"Saturday Night Live" has again raided Los Angeles' Groundlings theater group. "SNL's" newest featured player, 25-year-old Chris Kattan, debuts on the NBC show this Saturday, joining fellow former Groundlings members Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri. Former "SNL" players Laraine Newman, Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz also got their starts with the L.A. sketch/improv troupe. . . . A Texas jury has ordered that TriStar Television pay $4.5 million in punitive damages--but only $1 in actual damages--for a 1994 NBC broadcast of "TV Nation," the Michael Moore series that has also aired on Fox. The suit was over a report spoofing a 128,000-acre Texas waste disposal "ranch" owned by Merco Joint Venture. TriStar said it will appeal. . . . Oscar nominee Mel Gibson ("Braveheart") was recovering Tuesday from an emergency appendectomy performed early Sunday at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Gibson, 40, suffered an appendicitis attack while flying from Los Angeles to New York to film scenes for his upcoming movie "Ransom." He was discharged from the hospital Sunday afternoon, and still plans to attend the March 25 Academy Awards ceremony, his publicist said. . . . "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc, whose Universal Pictures' movie "Ed" opens in theaters Friday, holds an Internet conference tonight at 6 at http://www.mca.com/universal--pictures.
SHAUNA SNOWArts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press
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