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SNL has its largest-ever cast this season: Why don't cast members leave anymore?

  • In Saturday Night Live's first 25 seasons, it was unusual for cast members to stick around past seven years. (The standard SNL contract is for seven seasons.) Only Phil Hartman (eight seasons), Kevin Nealon (nine seasons) and Tim Meadows (10 seasons) had SNL runs longer than seven seasons between 1975 and 2000. Darrell Hammond surpassed them all with his 14-season, 1995-2009 run. Yet in Season 47, SNL will have a whopping eight cast members who are entering Season 8 and beyond: Pete Davidson, Michael Che, Colin Jost, Kyle Mooney, Cecily Strong, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant and Kenan Thompson, who will extend his record with his 19th season. As a result, SNL will have its largest-ever cast with 21 people, topping last year's 20. "This will be the 10th season for each of Bryant, McKinnon, and Strong," says Hooman Yazdanian. "That ties them for 6th-most in SNL’s long history. Davidson, the man who joined as one of the youngest cast members ever, will be in his eighth season, tied for 16th most. Eight of the 25 longest-tenured people in the show’s history are on it right now. But why? It’s not like the show is known as an easy paycheck. Quite the opposite actually, as any talk show appearance featuring former SNL cast members can tell you. While it’s possible that these stars are staying on just for their love of sketch comedy, one can’t help but wonder if this decision is being driven by the modern media landscape’s decimation of the traditional pathways out of SNL for its biggest stars. For many years, cast members would leave SNL and try to find a home in film, like Chevy Chase or Kristen Wiig did when she made Bridesmaids. Often stars would leave SNL and kick off a film career by being in movies based on their SNL characters. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd did it first with Blues Brothers but this kept happening for years until it stopped when Will Forte left SNL to star in the now-cult hit, then-box office disappointment MacGruber in 2010. Others, including Eddie Murphy and Adam Sandler, broke out in Hollywood with original ideas. Since the show’s original cast, there’s been a steady flow of SNL stars jumping from TV to the movie screen. The state of movies now is just not conducive to crafting a comedic film career in the way it had been for so long, though. Not only is the SNL character movie gone, but studios have de-emphasized mid-budget films and essentially eliminated traditional comedies in lieu of making their comic book movies and other big budget IP adaptations into joke fests. This basically kneecaps any attempt at replicating the sort of career Wiig has had or, even moreso, that Bill Hader has had. McKinnon hasn’t had a lead role in a film since 2018’s The Spy Dumped Me, and her next shot is a starring and creator role in Peacock’s Joe Exotic. Meanwhile, Strong and Bryant’s public dockets are clear of leading roles in movies. Davidson, whose fame expands beyond SNL and into the tabloids, is basically in a different conversation than his fellow long-term castmates. Perhaps that helped elevate him into a starring role in last year’s semi-autobiographical The King of Staten Island."


    TOPICS: Saturday Night Live, NBC, Aidy Bryant, Beck Bennett, Cecily Strong, Colin Jost, Ego Nwodim, Heidi Gardner , Kate McKinnon, Kenan Thompson, Kim Kardashian, Kyle Mooney, Michael Che, Pete Davidson