2003, recently began holding amusing conversations with talking kitchen appliances as he shops for a car in a commercial from Autotrader. Aidy Bryant has been spotted dancing in ads for Old Navy.Kate McKinnonhasn’t been on “SNL” so far this season due to outside projects, but she has been trying to make people smile in spots for Verizon and PepsiCo’s Tostitos. Pete Davidson gets his tattoos removed in recent ads for Coca-Cola’s smartwater. And Chloe Fineman, a relative newcomer to the “SNL” ranks, has struck an alliance with J. Crew’s Madewell.

(Video) COVID Commercial - SNL

“SNL” cast have appeared in commercials in the recent past.McKinnon has done ads for Fordand Cecily Strong has held forth for Mondelez International’s Triscuits. Leslie Jones once did an ad for Allstate and Michael Che appeared with Tina Fey in a commercial for American Express. Last year, however, “Saturday Night Live” was the most-watched traditional TV series among viewers between 18 and 49, the demographic most coveted by advertisers in entertainment programming. The cast of “SNL,” once billed as “The Not Ready For Prime Time Players,” is more than adequately prepared as far as Madison Avenue is concerned.

In the past, “it was very, very challenging to work with that franchise. It made people a little gun-shy,” says Megan McMahon, senior vice president of celebrity and influencer at The Marketing Arm, an Omnicom Group marketing agency that tracks famous figures’ ability to influence brand loyalty and consumer purchases. “’SNL’ and NBC have been much more open to opportunities.”

(Video) 39 Cents - SNL

So open that NBC has told advertisers they can’t run commercials featuring the cast during original broadcasts of the show itself, out of concern that viewers might think the ads and the program are intertwined. The network goofed during its October 23 telecast, when Jason Sudeikis hosted “SNL,” running the Old Navy commercial with Bryant at two different times. Those appearances should not have happened, according to a person familiar with the matter, and NBC was slated to review why its policies were not followed. “SNL” producers declined to comment.

The “SNL” cast has even been ranked on such criteria as awareness, overall appeal, ability to break through to consumers, and whether potential customers might find one member or another aspirational. According to The Marketing Arm’s study of such attributes, McKinnon’s appeal is on par with that of Tom Hanks, Will Smith or Dolly Parton, while awareness of Thompson’s is comparable to that of Chrissy Teigen, Robert Pattinson and Eva Longoria.

Madison Avenue’s growing use of “SNL” actors comes asLorne Michaels, the show’s executive producer,has started working with the cast in new ways.In earlier decades, most of the cast stayed close to the series, and didn’t branch out until a contract had lapsed and other opportunities presented themselves. But Michaels and his Broadway Video production company haveramped up other activity, much of it centered around “SNL” talent.Last season, for example, both Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant did not appear for several episodes while each tackled other projects under Michaels’ aegis. Thompson, meanwhile, stars in his own NBC sitcom that is in production during part of the “SNL” cycle.

“I think Lorne has always been an advocate for everybody that’s kind of subsidizing their finances in any kind of way they can,” says Thompson, in an interview. “As long as it’s not something like ‘Why didn’t you put that character on the show? Why are you developing sketch characters for other people?’ That’s kind of the only time it gets a little muddy, I guess.”

Michaels told Variety in 2017that he takes such matters seriously. “I don’t like it, but if someone is going to be well paid and it’s not next to us in the show, then I’m OK,” he said of the cast appearing in commercials. When it comes to weaving bespoke ad messages into or alongside “SNL,” he is “less welcoming in the sense that the integrity of the show is really all that matters to me,” he said at the time, adding that “You can’tmake funof it, andbe withit” simultaneously.

Advertisers still want any “SNL” foothold they can get. Autotrader thought Thompson would help capture the attention of millennial consumers, says Greta Crowley, vice president of marketing for Cox Automotive, which owns Autotrader, and knew that any link to “SNL” would be relevant for months as the show garnered notice for its sketches and cultural commentary. “We knew it was going to continue to get more press,” she says.

(Video) CNN App - SNL

So the company did its due diligence, making sure to talk to NBC in advance of the campaign, checking to see what it might be able to do in terms of getting ads in proximity to the series. Airing the commercial during first run “SNL” episodes was not an option, says Crowley. “They are a little more careful about trying to preserve the ‘SNL’ characters and celebrities,” and want to keep away from anything that might suggest the show, which regularly lampoons popular products and companies in sketches and spoofs of advertising, is treating something with any degree of favoritism. But NBC will allow the ads to run in “SNL” repeats and in “SNL” clips that appear on social media, she says, as well as in the “Kenan” sitcom.

