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Beck Bennett was a true utility player on SNL, somehow capable of killing it in sketches without pulling focus

  • Bennett, who has left Saturday Night Live after eight seasons, seemed like the successor to the show's past great cast members Phil Hartman and Will Ferrell. "Hartman and Ferrell both joined the show when it was far more male-dominated; the latter felt like a reassertion of the show’s male energy, despite coming up with Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri (Ferrell alone became a massive film star with three-volume set of SNL best-of DVDs)," says Jesse Hassenger. "Bennett, by contrast, arrived in 2013, after the domination of Kristen Wiig, and immediately following the departures of Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis, and Fred Armisen. Bennett and (fellow Good Neighbor sketch troupe member Kyle) Mooney didn’t feel positioned to inherit the roles of the latter, as they spent a fair amount of time making awkward hay of early-’90s sitcom tropes and niche-driven personality types like their 'Inside SoCal' boys. The big stars of Bennett’s years on the show were (Kate) McKinnon, (Aidy) Bryant, (Cecily) Strong, and, as ever, (Kenan) Thompson. But Bennett eventually refined and redefined the show’s need for a go-to white guy for an era that felt, finally, less intensely oriented toward those white guys. While not as chameleonic as Hartman, he was similarly adept at blending into the scene—he could read a few lines, using his deep-voiced or chortling insecurity to score a laugh from the margins of someone else’s sketch, and move on. With Ferrell, he shared a satirical instinct for savaging fumbling attempts at masculinity. Sometimes this took the form of dads who would bumble outside the bounds of chummy shtick, into someplace darker and stupider, like the guy who wants brandish a shotgun in his daughter’s prom photo, only to literally shoot his junk off and be horrifically confronted with his own powerlessness. Other times, he almost seemed to be spoofing the crowd-pleasing boyishness of cast members like Jimmy Fallon or Pete Davidson, playing a nervous boyfriend who affects a high-pitched voice and challenges his girlfriend’s parents to come find him or an overgrown child who can’t stop grappling with his brother." Hassenger adds: "Bennett is one of the few SNL guys who felt like he was following in the footsteps of Ferrell, one of the best to ever do it; his alpha-turned-beta clowning felt both self-contained and flexible, never depending on another male cast member to serve as a more successful counterpart. (Set against Mooney, they’d compete to see who looked more ridiculous.) It’s fitting that he went out in an episode where he shot his genitals off and expertly assayed Vin Diesel, never mentioning his impending departure; he was just as quiet about assuming his place in the show’s firmament."


    • Beck Bennett held his SNL cast and sketches together: "In almost every sketch comedy ensemble, you’ll find several archetypes," says Sean L. McCarthy. "The alpha star. The weird omega, often the fool and the butt of jokes. In between, the specialists, such as the wacky wildcard, the celebrity impersonating chameleon, the utility player, or the member who thinks they’re the star while nobody else agrees. In Saturday Night Live, an ensemble with rotating parts from one season to the next, it’s as important if not more so to have one actor in the cast who can play all of the parts. For the past few seasons, Beck Bennett was that guy."
    • Cecily Strong pays tribute to "Beckie-boo": "My favorite bad stage kiss partner, fellow reporter in 1000 sketches, male voiceover counterpart, husband to the amazing and wonderful Jessy, and so much more," she wrote on Instagram. "One of the best 'straight' guys the show has ever had but also one of the greatest weirdest and wackiest character actor. It’s hard to find pictures and videos of all my favorite moments when there are just so so many favorite moments. Here are just some I could find easily on my phone. *One that is not pictured here is when Leslie rehearsed her first sketch I think and full on punched Beck in the stomach instead of a stage punch. And Beck took it so well I’m still laughing about it without feeling tooooo bad. Thank you for making snl so much better as a show and a job and a place and a home @beckbennett."

    TOPICS: Beck Bennett, NBC, Saturday Night Live