Previously filmed in Los Angeles, it's Saturday night. Never quite catching on with the same fervor as its New York competition, MADtv
has still carved a niche for itself appealing to a younger demographic who favor repeat characters and dead-on celebrity impersonations over topical sketches. Like Saturday Night Live
though, "MADtv" has had some fantastic cast members during its 13-year tenure as well as some real clunkers. Why focus on the bad though when we can celebrate the good. Some of these actors have gone on to mediocre careers; others still remain stuck in obscurity. Here are the top ten funniest MADtv cast members, have you heard of them?
Most Memorable Character: A&F model Dutch
Ike Barinholtz has the distinction of being on this list not for his own ability, but for being able to play so well off his fellow actors. While no single character stands out, he is remembered for his dual scenes, especially those with best friend Josh Meyers
(brother of SNL's Seth Meyers
). These scenes included the Abercrombie workers as well as an infamous sketch where they played two football fans who realized their feelings for one another. Barinholtz was a team player on the show, which lead to his absence from television and movies following his departure in 2007.
Most Memorable Character: Vancome Lady
You know what? Uh-uh. "MADtv" was pretty much a catchphrase factory in its early years. Nicole Sullivan was one of the original cast members of the show and created characters that simply don't exist on comedy shows anymore. A particular highlight from her run on the show was Darlene McBride, the racist country singer who sang of a truly white Christmas. While SNL had a history of favoring the male stars, "MADtv's" biggest laughs came from their female starts. Nicole Sullivan can be credited with helping start the tradition.
Most Memorable Character: Stuart's mom
Like Nicole Parker, Mo Collins' talent lies in her ability to do celebrity impersonations. While her original characters tended to be one note jokes, any time she was done up like a star, hilarity ensued. Her departure from the show in 2004 signaled the beginning of the end of the second generation of truly talented cast members, with Aries Spears
and Stephanie Weir following suit in the following seasons. Although best remembered as Stuart's mom, Collins was always up for a good old fashioned music video parody.
Most Memorable Character: Pat-Beth LaMontrose
Along with Michael McDonald, Nicole Parker is one of the view reasons anyone should continue to watch the show in its current incarnation. A talent for impressions has taken her far with dead on portrayals of Ellen, Kathy Griffin
, and Ashlee Simpson
. Her most offensive character happens to be one the funniest on the show, Pat-Beth LaMontrose, the not so subtle racist wife of Jordan Peele's Dontel. Their chemistry during the skit along with their subtle jabs at one another have audiences laughing uncomfortably the whole way through. She is currently holds the record for the longest running female cast member on MADtv.
Most Memorable Character: Kenny Rogers
Larger than life and a character actor in the vein of Chris Farley
, Will Sasso joined the cast in 1997, after three members of the original cast left the season before. His exaggerated impersonations stood out from his peers by focusing on entertainment over accuracy. A particular highlight was his interview of Lance Bass
, as Lance Bass. He will always be remembered for Kenny Rogers
sketches though, probably because more people recognize him as Rogers than the actual Kenny Rogers.
Most Memorable Character: Ms. Swan
This petite comedienne joined the cast two years in and would quickly become one of the show's breakout stars. Her talent was clear not only in sketches but also in the bits where "MADtv" hit the red carpet at movie premiers. Teamed with Will Sasso, her self-deprecating humor was a welcome change from Ms. Swan her most famous creation. Swan spawned the catch phrase "He look-a like a man" which would become overused throughout the five years Borstein was in the cast. Since leaving the show Borestein has gone on to write for and star in Family Guy
as the voice of Lois Griffin. Check out her stand up act on DVD to hear about her work in Catwoman, a cinema masterpiece.
Most Memorable Character: Dollar Bill Montgomery
Joining the cast at the same time as Will Sasso, Aries Spears spent his eight seasons on the show amassing a loyal fan base. What Spears brought to the show in later seasons was the edge that went away after the shows first few seasons. His Dollar Bill hosted a show on issues of race, while he also poked fun at the white washing of Wayne Brady
. Fans say he left the show too soon, since he went on to face charges of sexual assault. Nobody is immune to scandal.
Most Memorable Character: Jaq the UBS Guy
One of only two original cast members to make the list, Phil LaMarr brought to the show a great deal more experience than his fellow cast mates. A veteran voice actor, LaMarr translated his vocal gifts into his characters. What set him apart from the other original male cast members was his ability to truly act on screen, where the others fell into the trap of acting like themselves. Since leaving the show LaMarr has continued to work both as a voice actor and on screen with notable roles in Justice League and Futurama
Most Memorable Character: Dot
There is something unexplainable about Stephanie Weir. She isn't classically beautiful, and she has a very distinctive voice to say the least. Somehow though, she is the funniest female cast member to appear on the show. While she began as a featured player, she was actually kept on for an additional half season after she initially decided to leave at a time when most of the show's cast was heading out the door. Since she left, there has been a game that won't be filled.
Most Memorable Character: Rusty
The funniest "MADtv" cast member is also the longest running. Having spent 10 years on the show, Michael McDonald has played everyone from Doctor Phil
to his most famous character, Rusty the man-child. When not starring on the show, McDonald has directed a handful of episodes of Scrubs
and even showed up in an episode of Desperate Housewives
. With no plans to leave the show, he remains the final reminder of a generation gone by. When he finally makes his departure, "MADtv" will be forced to find a new anchor. Hopefully that day won't happen anytime soon.
Story by Dan Chruscinski
Starpulse contributing writer