Other marketers also think the “SNL” cast will help secure attention from consumers who have become much harder to reach. Pete Davidson’s ad for smartwater, which debuted in July, generated so much response that Coca-Cola decided to put it back in rotation for a second run in October, says Amy Manganiello, group director of creative for the company’s portfolio of hydration products. Executives wanted the commercial to portray smartwater as something that helps people make better choices in their lives, and felt Davidson, who has been open in the past about working thorough issues around mental health, would make for a great fit, she adds.

Research by Madewell shows that Chloe Fineman has “generated strong positive sentiment” for its clothes, says Derek Yarbrough, the company’s chief marketing officer. And Old Navy, part of Gap Inc., felt teaming up with Aidy Bryant would burnish a connection with a broader array of potential customers, says Jamie Gersch, the company’s global chief marketing officer. Bryant “has been a champion for body inclusivity on and off the screen and felt personally connected to this concept.” Marketing executives for Verizon and Tostitos declined to comment on their specific alliances with Kate McKinnon.

(Video) Lincoln Ads - Saturday Night Live

At a different time, seeing an “SNL” cast member involved in commercial activity might raise eyebrows. When David Spade did an ad for 1-800-COLLECT in the mid-1990s while still on “SNL,” for example, it was surprising, and decidedly not the norm. Since then, however, Michaels has carefully steered the show into interesting team-ups with Madison Avenue. In 2009, “SNL” crafted three sketches based on a long-running spoof of “MacGyver” called “MacGruber” that were really commercials for Pepsi. The spots appeared in ad breaks supporting a January “SNL” broadcast, and one of them showed up in NBC’s broadcast a day later of Super Bowl XLIII. On occasion, the show is allowing some of its former cast members to reprise old characters. Kevin Nealon and Dana Carvey revived their “Hans and Franz” team for State Farm while Carvey and Mike Meyers held forth as “Wayne’s World” denizens Wayne and Garth for a spot from Uber Eats.

One reason the “SNL” actors are in demand is their ability to improvise and come up with more material than is called for in any individual commercial script. Pete Davidson’s smartwater commercial has gotten a “refresh” for its new run, says Manganiello, with extra footage that was available. “There is so much great content on the cutting room floor,” she says, which has enabled to company to make use of some outtakes and bloopers. Davidson will be seen in the commercial through the end of 2021, she adds. Autotrader has a few unexpected extras from Thompson it could use. “There was a trip and fall in there,” he says.

More advertisers are willing to loosen up to work with comedians, says The Marketing Arm’s McMahon, and that lets the “SNL” players work toward their strengths. Improvised remarks and in-the-moment jokes “can prolong a campaign,” she says, and create all kinds of ancillary material. “It’s not just about the TV spot. It’s also about the social content.”

(Video) SNL Commercial Parodies: Infomercials

The lure of commercial work can be hard to resist for an actor, no matter where they are in the arc of a career. Money and exposure, after all, are always appreciated. Imagine, says Thompson, if his work on the Autotrader ad turned him into the next “Flo,” the insurance-selling character who has been rendered almost ubiquitous by commercials from Progressive. “It’s a side thing that doesn’t take up a lot of time, but can echo for a long time, which is an actor’s dream.”


Is SNL ad libbed? ›

While many of the show's performers come from an improv comedy background, it's forbidden to improvise on SNL. The show has to be planned down to the second to account for each sketch, musical performance, and a commercial break. But not every host and musical guest follows that rule, and many were subsequently banned.

Who from SNL is in the Verizon com? ›

The actor in the 2023 Verizon commercial is Seth Meyers, joining the actress who has represented Verizon's face for a while, Cecily Strong. The two comedians come from the same background: people learned to love them during their experiences at Saturday Night Live.

Are SNL skits rehearsed? ›

Friday and Saturday are pure rehearsal days. Pretaped sketches are rehearsed and taped first on Friday, and may take up until 4pm until the live sketches are rehearsed. At 8pm on Saturday a Dress Rehearsal is performed in front of a live audience.

