With a bumpy but respectable season behind it, speculation has begun about which cast members will be back for Saturday Night Live’s 41st season. NBC has only confirmed one current cast member as returning—the venerable Kenan Thompson…who really should be moving on.
Here are our predictions for who will be back, who will go, and who is on the cusp.
100% chance of return
Strong is the backbone of the current cast who, like her SNL hero Phil Hartman, gets more screen time than any other cast member…and always gets laughs. Stepping away from the Weekend Update desk was a great move for her, and a devastating blow for the segment.
95% chance of return
Kyle Mooney is Saturday Night Live’s next breakout star. Along with former “Good Neighbor” partner Beck Bennett, he is reshaping SNL’s comic ambitions in fascinating ways. As well, he’s been a good team player. Not only will Kyle and Beck return, they will be next season’s stars.
90% chance of return
Though SNL writers have often struggled to find good parts for Aidy since her arrival in 2012, her talent is too serious to ignore. Her “Girlfriend Talk Show” character (“Morgan”) is one of the show’s best creations in recent years.
85% chance of return
Beck is the best actor in this cast, and a solid utility player. His “Baby Boss” is genius, though it is his inventive comedy writing with Kyle Mooney that makes him such an invaluable and influential cast member. (Start praying now that Lorne Michaels doesn’t put him on the Weekend Update desk next season.)
80% chance of return
This was Taran’s year to break-through after dutifully standing in line by other long-standing male cast members for several seasons. He acquitted himself well…moving from Sudekis-lite to something more substantial. Next!
70% chance of return
Only one new cast member could be the Next Big Thing and her name is Leslie Jones. Still, she’s not adapted well to the technical demands of live television acting, and has been responsible for most awkward flubs this season. It would be tempting to pair her with Michael Che as co-anchors for Weekend Update.
65% chance of return
Bobby will probably be back. He’s been around since 2008 and still does good work on the show. But it also feels like it may be time to jump to other television/film opportunities. His “Riblet” character may have single-handedly saved Weekend Update this season.
60% chance of return
SNL’s “resident young person” started the season in fine form, heir apparent to Adam Sandler. But as the season wore on, he faded. It’s tricky for stand-up comics who don’t do impressions to find their footing on what is essentially an acting showcase. It seems likely he gets another season to prove himself.
55% chance of return
Jay is an impressionist. And that is a precarious position to be in on the show. His acting is weak, and it doesn’t seem like he’s writing many sketches. He’s pretty much run through all of his impressions, so…what’s next?
50% chance of return
Michael will be back to head-write and anchor Weekend Update solo, or be gone. He’s a stand-up comic, not an actor or impressionist, and as constituted now, the show is not a good fit for his talents. Here’s hoping Lorne Michaels rolls the dice and hands the keys to Weekend Update to Che for SNL41.
40% chance of return
Kate’s time has come. Watching her breakout season was pure joy. Barring an unprecedented pay increase, she will leave the show for Hollywood. You read it here first.
25% chance of return
Vanessa has been a terrific cast member for SNL, but its time for her to move on to a long and profitable career in television. Her being in so many sketches in the final episode of SNL40 is a clue. She won’t be back.
15% chance of return
Sasheer should be a Cecily-like backbone player, but has panned out as more of an Abby Elliott: super-talented, but an ill-fit for SNL. This season saw very little range from her, and few if any hilarious character creations.
5% chance of return
Colin may be headed back to the writer’s room, but he will not return to the Weekend Update desk as the segment has proved to be an unmitigated disaster this season. Lesson learned, SNL: Seth Meyers was irreplaceable. Time to reboot.
NBC typically announces the new Saturday Night Live cast in mid-September just weeks before the season opener, though departure announcements happen sooner and rumors swirl all summer long. A more interesting question may be who is on deck for SNL talent-wise. Keep your eyes on the traditional talent sources: The Second City, The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), The Annoyance…and, that increasingly influential comedy talent scout, YouTube.
Chris White writes and directs independent feature films. His latest, a showbiz comedy about looking for Bill Murray, is called
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