Celebrating the Fallen Featured Players of SNL

photo via Hollywood.com

photo via Hollywood.com

Almost a year ago I wrote an article introducing the six new featured players for the forthcoming season of Saturday Night Live. After a massive loss of talent, including the departures of Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, and Fred Armesin, SNL had to restock the farm system going into their 39th season. Of the six rookies that started the year, three have now been let go by the show: John Milhiser, Noël Wells, and Brooks Wheelan.

Wheelan went out with a social media-aided bang:

While Milhiser and Wells left us with a press release wimper.

But the loss of these talents is not something to be mourned. Instead, let us celebrate the time that we spent together with Brooks, John, and Noël. They got to be on Saturday Night Live for a whole year! They attended after-parties, they watched the likes of Arcade Fire and Justin Timberlake perform from backstage, and they acted their butts off in the background of sketches while other cast members took the spotlight.

Let us take a moment to remember the most glorious moments of this talented triumvirate’s short-lived careers.

John Milhiser

John had an especially rough start to his Saturday Night Live tenure. In the season premiere, Tina Fey invited the featured players out in tearaway pants in order to have them learn their place as background dancing, self-embarrassing lowlifes. John struggled with the pants…

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But he recovered! He got those pants off and he shook his bottom, much to Tina Fey’s approval.

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And then it was as if John fell off of the proverbial SNL radar. Throughout the season he might be seen hiding in the background of a press conference or impersonating Jon Cryer whenever necessary, but none of these were particular moments of triumphs. His triumph came last November when Lady Gaga hosted.

This was your SNL pinnacle John. You got to both give and receive spanks with Lady Gaga on national television. No one will ever be able to take that away from you.

On top of that, you got to play Bruce Willis’ rear end as a centaur. You are probably the only person on the planet who can say that.

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Unfortunately John never really found his lane at SNL. He would later say that “nobody wants to cast me as a small boyfriend or husband.” I wish that the show had found a few more ways to use John, but they didn’t, and now he is gone. I just hope he knows that he will be missed.

Noël Wells

noel wells

After the season premiere, Noël Wells was my top pick to be a breakout star out of the new cast members. Not only did she successfully tearaway her tearaway pants, she also anchored the GIRLS parody that followed the monologue. Her Hannah was fantastic.

Noël was also quite serviceable as Nancy Grace, which gave us Drake playing Katt Williams. We cannot express enough gratitude for Drake as Katt Williams.

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I believed for a while that Noël was to carry on the show’s recent streak of stellar female talent. I am bummed that she will not be. I wanted more Zooey Deschanel jokes.

Brooks Wheelan

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It is probable that you are more familiar with Brooks Wheelan than Noël Wells or John Milhiser. Brooks established himself within Studio 8H thanks to two stints as himself on Weekend Update. He is self-deprecating and easy to like in both appearances – one a cautionary tale about unwanted tattoos, the other a slightly terrifying anecdote involving Brooks, alcohol, and a stick of butter.

Beyond doing his standup under the guise of an Update bit, Brooks got involved with a bit digital shorts and sketches. He got dragged out naked from under a table by Kenan Thompson in the E-Meth commercial.

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But my favorite Brooks Wheelan sketch was “Critter Control,” featuring him and Ed Norton as enthusiastic yet ill-informed pest control workers. It was a weird sketch, but it made me laugh like an idiot.

It’s not as cool as trading slaps with Lady Gaga, but cramming yourself into an air vent with Ed Norton while riffing on possums that are doing impressions, that’s pretty cool. Wheelan never fully escaped his standup roots within the confines of SNL, but he still found ways to get his funny out there.

Nasim Pedrad

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While it was her fifth year with the crew at Saturday Night Live far too little of Nasim has been seen over the past two years. Now she is moving on to what will hopefully be even greener pastures, playing a supporting role in the upcoming sitcom Mulaney, another Lorne Michaels project.

Personally, I will remember three characters that Nasim gave us very fondly.

1. Shallon

2. Motivational Speaker Heshy Farahat

3. Arianna Huffington

Thank you for your years of service Nasim. Best of luck to you on Mulaney.

*****

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the passing of long time announcer Don Pardo. For all but one season of the show’s run, Pardo was the voice that let audiences know “It’s Saturday Night Live!” It was a ridiculous dream of mine and many others that he would one day say our names just before 11:30pm eastern on some unknown night in the not so distant future. But we will not be so lucky.

Pardo will forever be a part of the legacy of Saturday Night Live. John, Noël, Brooks, and Nasim are all now forever a part of that legacy as well, simply by his having read their names over the PA of Studio 8H.

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