Alex McCormick ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
“Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” is no longer something you will hear seven-year SNL veterans Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg or four-year vet Abby Elliott say. At the end of last season, Wiig, Samberg, and Elliott left Saturday Night Live to pursue other projects.
Abby Elliott’s departure from the show was quite possibly the most surprising, not only because she was only on the show for four years, but because it is literally her birthright to be on the show. Elliott was a third-generation cast member (Her father, Chris Elliott, was a cast member during the 1994-1995 season; her grandfather, Bob Elliott, was a guest performer in 1978), and was also one of the youngest SNL cast members in the show’s history. She was known for her impressions of Anna Faris, Zooey Deschanel, Rachel Maddow, Meryl Streep, Khloé Kardashian, Ke$ha, and Angelina Jolie. Abby Elliott has an upcoming arc later this season on How I Met Your Mother.
Andy Samberg’s exit probably had the greatest impact creatively, since he was one-third of the genius behind SNL Digital Shorts. Samberg was known for his original characters Shy Ronnie, T’Shane, Admiral Spaceship of Laser Cats, and Liam, the teenager who just woke up, as well as his impressions of Mark Wahlberg, Cathy from the cartoon Cathy, Mark Zuckerberg, and Nicolas Cage. Andy Samberg is starring in two films to be released in 2013.
While Samberg and Elliott certainly had their impact on SNL, Kristen Wiig’s departure dealt a blow the late-night sketch comedy show that was perhaps only paralleled by the exits of Mike Myers in 1995, Will Ferrell in 2002, Jimmy Fallon in 2004, Tina Fey in 2006, and Amy Poehler in 2008. Kristen Wiig is known for her original characters, such as The Target Lady, Judy Grimes, Kat (of Garth & Kat), Triangle Sally, Gilly, Penelope, and Dooneese, the deformed singer on The Lawrence Welk Show, while some of her more notable impressions include Lana del Rey, Björk, Suze Orman, Paula Deen, Kris Jenner, Taylor Swift, and Anne Romney. Kristen Wiig was the female lead following Amy Poehler’s departure, and especially after Abby Elliott, perhaps the only frontrunner to replace her, announced she was also leaving the show, fans quickly grew concerned over the quality of the impending thirty-eighth season.
However, after the first four episodes have aired, two things have become clear; there has not necessarily been a decline in quality, as the first few episodes of the season are rarely the most memorable, and newcomer Kate McKinnon is clearly not only willing to fill Kristen Wiig’s sizable shoes, but entirely capable of bringing the show back from its post-KWiig funk.
For this current season, featured players Vanessa Bayer, Taran Killam, and Jay Pharoah have all been promoted to repertory status. Lorne Michaels has also hired three new featured players, Aidy Bryant (who, I believe has yet to have a speaking part; and who will absolutely become well known for her inevitable Adele impression), Tim Robinson (who is clearly the least deserving of a cast position, seeing as he is not funny), and Cecily Strong (who has the most potential of the three). What is also abundantly clear is that Lorne Michaels has not even begun to prepare for the imminent departures of Jason Sudeikis (whose contract is up in January), Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Kenan Thompson. Armisen has been on the show for ten years, Sudeikis and Hader for seven, and Thompson for nine. We will also see, over the next two seasons or so, Seth Meyers’ tenure as head writer and Weekend Update anchor wind down. Meyers has been on the show since 2001, and co-head writer since 2006.
While Taran Killam, Kate McKinnon, and Jay Pharoah will do an incredible job replacing Jason Sudeikis, Kristen Wiig, and Kenan Thompson, respectively, the remaining cast members will not be able to make up for the departing cast members over the next few years. Bobby Moynihan is one of the funniest current cast members, and while Nasim Pedrad can be forgettable, she, Aidy Bryant, and Cecily Strong certainly have potential, but Vanessa Bayer and Tim Robinson drag the cast down. Fans need to recognize the fact that in a few years, the cast, and quite possibly the whole show, will be almost unrecognizable.