Where Do SNL Cast Members Go After Being Dumped? - Macleans.ca

Where Do SNL Cast Members Go After Being Dumped?


In a big “ouch” moment, Saturday Night Live fired two cast members — Michaela Watkins and Casey Wilson — just before the premiere. (Watkins told the New York Daily News that Lorne Michaels explained this to her by saying that she’s so good she deserves her own show. Oh, Lorne.) Watkins had been there for a year, Wilson for two. I didn’t like Watkins much. Wilson was regularly pilloried, but she wasn’t usually the worst cast member; she just projected the personality of an eager amateur slightly out of her depth (I’m not saying that’s what she is, just that that’s how she comes across) and couldn’t turn that to her advantage.

When SNL dumps a cast member after only a year or two, it must be pretty humiliating, unless it’s someone who came into the show after already becoming famous, like Janeane Garofalo and Chris Elliott. Although SNL is kind of a talent-sucking vacuum in many ways — look at how much more consistently funny Tina Fey is, as a writer and performer, on another show produced by the exact same person — for a performer to join the cast of the show is to “make it,” so getting booted off means you’ve un-made it.


Looking at the list of cast members, though, it’s not uncommon for someone to have a solid career after lasting only a year or two. Not counting the people who were added during the “all-star” season of 1984-5 (by the way, I am one of those people who prefers the Dick Ebersol years of SNL to most of what Lorne Michaels has turned out since returning), Gilbert Gottfried, Joan Cusack, Randy Quaid, Sarah Silverman, Ben Stiller, Nancy Walls (now Nancy Carell) and Damon Wayans did all right. On the other hand, several of those people either had some claim to fame before they joined, or left for other reasons besides bombing out, or just went into something other than sketch comedy. Which may be the subtext of Lorne’s words to Watkins: you’ll never work in sketch comedy again, but you might theoretically do OK at something else.


Where Do SNL Cast Members Go After Being Dumped?

  1. I agree that the Ebersol years were, by and large, better than Lorne Michaels's second round. More people would probably think so, if those shows were available on video, which I suppose will never happen.

  2. SNL has been the most unfunny show on TV for most of my life.

  3. Tina Fey was consistently funny on SNL. The notion that the show is holding talented people back isn't easy to argue; to do so presumes that Will Ferrell, Mike Myers, Chris Rock etc. were just bound to become superstars, and didn't need any grooming along the way. The stars in question would say otherwise, and have in fact done so. One might also note the other file — the many performers who attained success on SNL and couldn't take it anywhere. A third file might belong to Quaid, Garofalo, Elliott and a few others, who came in with a bit of lustre and did nothing with the opportunity. (Tom Shales' oral history of the show is, cumulatively, quite scathing about Janeane.)

    • Oh, I'm sure SNL is a good training ground. Whether it gets the most out of these performers for the benefit of the audience is a separate question, though.

  4. It's weird to think that 4 years ago SNL had this female lineup: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and, just barely joining as a featured player, Kristen Wiig. After Poehler left Wiig was the only remaining full-time female last season. Wiig is very talented but she can't really carry the show on her own, but they never really gave much for the three female featured players to do. Even straight roles that could easily have gone to the others ended up being played by Wiig. Abby Elliott got some attention for her Angelina Jolie impression, which is probably why she avoided the chopping block. But when they were allowed some time in the spotlight Watkins and Wilson did some good work, they just didn't get much of a chance. Wilson especially: there were shows where she maybe only had one or two lines in the entire episode.