Well, that was fast. Hot on the heels of news that Brooks Wheelan was unsurprisingly fired as a featured player on “Saturday Night Live,” two more of the six new cast members added at the start of last year’s 39th season have been axed.
Deadline has word that Noël Wells and John Milhiser won’t be coming back for the 40th season of the late night sketch show. Like Wheelan, both Wells and Milhiser didn’t really stand out on the show, though they had plenty more memorable moments than yesterday’s fired cast member.
Wells turned in fantastic impressions of Lena Dunham from “Girls” and Zooey Deschanel while Milhiser made for a great Jon Cryer, but disappeared almost completely in the second half of the season. While they both contributed some good laughs to the show, neither of them will result in any big loss to the roster.
These kind of firings aren’t unusual at “Saturday Night Live,” and the role of a featured player is basically the time for those cast members to prove what they have to become a regular cast member. Now it might seem unfair that all these cast members had to stand out among one of the biggest casts “SNL” has seen, but that’s why this is one of the hardest gigs to land, and one of the hardest to keep.
In addition, five-year cast member Nasim Pedrad will be leaving the show as well, mostly because she has a starring role on the new Fox comedy series “Mulaney,” created by and starring John Mulaney, a former writer on “SNL.”
As Amy Poehler has said previously, “‘SNL‘ was dangerous, late-night, last-minute and star-studded, but like any good drug, you need to know when to put it down.” And five-year cast member Nasim Pedrad has decided that it’s time for her to leave now. The actress can probably shine much brighter outside of “SNL” anyway; she’s proven to be funny, but not exactly a breakout star. Easily her most memorable work is as the stupid shell of a person that is Kim Kardashian or even the saucy Ariana Huffington, but she also had recent, though not amazing, recurring characters like Heshy and Shallon. It’s just a shame she won’t get a proper farewell.
But now we’re left wondering whether Mike O’Brien, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney will be asked back. The latter two have the best chance because they always seemed to be prominent, especially when working together on recorded sketches that felt like the kind of work that made SNL Digital Shorts great.
As for O’Brien, he’s a familiar face around Studio 8H because he worked as a writer for four years before this gig. Maybe he’ll get pulled back to the writing staff just like Tim Robinson did after a year as a featured performer. After all, he had some incredible work this season including the sketches “Bird Bible” and “Monster Pals,” which both ended up on my list of the best sketches of last season.
Anyway, we’ll likely hear more about who’s staying and who’s going before the 40th season of “Saturday Night Live” kicks off this fall. But don’t expect Sasheer Zamata to go anywhere at all. Is there any chance Lorne Michaels might add a couple more featured players? Time will tell.
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