Well, so much for my theory that the Saturday Night Live blood-letting (read: staff-letting) was over after Monday’s news that newbie featured player Brooks Wheelan had been fired after just one season on the sketch comedy series. Deadline reports that fellow featured players Noël Wells and John Milhiser will also not be returning for the show’s fortieth season come this fall, bringing the current axing total up to three. As Deadline reminds us, “the first year on SNL is considered a boot camp, in which new cast members have a season to make a mark. This past year was particularly tough.” The thirty-ninth season saw the addition of seven new featured players, bloating the cast and kind of making it seem like a real sink or swim situation for the new kids. Apparently, about half of them sank.
The outlet also confirms news we’ve known for weeks, that star Nasim Pedrad will not be back on the show after five strong seasons, as the comedienne is dedicating her full talents to former SNL writer John Mulaney’s new Fox show, Mulaney, which will debut this fall. (Fun fact: did you know that Mulaney’s little sister, Claire Mulaney, joined SNL’s writing staff last year?) So we’re down four now. Will it ever end?
Of the seven new featured players to join the cast over the course of the year – Wheelan, Wells, Milhiser, Beck Bennett, Mike O’Brien, Sasheer Zamata and Kyle Mooney — few were able to truly breakthrough. Wells joined the cast with a strong background in celebrity impersonations, and while she shined with a spot-on Lena Dunham impression early in the season, she never really got to flex those muscles. This is a performer who was known for her Zooey Deschanel – where was that? Milhiser shown in a skit with Lady Gaga halfway through the season, and his take on Jon Cryer made Two and a Half Men jokes oddly palatable, but he didn’t quite leave an indelible mark. Bennett and Mooney, however, joined the show as two-thirds of the comedy troupe Good Neighbor, and they were able to be both very funny apart and even more amusing together. That kind of versatility likely set them apart.
In other, totally terrible news, Deadline also mentions that this might not be the last subtraction we see from the current cast, as the outlet reports that O’Brien’s future at the show is ever-so-slightly up in the air. They share that “discussions are underway for O’Brien’s future on the show that could involve him returning to the writing staff or continuing to have an-screen presence if he stays on. With anchoring experience on the popular Web series 7 Minutes In Heaven, some have been calling for him to get a shot at co-hosting Weekend Update.”
One good piece of news about this maybe-news? The Deadline piece refers to O’Brien by his very formal, pretty much never used full name – Michael Patrick O’Brien. Here’s hoping that lack of familiarity with the comedian’s actual name signals a lack of familiarity with his professional standing.
There’s no word on if we can expect to hear of additional firings – although, damn, here’s hoping that we (and, ya know, the actual cast of the show) don’t have to endure another day of these announcements – or if the show will be adding in fresh talents for the new season. This latest round of news brings the current cast total down to thirteen, which is definitely a more manageable number than last season’s heavy seventeen.
Anyway, save Mike O’Brien.
Saturday Night Live returns on September 27th.