How much do SNL cast members make? ›

The SNL cast salary rates in 2023
  1. Kenan Thompson: $25k. Kenan Thompson (age 43 years as of 2021) is an American actor and comedian born in Atlanta, Georgia, on 10th May 1978.
  2. Colin Jost: $25k. ...
  3. Kate McKinnon: $25k. ...
  4. Cecily Strong: $25k. ...
  5. Kyle Mooney: $25k. ...
  6. Mikey Day - $15k. ...
  7. Pete Davidson: $15k. ...
  8. Michael Che: $15k. ...
Mar 10, 2023

Who are the actors in the new Verizon commercial 2023? ›

The actress talking with Cecily Strong in the 2023 Verizon wireless commercial “Cut the Cable” is the American comedian Jessica Williams. Jessica is an active presence in the world of American media since 2006.

How much does Kenan Thompson make per episode? ›

These veteran comedians earn $25,000 per episode, which equates to $525,000 per year. Kenan has been on the show since 2003, which is a longer run than any other actor in history.

Do SNL hosts get paid? ›

How Much Do 'SNL' Hosts Get Paid? The amount really depends on the host. It ranges from $25,000 per episode to $525,000 per year. But according to Justin Timberlake, who's already hosted a few times, he only made $5,000 per appearance.

Who owns SNL? ›

SNL Studios (also known as "Saturday Night Live Studios") is a production company founded in 1997 as a joint venture between Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels and NBC Studios.

How much does an episode of SNL cost? ›

Jean Doumanian was tasked with hiring a full cast and writing staff in less than three months, and NBC immediately cut the show's budget from the previous $1 million per episode down to just $350,000. Doumanian faced resentment and sabotage from the remaining Michaels staff.

What is the average SNL writer salary? ›

What is the average salary for a Writer at Snl Financial Lc in the United States? Based on our data, it appears that the optimal compensation range for a Writer at Snl Financial Lc is between $57,071 and $72,825, with an average salary of $65,002.

How do SNL actors remember their lines? ›

Lines and sketches can be (and fairly regularly are) altered literally right up until the last minute before filming so everything is written on cue cards which are held up behind the cameras - if you ever watch something with Bill Hader playing Stefon on Weekend Update, the reason why he always laughed so much was ...

Can anyone audition for SNL? ›

“SNL” has never held open auditions; instead, the show seeks you out. Since the days of Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner, producers have plucked talented performers from the improv and standup scenes in major U.S. cities.

Who is the longest serving cast member on SNL? ›

Celebrity Chat: SNL's longest running cast member, Kenan Thompson.

How much did Pete Davidson make on SNL? ›

According to a number of outlets, Pete made $15,000 per episode of Saturday Night Live. However, the comedian's journey on the show came to an end on May 22, 2022, when he appeared in his last episode.

Who is the richest cast member on SNL? ›

These are the richest "Saturday Night Live" cast members of all time and how they made their fortunes.
  • Dan Aykroyd — $200 Million (Tie) ...
  • Eddie Murphy — $200 Million (Tie) ...
  • Mike Myers — $200 Million (Tie) ...
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus — $250 Million. ...
  • Robert Downey Jr. ...
  • Adam Sandler — $420 Million. ...
  • Lorne Michaels — $500 Million.
Oct 11, 2022

Who is the actor in the Verizon iPhone 14 commercial? ›

There's a Better Way to Measure TV & Streaming Ad ROI

Cecily Strong greets Seth Meyers as he loads luggage into his car. Seth shows off his new iPhone 14 and says he's now rolling with Verizon thanks to its amazing network and smartphone deals.

Who is the girl in the prime commercial? ›

Amazon Prime embraces mustaches in global campaign with Olivia Wilde | Marketing Dive.

Who are the famous people in the Verizon commercials? ›

Many people want to know who are the actors in the new Verizon commercial each time the firm's ads go viral. Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp merged to form this multinational company in June 2000.

How much do guest stars get paid? ›

The pay is called “top-of-show.” That's the most a show will pay for a guest star actor, unless that person is a name. On network TV, the rate for a one-hour drama is currently $9,522 (eight days of work) and half-hour comedies pay $5,951 (five days of work).

What is Lorne Michaels salary? ›

The outlet lists his annual salary at around $30million. Alongside Dick Ebersol and Herb Schlosser, Michaels created the television series formerly known as NBC's Saturday Night in 1975. Two years later, the show changed its name to Saturday Night Live.

