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Robert Downey Jr. Was an SNL Regular Before He Was Iron Man

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Few may recall some cast members of Saturday Night Live during the 1985-1986 season, but how many can remember Robert Downey Jr. being amongst that lineup? Joan Cusack, Nora Dunn, Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Randy Quaid, Al Franken, Damon Wayans and yes, Robert Downey Jr. are some names that were a part of that season’s roster. Though many of the cast moved on to greater success, including Downey, that particular season was an utter flop with ratings so bad that the long-running sketch comedy series was briefly canceled. Fortunately, Lorne Michaels convinced the network for another season and fortunately for Robert Downey, he was ultimately destined for MCU stardom.

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When Downey joined SNL, it was part of a revamping campaign with a bunch of new hires. The concept of casting fresh faces did not work out and most ended up getting fired. Downey may be one of the biggest box office draws now, but his tenure on SNL was not well received back in the day. Critics and fans saw him as the least popular member and Rolling Stone Magazine went so far as to dub him as “the worst cast member in the show’s history.” Hard to imagine considering Downey delivers some of the best snarky lines ever in most of his movies. Sometimes it’s a matter of good writing material.

During his time on SNL, Downey was never privy to the one thing that seems to skyrocket others into household names. An iconic recurring character. Think Bill Hader as Stefon, Rachel Dratch as Debbie Downer, Dan Aykroyd as Julia Child, or Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson. Downey only lasted one season on SNL, and he previously attributed his struggles to his background as a budding actor with no prior experience working around improv situations.

The actor’s movie career immediately took off after his departure from SNL beginning with the John Hughes’ classic Weird Science and followed by a string of coming-of-age flicks, turning Downey into an idol and a member of Hollywood’s Brat Pack. Not long afterwards, his career success was almost completely hampered by drug addiction. Robert Downey Jr. overcame those setbacks and has long been a major Hollywood powerhouse.

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