It’s out with the old and in with the new when it comes to Saturday Night Live’s 38th season. Last season, we waved farewell to cast members Andy Samberg, Abby Elliot and crowd favorite Kristen Wiig. In natural SNL style, however, this year brings three fresh faces to SNL’s legacy of top-quality humor.
In 2005, the world was introduced to two of this generation’s greatest comedians: Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig. As such, their exits were not taken lightly. Samberg will always be remembered for his uncanny Nicolas Cage impersonation and The Lonely Island. The satirical tunes topped iTunes charts. Who could forget “Lazy Sunday” as Samberg and Chris Parnell delivered their infamous rap? This was followed up by even greater sensations, including “Dick in a Box” and “Mother Lovers” with Justin Timberlake, and Grammy-nominated “I’m on a Boat” with rapper T-Pain. While Samberg has already graced the big screen in popular films, he will be severely missed on Saturday nights.
Samberg was not the only one who supplied the laughs. Kristen Wiig, too, emerged as a comedy superhero. She has become a hallmark for fans with her famous characters such as small-armed Judice and Kat in the dynamic singing duo “Garth and Kat.” Equally popular were her spot-on impressions of Nancy Pelosi and Michele Bachmann. With such a profound impact on the show, it was only natural that she had one of the most emotional departures in history. Like Samberg, however, she will continue to go on to do big things — she’s already received an Oscar nomination for the hit “Bridesmaids.”
Still, both stars will do just fine, judging by the track record of previous SNL greats like Steve Martin, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. SNL simply has the “gift for reinvention.” The loss of these two comes at a poignant time and it is now up to the new players to reinvent the show and emerge as stars themselves.
This season, not only were Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer promoted to full cast member status, but SNL also added three new featured cast members. The show is ushering in a new group of young comedians, filled with the promise of a great new dynamic on the show.
The two breakout stars this season are Pharoah and Killam. While both have already displayed their talent in past seasons, the departure of SNL staples has given the pair an opportunity to shine. Pharoah debuted his Obama impersonation to mixed reviews, but nonetheless remains a force to be reckoned with after appearing in the first three opening skits this season. Killam has already gained a cult following on SNL. His reoccurring character Jonathan Cavanaugh-san in “J-Pop America Fun Time Now” is a fan favorite. He joins Pharoah and a long line of SNL veterans in the field of political impersonations with his impersonation of Paul Ryan.
Featured on the show are Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Tim Robinson and Cecily Strong. McKinnon debuted on the show last season, and has already displayed memorable performances as Bravo stars Tabatha Coffey and Penelope Cruz. Strong has also proven herself, being featured in two Weekend Update skits including the “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.” Bryant and Robinson have not yet had a real chance to shine, but it is clear that SNL is ready to begin a new era in the show’s history.
As usual, SNL is here to document a fascinating period in history. The upcoming presidential election provides endless opportunities for parodies and impressions. Most people are familiar with Tina Fey’s ridiculously accurate Sarah Palin impression. Amy Poehler’s Hillary Clinton and Jason Sudeikis’ Mitt Romney are also buzzworthy. Still, SNL isn’t entering the election season with much of a sense of clarity about how it will grapple with the political issues, and it remains to be seen if this season will experience the same popularity as it did four years ago.
SNL still attempts to deliver in the original sketch department. In the recent “Lids” sketch, sullen mall employees found their lives uplifted when YouTube performer Psy (Bobby Moynihan) and Turbo-PSY (actual Korean rapper PSY) danced among their store’s merchandise. Clearly, SNL is trying to remain relevant. However, wedging PSY and his hit song into a sketch about a mall hat store just didn’t work after the initial novelty wore off. While the writers are trying to stay relevant, loyal viewers often agree that sketches are funniest when they are most creative. More hits like “Target Lady,” please!
The 2012-13 season enjoys cast favorites such as Emmy-nominated Bill Hader. Hader is best known for wearing his pants way too high in his impression of Clint Eastwood, as well as playing the hilarious New York City correspondent Stefon on “Weekend Update with Seth Meyers.” Christina Applegate is in line to host next, along with musical guest Passion Pit. SNL truly has potential this season, but some question the vitality of Lorne Michael’s creation. As the generational gap widens, affecting both the show’s demographic and the cast itself, the writers behind SNL must work to keep it fresh and interesting. However, the legacy of the show to bring humor to Saturday nights will likely prevail.