Shifting Institutions – The New Players of SNL

SNL Titles

Saturday Night Live is extremely important to me. In addition to consistently creating stars that go on to do great work, the program is a comedic barometer for the times that we live in. The jokes made out of Studio 8H help define what we as Americans think is funny at any given time.

SNL has broken down barriers for the sake of comedy…

And has helped us heal in times of need…

Now entering its 39th Season, Saturday Night Live is a staple of both New York City and the landscape of American television. This year the show will be kicking off without the help of Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Jason Sudeikis for the first time since 2005. Head Writer and Weekend Update Anchor Seth Meyers will be ceding his chair later this year in order to takeover fellow SNL-veteran Jimmy Fallon’s desk in Late Night.

Clearly this will be a transition year for Saturday Night Live. The show will still be funny; Lorne Michaels always finds a way. But the show has had to replace their best Californian, their best dancer, and Assad’s best friend all in one shot.

In order to do so, the show is making some changes and adding some talent. According to the New York Times, Tim Robinson, who never really found his footing as a cast member last season, is being pulled off the cast in favor of becoming a full time writer for the show. Cecily Strong will begin the year co-hosting Weekend Update with Seth Meyers before possibly transitioning to holding the desk on her own, depending on Meyers’ availability once he begins his Late Night stint. This sadly means the demise of “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party” but is a positive in the long run. Cecily Strong has a great rapport with Seth, as is evident from her three appearances as TGYWYHSACWAAP last year. “Really?!?” with Cecily Strong is going to be fantastic.

The cast is also adding six new featured players:

Beck Bennet

You already know who Beck Bennet is, even if you don’t recognize him by name. He is the guy who hosts those adorable toddler focus groups in AT&T commercials. You also may have caught him as an actor in “Straight Bait” in Season 4 of Arrested Development. After attending college at USC, he started his own comedy troupe “Good Neighbor” and began writing and producing sketches. On the show, it’s going to be fun to have zany characters bouncing off him while he remains stoic. Also he’s been working with kids since before those commercials began- maybe he can bring some “Fresh Perspective” to SNL.

Kyle Mooney

Beck Bennet’s writing partner and fellow member of “Good Neighbors,” he has also served as Jimmy Kimmel’s “Man on the Street” from time to time. He can get amazingly awkward. He was also a writer for Nathan for You and was mentioned by Louis CK as an “up and comer” in a Reddit AMA.

I love that Lorne is bringing two guys that have worked together to join the cast. He did it last year when Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, and Tim Robinson all came over from Chicago together; now we will be getting a taste of San Diego, Live from New York. Some Internet corners have even began calling Good Neighbor the show’s next Lonely Island. While I think that is a stretch, I am also positive that Beck and Kyle will provide us with some phenomenal scripted/prerecorded bits, and maybe even a few Digital Shorts throughout the season, hopefully involving innocent, adorable little kids.

John Milhiser

A member of the Upright Citizens Brigade group “Serious Lunch.” He looks charming. He’s in this video that also features Jerry from Parks and Recreation and it’s pretty funny. Lorne already knows him from the YouTube channel Above Average which apparently they both are involved in together. As of right now, he is my top candidate for taking Sudeikis’ spot as the running man in “What Up With That?” due to his performance below.

John is also a world record holder: He and a fellow member of Serious Lunch touched noses for 10 hours, 34 minutes and 55 seconds without interruption in a bit recorded for Jimmy Fallon’s show a while back. It’s kind of awesome.

Noel Wells

The only new female of the cast, Noel is yet another child of the YouTube. She is also a former cast member of CollegeHumor Originals as well as a contributor to Cracked.com. You know she’s funny because her Twitter handle is @RealTomHankz. Additionally, she has a Michele Bachmann impression that is bordering on Kristin Wiig levels of awesome.

Apparently in her tryout she did an impression of “A Vine a girl makes at a Rihanna concert” which could really be its own show. I can see Noel working her way into a lot of sketches; if Cecily Strong really ends up taking the Weekend Update reigns full time, that leaves an open slot on “The Girlfriends Talk Show” with Aidy Bryant. Plus, Noel does a great Zooey Deschanel impression, something the show has been lacking since the departure of Abby Elliot.

Michael Patrick O’Brien

A writer on the show for the past four years that will now be shifting to on camera talent. He hosts a talk show in a closet called “7 Minutes in Heaven” on YouTube.

Michael has made appearances on screen before, having been cast as one of Mitt Romney sons, as well as the doorman when Justin Timberlake was inducted into the “5-Timers Club.” He has experience with improv from his time spent with Second City. He wrote one of Bill Hader’s best sketches- “Puppet Class” from last season’s premiere, as well as the Bruno Mars piece “Sad Mouse.”

Brooks Wheelan

Originally hired as a writer for the show back in August, it came out in the past two weeks that Brooks would be a featured player this season as well. He’s a standup comic from Iowa and has been working in Los Angeles recently. He also has great jokes about In-N-Out Burger.

I have heard laments that Saturday Night Live is no longer a good show. The people making these claims don’t watch the show; they were raised on Will Ferrell Best Of DVD’s and still make jokes about having fevers for which the only prescription is more cowbell. The show is simply changing, and that will be more evident than ever this upcoming season.

Of the six new members, five of them cut their teeth on YouTube, in addition to working as writers, stand ups, and improv actors. This is in itself a departure for the show, which has heavily relied solely on the latter two as sources of minor league talent. How this will affect the direction of the show remains to be seen; I imagine it will be minimal yet noticeable. Regardless, I trust Lorne Michaels. He’s been doing this long enough and understands what funny is.

Saturday Night Live, along with The Simpsons, South Park, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail shaped my comedic sensibilities growing up. Lorne himself mentioned this process in the aforementioned Times article:

“People attach to the cast they see in high school,” Mr. Michaels said. “In those years they generally can’t drive. They don’t have any money. Staying up late is exciting. Being with friends up late is really exciting. So they’re very connected to the cast they see then.”

For the reasons that Mr. Michaels mentioned above, I will miss Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, and Fred Armesin, similarly to how I miss Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Andy Samberg, Kristin Wiig, and even Chris Parnell. But the best aspect of Saturday Night Live is also one of the reasons it has become a signature program within American television:

It is always changing, but it always stays the same.

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One Response to Shifting Institutions – The New Players of SNL

  1. Pingback: Celebrating the Fallen Featured Players of SNL | Shitty Banter

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