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Cleghorne at the La Bella Vista Club
November 29, 1965 |
Brooklyn, New York
Ellen Cleghorne (born November 29, 1965) is an American actress and comedian, best known for being a cast member of Saturday Night Live from 1991 to 1995. Cleghorne is notable as being the second African-American female repertory cast member of the sketch comedy show, succeeding Danitra Vance in its eleventh season.
Life and career
A native of the Red Hook Projects in Brooklyn, New York, she first established her talents in New York City comedy clubs and career started when she competed in the Johnnie Walker Comedy Search in 1989 at the comedy club Carolines in the South Street Seaport. In 1991, she landed minor roles in season two of In Living Color, where she was discovered by producers of Saturday Night Live. Cleghorne joined Saturday Night Live in 1991, and remained on the show for four seasons. During her time on the show she performed impressions such as Dr. Dre, Alfre Woodard, Anita Baker, Florence Griffith Joyner, Debbie Allen, Mary J. Blige, Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, Marla Gibbs, Robin Quivers, Toni Morrison, Joycelyn Elders, Tina Turner, and Whoopi Goldberg. Also, she had two recurring characters: Zoraida, an NBC page, and Queen Shenequa, who appeared frequently on Weekend Update.
Her former SNL costar Jay Mohr's book Gasping for Airtime notes that Cleghorne did not get along well with some of the other cast members during her time on the show. He also mentions a tiff with host Sally Field during a pitch meeting. In 1995, she left SNL to star as single mother Ellen Carlson on Cleghorne!, a sitcom that aired for one season on The WB network.
Cleghorne also appeared, off and on, on the cult TV show The Adventures of Pete and Pete, which aired on Nickelodeon. Cleghorne played a bus driver whose main function was as the love interest of Pete's regular bus driver.
Although Cleghorne has appeared in independent films and comedy segments since the cancellation of Cleghorne!, she has largely faded from mainstream entertainment, making only brief cameos in the films Armageddon, Coyote Ugly, Little Nicky, and Old School.
Cleghorne was mentioned on a segment of the Family Guy DVD Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, when Stewie asks if "they ever found a suitable vehicle for Ellen Cleghorne." Seth MacFarlane has said that she was so offended she called the studio and yelled at an animator who answered the phone.
Celebrity impressions on Saturday Night Live
Recurring characters on Saturday Night Live
- Queen Shenequa, an Afrocentric social critic who dressed in African garb, observed Kwanzaa, and made commentaries on race.
- Zoraida, an exuberant but short-tempered NBC page who pesters the celebrity hosts of the show as they prepare backstage. Usually, when the celebrity grew tired of her bothering them and would try to leave, she would suddenly become angry and threaten them.
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