Departures from the venerable, long-running institution that is Saturday Night Live tend to come in waves, and we haven’t had a massive wave in about seven or eight years, when Kristen Wiig, Seth Meyers, Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg, and Bill Hader all left the show within a year or two of each other. We’re probably due for another one of those waves, as several cast members approach their sixth, seventh, and eighth years on the show, like Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, and Beck Bennett, while veteran cast members Pete Davidson and Leslie Jones have kind of taken their characters as far as they can on the show (their characters are “themselves.”) Meanwhile, Kyle Mooney is kind of useless (though, I will grant that he has his fans, who are both passionate and horribly misguided).
Though Kate McKinnon’s contract is up, and there have been rumors that she may split this year, I don’t think she will. Nor do I think this will be a wave year. In fact, other than potentially a few minor tweaks, I don’t think there will be much by way of turnover this year. Next year is an election year, and I doubt that Lorne Michaels wants to upset cast chemistry ahead of what will likely be a huge season for the series. Kate McKinnon needs to stick around because she is the perfect Elizabeth Warren (and several male Trump Administration figures), while Beck Bennett has a successful Pence impression, and should Jason Sudeikis not agree to return every week to play Biden, Bennett can probably fill in there, too. Cecily has already said on Instagram that she’s likely to be back next year, and with her Jeanine Pirro impression and a few other characters, I feel like Cecily has never been better (in fact, if I were her, I’d stick around for a season after McKinnon has left, if only so that she can be the star for a year).
SNL hasn’t been particularly good in recent years, but ironically enough, I like almost the entire cast save, again, for Kyle Mooney. And while I maintain that Colin Jost and Michael Che are the exact wrong “Weekend Update” anchors for this era, unless Che continues to put his foot in it, Michaels is not going to pull them ahead of the election. For better or worse, they will always be associated with the Trump-era of SNL.
While I do think that the core of the show — McKinnon, Strong, Bryant, Bennett, and Kenan — will stick around one more year, I’m actually looking forward to what SNL may become after they leave. Beyond the probably-soon-to-be-departing core, I think Heidi Gardner is going to be the next big star of SNL; she already has a great arsenal of characters she rolls out regularly on “Update.” I think Melissa Villaseñor might ultimately become the Cecily to Gardner’s McKinnon. I also think that Chris Redd — who is behind a lot of the best music videos — could be the next Samberg, while the newest cast member Ego Nwodim has illustrated a lot of potential, even in otherwise bad skits. I’ll be honest, though, I still have to look up Alex Moffat and Mikey Day every week because I don’t remember who is who, but they have proven to be strong utility players, a role that I expect they will keep for several more years. The future of SNL looks pretty good.
That future cannot possibly include the longest-running cast member, Kenan Thompson, for that much longer. NBC has picked up his sitcom, The Kenan Show for next season. Kenan has vowed to remain on SNL, but he can’t do double duty forever. In fact, if he does finally leave after his 17th season, I can actually see Pete Davidson eventually sticking around to become the next longest running cast member, if only because Davidson — bless — always looks to me like the guy in college who still goes to high school parties.
Speaking of Kenan, I’ll end on this: Here are all the cast members who have started and ended their tenures on SNL since Kenan first appeared:
My guess is that Kenan is going to put a few more names on that list before finally joining them.
Header Image Source: NBC