How much does Kenan make a year? ›

His total estimated SNL salary? Between $2 to 3 million per year.

Does SNL allow lip syncing? ›

Most performers on SNL don't lip-sync all the time. In fact, Lorne Michaels will generally not invite back an artist when and if he discovers that they lip-synced a performance, as he believes that it goes against the whole point of the show being live.

Is SNL still improv? ›

But what we do here is so nailed down that there's very little improvisation. Every line, every bit of dialogue, has a camera cut attached to it. If you're not where you're supposed to be, then they're going to miss the shot." Plenty of cast members have run afoul of Michaels and his show's strict requirements.

Are SNL skits prerecorded? ›

Pretaped sketches have been a part of SNL since the show's inception. The comedian and filmmaker Albert Brooks was hired at the start to direct six short films to be dispersed throughout the first season, and since then the show has found a way to use the shorts to tell different stories.

How long is an episode of SNL without commercials? ›

An episode of Saturday Night Live runs approximately 67 minutes w/o commercials and 93 minutes (11:29pm-1:02am) with commercials.

What bands were banned from SNL? ›

5 Artists Banned from 'Saturday Night Live'
  • Elvis Costello. December 17, 1977.
  • Fear. October 31, 1981.
  • Sinéad O'Connor. October 3, 1992.
  • Cypress Hill. October 2, 1993.
  • Rage Against the Machine. April 13, 1996.
Dec 17, 2022

Why are artists forced to lip sync? ›

Lip syncing these notes ensures that the performer will not be out of tune or strain their voice. Once the difficult portion of the song has passed, the artist may continue to lip sync or may resume singing live. Some artists lip sync choruses during songs but sing the main verses.

Who was caught lip-syncing on SNL? ›

She walked off stage after awkwardly dancing.

What is the longest running comedy show SNL? ›

Recent News. Saturday Night Live (SNL), original name (1975–77) NBC's Saturday Night, American sketch comedy and variety television series that has aired on Saturday nights on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) network since 1975, becoming one of the longest-running programs in television.

Is Garth and Kat improvised? ›

Portrayed by

Garth and Kat are holiday-themed singer/songwriters who perform on Weekend Update. However, they often don't prepare their songs ahead of time and improvise them as they go along. As a result, the songs are incoherent and bad. It appears that the actors themselves are actually improvising during this skit.

How does SNL choose for skits? ›

Writers and cast members meet to begin pitching jokes and sketch ideas. Meanwhile, SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels, the writers and cast meet with hosts and figure out their abilities. Michaels and the show's head writers then decide which of these ideas are best, and which play to the host's strengths.

What is the longest running commercials on TV? ›

The world's longest running TV commercial is the Discount Tire Company's Thank you commercial, produced by Swartwout Productions (Arizona, USA) and first aired in 1975. The same commercial has been aired continuously every year in parts of the USA.

How long are commercials per hour? ›

What is the average length of commercial breaks in a 1-hour TV show? According to data made available by Statista, the average time for commercials made available by the main TV channels in the US ranges from 12 to 17 minutes per hour.

How long is an SNL contract? ›

The vote took place during a Wednesday night meeting of the crew and Editors Guild representatives. The contract now goes into effect immediately and runs until the summer of 2026. “The solidarity and bravery of this crew are just so impressive,” said Cathy Repola, National Executive Director of the Editors Guild.


1. GE Big Boys - SNL
(Saturday Night Live)
2. SNL Commercial Parodies: Feminine Products
(Saturday Night Live)
3. SNL Commercial Parodies: Tech
(Saturday Night Live)
4. Next: For Men - SNL
(Saturday Night Live)
5. Target Commercial - SNL
(Saturday Night Live)
6. Pizza Ad - SNL
(Saturday Night Live)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Otha Schamberger

Last Updated: 28/09/2023

Views: 5295

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (75 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Otha Schamberger

Birthday: 1999-08-15

Address: Suite 490 606 Hammes Ferry, Carterhaven, IL 62290

Phone: +8557035444877

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: Fishing, Flying, Jewelry making, Digital arts, Sand art, Parkour, tabletop games

Introduction: My name is Otha Schamberger, I am a vast, good, healthy, cheerful, energetic, gorgeous, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.