I don’t know why people can’t just accept that SNL hasn’t been relevant for a while and the format is dated. I used to love the show but its not the talent farm it used to be since since there are many other ways for people to get noticed.
This is a comment I read on a Saturday Night Live thread recently. I’ve seen countless versions of this comment, as well as, “This show is still on?” “Why are you still watching?” and the ever-popular “Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny in years.”
This most recent 39th season might have been a down one, and whether it’s funny or not is a matter of personal preference, but it’s relevance is not debatable. Look around. Open your f*cking eyes, people. Saturday Night Live is all around you. Jimmy Fallon, the host of the most popular late night show on television, The Tonight Show is a former SNL cast member. His lead-out is former cast member Seth Meyers, who usually hosts four to five current and former SNL cast members a week. Former Tonight Show host and current host of Conan is a former SNL writer, who used to employ as a writer the star/writer/director of television’s best comedy, Louis C.K., who also helped write SNL’s “Saturday TV Funhouse,” with Robert Smigel, who also wrote “Ambiguously Gay Duo,” featuring the voice work of the man set to replace David Letterman next year, Stephen Colbert.
The second smartest comedy on television, Veep stars a former SNL cast member in Julia Louis Dreyfus; the sweetest comedy on television, Parks and Recreation stars former cast member Amy Poehler (and Nick Offerman, who met his wife on SNL); last night’s top rated show in the 10:00 hour, The Maya Rudolph Show starred a former cast member. The best freshman sitcom to get a second season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, stars a former SNL cast member, Andy Samberg. The most popular female comedian at the box office is Melissa McCarthy, who broke out in a big way thanks to Bridesmaids, written and starring a then current SNL cast member Kristen Wiig.
Almost every good comedy in television or film involves a former or current SNL writer or cast member or can be traced to one. If SNL were the Kevin Bacon game, you could connect every great sitcom to it in one step. The composition of the comedy world is made up of more SNL alums than any other show, and that includes The Daily Show, which admittedly has developed a lot of talent over the years, but like SNL, has delivered a lot of whiffs).
“Yeah, but those are older cast members,” someone is arguing, which is the same argument people have been making about the successful SNL alums for decades because it often takes several seasons before we recognize the potential break-out success of any given SNL cast member.
Let’s just take a look at the last ten cast members to leave SNL (minus Paul Brittain (who?) and Tim Robinson, who was absorbed back into the writer’s room):
1. Nasim Pedrad (expected to step down this summer) — She’s going to be one of the stars of the Fox fall sitcom, Mulaney, which is written by and stars former SNL head writer, John Mulaney.
2. Seth Meyers — Host of Late Night.
3. Jason Sudeikis — Star of last year’s second biggest comedy at the box office, We’re the MIllers, married to Olivia Wilde.
4. Bill Hader — He’s got two well-received indie films coming out this year, and four films coming out in 2015.
5. Andy Samberg — Star of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, one of the most critically acclaimed new sitcoms of the year.
6. Kristen Wiig — Has an Oscar nomination, and in addition to starring alongside Hader in one of those well-received indie flicks, has 7 other films coming out in the next two years.
7. Abby Elliott — Had a recurring role in How I Met Your Mother and has minor roles in three minor movies coming soon.
8. Fred Armisen — Bandleader of The Late Show and writer/star of Portlandia.
9. Will Forte — Thanks to Nebraska, Forte is quietly developing into a modest dramatic actor. He has several projects, mostly on the indie spectrum, coming soon. Still beloved by some for MacGruber.
10. Jenny Slate — Recurring role on Parks and Recreation and House of Lies and she’s the star of this summer’s Obvious Child, which is expected to elevate her stature considerably (it’s described as the best abortion rom-com ever!)
That’s an amazing success rate for the last ten cast members to leave Saturday Night Live, where even minor cast members (Casey Wilson, Michaela Watkins) usually end up doing well for themselves. There’s no reason to believe that success rate won’t eventually continue.
And no: This past season wasn’t particularly good, but individually, the cast is talented. Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon could very well be the next Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Beck Bennett is going to be playing best friend roles in comedies for the rest of his life. Taran Killam is already getting decent filmwork (12 Years a Slave, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Jay Pharoah could easily develop into a solid action-comedy star, and Vanessa Bayer will probably end up in a string of sitcoms someday.
The rest of the new cast? Who knows? But that’s the thing about SNL. We don’t often really begin to notice cast members until their third or fourth season. It takes awhile to gain familiarity, but most of these guys will eventually land a break-out sketch that makes them recognizable, and we will slowly begin to remember their names. It’ll take some time, but though we don’t realize it yet, there’s a Fallon and a Ferrell and a Poehler among those no-names, who will eventually leave the show and continue filtering into the comedy world, where most projects eventually lead back to what remains one of the most relevant shows on TV: Saturday Night Live.