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It took a lot of caffeine, packs of chewing gum and much angst, but The Detroit News entertainment staff came up with a hard-fought list of Saturday Night Live's top 40 performers last week, in advance of the SNL 40 show Sunday.

Amy Poehler came out on top, to the fury of many male readers, who thought it was a plot hatched by female staffers (actually our votes didn't come down along gender lines).

Our No. 2 was Phil Hartman, followed by Will Ferrell (No. 3), Eddie Murphy (No. 4), Mike Myers (No. 5), John Belushi (No. 6), Chris Farley (No. 7) and Gilda Radner (No. 8).

Our readers begged to differ. We offered a poll of our top 20 picks and asked our readers to order them as they would like.

Reflecting, perhaps, more of a baby boomer demographic than our department, they chose John Belushi as the top SNL performer of all time, and pushed Murphy up to No. 2 (this was before Murphy's underwhelming 73-second appearance on SNL 40), of course.

There was more love for Chris Farley from our readers, who put him at No. 5, which led our office Farley acolytes to wish they'd fought harder for the heavyset comic.

For statistics fans, Poehler did get the second-most votes from our readers for No. 1 (just behind Belushi), but she got so many votes ranking her low that it evened out and she ended up in the middle.

But hey, we all agreed that Will Ferrell ranks No. 3!

Here are our readers' rankings of the Top 20 SNL Stars

1. John Belushi

2. Eddie Murphy

3. Will Ferrell

4. Phil Hartman

5. Chris Farley

6. Mike Myers

7. Dan Aykroyd

8. Gilda Radner

9. Amy Poehler

10. Bill Murray

11. Dana Carvey

12. Tina Fey

13. Kristen Wiig

14. Chevy Chase

15. Kenan Thompson

16. Darrell Hammond

17. Andy Samberg

18. Maya Rudolph

19. Bill Hader

20. Fred Armisen

swhitall@detroitnews.com

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