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Keep, Fire, or Spin Off? An 'SNL' Debate

By Craig Wack | Saturday Night Live | March 19, 2015 |

By Craig Wack | Saturday Night Live | March 19, 2015 |

It’s been a rough year for Saturday Night Live to put it mildly.

The political sketches have lacked edge, the Colin Jost-Michael Che Update experiment has been a disaster, Kyle Mooney has struggled to fill the Lonely Island’s shoes and some of the better sketches didn’t make it past dress rehearsal.

While commentary about SNL “not being funny as it used to be” dates back to the show’s second year, this version is pretty bad, like 1985 Randy Quiad-Robert Downey Jr.-Anthony Michael Hall season bad.

This show has made sweeping changes before and come out the other side the better for it. So if you were a comedy genius NBC executive or Lorne Michaels for a day, who from the current cast would you keep and who would you hose into the gutter of comedy history?

For our purposes here, you can only keep three cast members for the show and just for fun, spin one cast member into another project. To get it started, here are my picks:

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Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Beck Bennett: I’ve always liked the skilled utility players like Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell and Bill Hader the best. McKinnon is on course to be an all-time great, if movies don’t pull her away first. She’s the show’s best impressionist, but has original characters in sketches and on “Weekend Update.” She can set up others’ jokes as well as venture into the realm of absurdist and weird. I went with Bryant because she’s been a driving force behind some of the best music videos the show has done (“Twin Bed,” “Back Home Baller,” etc.) and she tends to sell the hell out of everything she’s in even if it’s a line or two. Bennett is a bit of a wildcard choice, but he does good straight man and is fairly gifted with physical comedy if his baby body boss character is any indication.

Cecily Strong: Although her recurring characters are starting to blur together, in my opinion, Strong is still a gifted comic. I’d look into resurrecting the permanent guest host role for The Tonight Show and putting Strong in it. She’d still be able to do some characters but most importantly it’d play into her strength of playing off other people.

In my mind the easiest cuts were Jost and Leslie Jones. Jost for obvious “Jost has no business on camera” reasons and Jones because if performing sketches live isn’t a strength for you, then being on a live sketch show is not something you’ll find success with. The most difficult cut for me was Bobby Moynihan. Like McKinnon, he’s been a bright spot this season, especially on Update as Riblet. But McKinnon does everything a little better in my view and the different tools Bryant and Bennett bring push Moynihan out of my top three.

So let the debate rage. Which three current SNL cast mates would you pick to form the core of your revamped cast and who would you think would find the most success in a different project?

Choose wisely.

Craig Wack is a veteran journalist. Please follow his Twitter.

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