An Season 37 SNL Report card: Part 2, The Prime Time Players
How every cast member did this past season and why
Bill Hader: Hader is an impressionist, and a damn good one at that. He’s so odd and weird that this past season, he’s stood out as a pilar of SNL’s comedy. He was Rick Perry, he was Clint Eastwood, he was a central part of The Californians, he was everyone’s go-to impressionist. Oh, and let’s not forget Stefon, a character he created with John Mulaney (and the world thanks you for that, Bill and John). Mulaney even switches references and words on cue cards between dress and air, but that’s a conversation for another time. It’s impossible to describe his contribution to the show because, like Fred Armisen, Bill Hader is also a backbone of the show. Without Wiig on the show, Hader and Armisen are set to shine (along with others).
Fred Armisen: I cannot speak about Fred without acknowledging his greatness….Now that that’s over: This past season has been one of Fred’s best. He’s been on the cast for 10 years and every year has been better than the next. He’s one of the most versatile, spot-on and quirky impressionist and actor that SNL has ever seen. He can master voices and impressions of anyone from Obama to Garth in Garth and Kat. There’s a passionate vibe you get when you watch him that you can only really find in Bill and Kristen. It’s like he’s intrigued by people. This past season, he had Obama, Garth, Cosby, and an array of other characters and impressions. He does each so well that it’s hard to notice how often he pulls together sketches and makes them better, from Portlandia to SNL. Look at his Mick Jagger impression - hilarious. To me, Fred is the most underrated, most talented and most under appreciated cast member on SNL. With Wiig gone, it’s going to become only more apparent how well Fred mixes with the cast and how hilarious he can be.
Abby Elliot: As a third generation SNL-er, I would expect more. This past season, though, Abby was hired and fired from a pilot - and Lorne was willing to let her go. Not the best news. Aside from her impression of Zooey Deschanel, she’s had supporting roles all season every season. She hasn’t found her groove this past season either, which disturbs me. She’s been with SNL since 2008 - it must be as frustrating for her as it is for us to watch her. There’s something about her that I just don’t get. Her presence on screen is barely energetic and she seems like she’s fading away. Maybe, with Wiig now gone, she’s finally find her place.
Seth Meyers: Oh Sethly (as Maya Rudolph’s Oprah would say), you have done this show well. With Weekend Update and writing as Seth’s only duties, he’s got his work cut out for him. He’s been on the show for 11 years. He’s just behind Darrell Hammond, who was on SNL for 14 years. The problem with Seth’s season this year was that although it featured great work on the writing side - kudos to him - he seemed exhausted half the season. Luckily, he has some of the best joke writers in the business: Alex Blaze, Jessica Conrad, Peter Schultz? He’s got a great team behind him with a mediocre past season full of dull satire that cannot compare to SNL’s last election coverage. It’s hard work, but he’s got to step up his game in the coming season. There’s work to be done.
Bobby Moynihan: The bad news is that I thought Bobby was a featured player until two episodes before the finale. But the good news is that this past season has been a good one for Bobby. He got Newt Gingrich (for however long that lasted, despite the lack of cold opens involving Gingrich), a few other political characters, and probably, most notably, he got Drunk Uncle. So this past season has been a good one for Bobby, a very good one that made a lot of people realize just how funny he can be. He knows he’s never going to be the star, so he’s playing it cool and just doing what he does best and it’s working. Hopefully, next season, he’ll get a bit more exposure.
Nasim Pedrad: Nasim is funny. That’s a fact - she really is. Remember that one sketch she used to do as the nerdy girl unable to socialize because she’s best friends with her mom. That was comedy, and Nasim was great. Where did she go? I guess this past season, Wiig took over as the dominant female (rightfully) and Nasim sort of faded away. But we have evidence that she can be funny….just not from this past season.
Andy Samberg: Without his Lonely Island buddies, this past season hasn’t been Andy’s best. He’s a funny guy, but his whole life was digital shorts. His transition to sketches again was rough and didn’t go too well. His appearance was sporadic and awkward. The only two highlights this season were the 100th digital short (oh God, too perfect) and Lazy Sunday 2. Yet his Lazy Sunday 2 video ended with the line, “On these New York Streets I honed my fake penmanship, that’s how it began, and that’s how I’mma finish it,” a line that seems to suggest he’s leaving. It’s up for grabs though - it feels like he’s covering his butt. He might or might not leave, but either way, he really doesn’t have anywhere else to go.
Jason Sudeikis: Oh Jason, you innocent, rule breaking moth (Parks&Rec reference, anyone?). Jason’s had his ups and downs and he’s not the star of the show in anyway, but this past season has been a solid season for him. When you look closely, he’s done quite a bit - he’s been Mitt Romney, Biden, and even his notable Weekend Update segment, The Devil. He usually gets a part in at least two sketches and he’s solid. Jason isn’t the funniest nor the best at impressions (although he somehow manages to make Romney mildly funny), but he’s the everyman every show. He didn’t have a particularly funny season, but he did show up every where and people can relate to him easily. He’s a solid player, and I don’t think he’s going anywhere next season, especially with the upcoming election. He could be looking at the role of a lifetime, whether or not Romney wins.
Kenan Thompson: Kenan is the perfect example of someone who has gotten too comfortable with his job. This past season featured almost no Kenan everywhere, except of course for his one appearance on “What up with that” (a sketch I thoroughly despise). He’s a nice guy that always opens up the show with a song before air when you go to see SNL in Studio 8H, but what has he done since? “What up with that” and all black politicians the show needs. This past season has seen Kenan get a little too used to being a part of the cast, and maybe that’s for the better. For this coming season, he needs to either step up his game or leave. Sorry, Kenan.
Kristen Wiig: Kristen Wiig was and will always be SNL’s star, this past season more than ever. Wiig ushered in an era of quirky and subtle but expressive comedy that overtook the Fey/Poehler era of sharp cutting political satire. She’s honed more than a handle of characters - Gilly, Target Lady, Aunt Linda, Penelope, Dooneese and, one of my personal favorites, Mindy Gracin. Once the dominant ladies of the early 2000s left - Fey, Poehler, Rudolph, Dratch - Wiig was slated to take over. And she did. No one will forget the way she dances or whispers her lines or can morph into any character at all. And, as I mentioned before, her goodbye was both perfect and suiting. Without Wiig, the entire dynamic of the show will shift. But, like Amy’s presence on the stage during the SNL goodbyes indicated, life will go on. Letting go is for the best, and letting go will allow her to truly blossom. Wiig will always, always be able to come home, back to Studio 8H. Cross your fingers, everyone, because Wiig needs to host soon. That’s the only way I’ll stop watching “She’s A Rainbow.”
# snl # Saturday Night Live # nbc # Studio 8H # Amy Poehler # tina fey # bill hader # kenan thompson # jason sudeikis # kristen wiig # Bobby Moynihan # Fred Armisen # Nasim Pedrad # Abby Elliot # Seth meyers # Andy Samberg # the lonely island # lorne michaels
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