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"Saturday Night" specials: Chicago a talent pipeline for NBC comedy

For 40 years, “Saturday Night Live” has functioned as a sort of brass ring for Chicago improvisers and sketch comedy performers. Each year the show’s talent scouts, and frequently executive producer Lorne Michaels himself, have come to Chicago to scour the town for the best.

History teaches us that a spot in the cast of “Saturday Night Live” can be a launching pad to stardom. Not every Chicago talent who has made the trek to NBC emerged a household name. But many did, and many have. Thus, for decades Chicago performers have stared out in the dark, hoping that one sketch might catch “SNL’s” eye, praying that a carefully forged character kills in the all-important showcase.

We’re focused here on those hired by “SNL” as performers. Many who are not mentioned, including former head writers Adam McKay and John Mulaney, made their marks in the writers offices. This is not an exhaustive list. But here’s a look at many great and forgotten talents, all honed in Chicago, who made the leap to 30 Rock.

— Chris Jones and Nina Metz

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How Chicago's stars aligned on Saturday night
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1975

1995

2015

Chicago comedy affilitation:
  • Second city
  • iO
  • Annoyance
  • Other

Source: Chicago Tribune reporting

@ChiTribGraphics

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