Jenny Slate by Michael Watier
There was a time when being a cast member of Saturday Night Live meant instant elevation to movie stardom.
But with the new millennium came new talent factories - your MAD TVs, your Daily Shows - forcing comics to try that much harder to break out of the Lorne Michaels variety box.
Jenny Slate, whose film Obvious Child opens this Friday (June 20), did it in spite of being fired from SNL, because she's just that talented.
Here are five who've made particularly successful transitions in the last decade. (Will Ferrell left the show in 2002, so don't be getting all huffy that he isn't included.)
1. Tina Fey
Sure, she created and starred in 30 Rock, and returned triumphantly to SNL during the 2008 election cycle with a killer impression of Republican smile monster Sarah Palin. But Fey has forged a strong big-screen career for herself too - co-starring opposite best pal Amy Poehler in Baby Mama and fellow TV breakout Steve Carell in Date Night, voicing a Lois Lane-like reporter in the animated superhero comedy Megamind and nudging into more dramatic territory opposite Paul Rudd in Admission. She'll be getting serious again this fall as part of an all-star cast in This Is Where I Leave You - but only after making time to release her inner goofball in Muppets Most Wanted. Balance is important
2. Kristen Wiig
Like most SNL graduates, Wiig built a strong resume on sharp supporting work in movies like Knocked Up, Ghost Town, Adventureland, Whip It and MacGruber. And then she broke out on her own terms, writing Bridesmaids with her collaborator Annie Mumolo - and watching it catch fire at the North American box office, grossing $169 million and enabling a whole new wave of female-driven comedy. Wiig and Mumolo were rewarded with an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay, and Wiig suddenly became a sought-after character actor, landing in movies like Girl Most Likely, Hateship Loveship and Ben Stiller's The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. But she's still an invaluable comic dynamo in movies like Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, where she plays the equally demented love interest of Steve Carell's Brick Tamland. Next up: Welcome To Me, in which she plays a lottery winner who gives herself her own talk show, and a voice role in Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's R-rated animated comedy Sausage Party.
3. Will Forte
The MacGruber movie was actually kinda brilliant, and he should have landed an Oscar nomination for his dramatic work in Alexander Payne's Nebraska. (Somehow Bruce Dern landed the best actor nomination instead.) It's like the universe is out to stifle Will Forte at every turn, but don't worry; he'll just keep trying, delivering fully committed performances in comedies and dramas alike. In fact, his next role finds him doing a little bit of both as a nerdy suitor to Jennifer Aniston in Life Of Crime. And he remains ferociously loyal to Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, reprising his Abraham Lincoln role from their show Clone High in The Lego Movie and dropping a quick voice cameo into this month's 22 Jump Street. He's also working with them on a new sitcom, Last Man On Earth, airing on Fox next year.
4. Jason Sudeikis
You can understand SNL doing whatever it could to keep Sudeikis. He's a great utility player, and his hepped-up Joe Biden remains the stuff of legend. But he's been racking up star points in surprise hits like Horrible Bosses and We're The Millers, and eventually the jump to making movies full-time had to make more sense than slapping on that bald cap every Saturday night. Four years ago, Sudeikis told me he was hoping to take on more dramatic parts, and recently edged in that direction with a role in Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies. Currently he's setting up Horrible Bosses 2 and a reboot of Gregory McDonald's smartass sleuth Fletch, which promises a fairly different version of Chevy Chase's take on the character.
5. Amy Poehler
Much like Fey, Poehler's biggest post-SNL success has been another television project - in this case, Parks And Recreation, in which she's found endless comic layers in the persona of overachieving Indiana public servant Leslie Knope. (She's also making her mark as a producer, getting the animated comedy The Mighty B! and the brilliant Comedy Central series Broad City on the air.) But Poehler gets restless when she spends too much time in any one character, so she's been branching out in weird directions - cameoing with Fey in Anchorman 2, playing the stepmom of her Parks And Rec love interest Adam Scott in A.C.O.D. and taking a straight role as Zach Galifianakis's pissed-off sister in Matthew Weiner's recently retitled TIFF flop Are You Here. Next week, she turns up opposite another Parks And Rec co-star, Paul Rudd, in the anti-romantic comedy They Came Together. That should be intriguing.