SNL Cast Changes

AKIE BERMISS: All good things must come to an end.  And, it would seem, the better a thing is the more imminent its ending must be.  Certainly it feels that way with SNL casts over the years.  Am I right in saying that the eras with bad or transitional casts seem to just go on forever?  Maybe its just the way time contracts when its history but even I, a child of the 80s, seem to remember three or four great casts that appeared to be coming up back-to-back.  Suddenly, in the 90s, its seemed like you’d have  GREAT cast for a couple of years and then a terrible cast for twice as long.  Then another great cast.  Then another terrible one for twice as long.

I realize now — having done some research — that it wasn’t like that at all.  But it certainly felt that way!

And that is part of my concern about the recent news that SNL is losing three actors who are, in my opinion, some of their best.  With Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg, and Kristen Wiig all said to be leaving, are we about to enter another liminal SNL period?  I mean, I suppose things have been pretty good lately but to this SNL fan it seems like we only just got cooking with this cast.  There are so many funny people — some who stand out and others who are role-players — and the writing has been better and its been fun to watch SNL again.  Now, just as we head into election season, they’re breaking up the band?!

Maybe  I have it wrong.  Maybe its Wiig, Sudeikis, and Samberg who’ve chosen to leave and pursue other aspects of their respective careers.  Probably there is no better time to leave the show than when you’re on top.  I think its a shame because they really are three of the best talents on the show.  Wiig is the genius, of course.  She is, comparatively, the Chris Farley of her era.  I don’t know anyone who has produced more belly-laughs for me.

Meanwhile, Samberg’s videos have to be the most googled/youtube’d material SNL has put out.  And his stuff has staying power; you can still look up one of his instantly classic videos [NSFW] for someone who hasn’t seen it and blow their minds.  And, finally, Sudeikis — who is a personal favorite. Ok, he doesn’t do great impressions, he’s not mr. belly-laugh, and he rarely is the center of any sketch BUT there’s no better straight-man on the show (apart from Seth Meyers, perhaps… and he has that “head-writer” distance).  And I mean that as a straight-man like as a foil for a funny-man (ie, for the Scared Straight sketches) or just playing a bit part full-tilt boogie — the much-maligned “What’s Up With That?!” has a break-dancer in it and his name is Jason Sudeikis.

Well, there’s no use fretting over it.  SNL cast members come and go.  Sometimes they go on to bigger and better things and sometimes you never hear from them again.  That’s just part of the cycle.  There’s always the chance that with the new talent coming in we’ll have a sudden comedic star like Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler or Amy Poehler or Mike Myers or Tina Fey or Dana Carvey…

ZOË RICE: Although I will miss Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, and Andy Samberg when they leave SNL, the show itself will probably only really miss one of them.

When a sketch comedy show relies on recurring characters for a good part of its content, those characters can only stay fresh for so long. No matter how funny they originally were, after the tenth, or in the case of Wiig maybe twentieth, installment, the funny’s been wrung out, and there’s nowhere to go but repetition. Gillie’s just silly. We get that Junice is the mutant Lawrence Welk sisters singer. Penelope can no longer one-up Penelope. Perhaps the irony of surprise-loving Sue is that her audience misses when anything she did was surprising. Kristen Wiig is immensely talented, and she remains valuable and versatile. Her Drew Barrymore impression this past Saturday had me inwardly chuckling. But her sketches are often character-driven, and I confess I’m sick of almost all the characters. (The Target Lady alone remains dear in my heart.) If last Saturday’s episode is any indicator, perhaps Kate McKinnon can fill part of the upcoming void. Her Penelope Cruz had me laughing more than I’ve laughed at Wiig in ages. It reminded me of the early Wiig days.

Jason Sudeikis’s departure will likely bring a tear to Howard Megdal’s eye. My fellow SNL reviewer loves Sudeikis’s Mitt Romney and his talent in general, which I also appreciate. But Sudeikis has failed to capture any signature niche in the SNL oeuvre that he may be particularly remembered for. On the one hand, that keeps his material fresh and on the other hand, not invaluable. My favorite Sudeikis moments came during his Devil appearances on Weekend Update, which seemed to cater to his greatest strength – making an “everyman” out of a character no one would ever consider the everyman.

The player SNL will miss the most, I believe, is Andy Samberg. Samberg’s digital shorts are often a highlight of the show, and in content, length, and production value, they are what best translate to multimedia. As television moves more and more swiftly to being a dual TV-web media phenomenon, losing Samberg’s digital shorts will be a tough blow. But beyond the ease with which they can be watched and shared online, they’re also often among the funniest moments of the show. They use the host well, they entice guest stars, they benefit from being able to film anywhere, and Samberg’s brand of goofy, silly fun is contagious. Certainly Samberg often walks a fine line between silly and stupid, but more often than not I can’t help but laugh at his antics. In his hands, what I might find puerile elsewhere I wind up enjoying.

Samberg is by far the least versatile of the three departing SNL cast members, but what he does he manages to keep fresh, absurd, and funny. Although Kristen Wiig is the better comedian, I will miss Andy Samberg’s digital shorts most of all.

No one should have to face a holiday season without the promise of a d**k in a box.

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