I’ve admired Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, and Pete Davidson (Chad!), who just made their final appearances as cast members on “Saturday Night Live.” They’ve been on the show for 11, 10, 9, and eight years, respectively. McKinnon and Bryant, in particular, helped move the show forward after the winning era of Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, and Jason Sudeikis ended in the early oughts. Each of the departing comics managed to make an impact, and Bryant (“Shrill”) and Davidson (“The King of Staten Island”) have also registered positively outside the show.
But I’m happy to see them leave. In terms of the long-term health of the show, it’s a good thing.
It’s time for some of the newer cast members to get room to stretch out. There were a whopping 21 cast members this past season — back in the very early years, there were generally fewer than 10 — as well as a regular roster of guest cameos from the likes of Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Wiig, Steve Martin, and Tom Hanks. That kind of crowded house — done in part so that older cast members can miss episodes in order to film other projects — has left few real chances for the newcomers to have a significant impact.
Certainly Bowen Yang, who has been an on-air cast member for three seasons, has managed to stand out, and so has Chloe Fineman. But Punkie Johnson, Andrew Dismukes, Ego Nwodim, Sarah Sherman, and Aristotle Athari, in addition to others, could all use more space to develop and make a stronger impression. I suspect Heidi Gardner and Chris Redd, both of whom arrived in 2017, have more to offer, too, and I’d like to see James Austin Johnson do more than his remarkable Donald Trump and his mediocre Joe Biden.
Keeping the cast in motion is a way to invest in the future of the show. Let’s hope Lorne Michaels doesn’t bring in so many newbies this fall that he re-creates the same kind of log jam.