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Saturday Night Live – Who will step up in Kristen Wiig’s absence?

With Kristen Wiig leaving 'Saturday Night Live' there's a large void on the show. Who is going to fill her sizable shoes come the fall?

This week on the season finale of Saturday Night Live, Kristen Wiig said farewell to the show (in impressive fashion, at that. Next time I leave a job, I’d also like to be backed by Mick Jagger and Arcade Fire.). SNL will no doubt march on, as it has for the close to forty years now, with cast members coming and going. I can’t help thinking, though, that with Wiig’s exit, an era is coming to an end.

For years now there has been an extremely strong female voice on Saturday Night Live. Tina Fey was the show’s first female head writer, and the show spit out successful female actors in the likes of Wiig, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Fey herself. Before that, you had the likes of Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, and Cheri Oteri. It was a bit of an unprecedented run for women on the show. I suppose the difference that I see right now is that there is no heir apparent to take over Wiig’s prominent role on the show. When Fey left, it was obvious that Poehler would step up, and when Poehler left, Wiig was still there. Looking at the current cast, there doesn’t appear to be, from my viewpoint, a breakout female star.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of talented and funny women still in the cast. Nasim Pedrad has a few regular characters, though I don’t think any of them have the popularity of Wiig’s. Abby Elliot is always solid, but never seems to stand out, and Vanessa Bayer (love her Miley Cyrus!) and Kate McKinnon seem to have a lot of potential. What I find interesting is that some of my favorite female cast members in the very recent past have been unceremoniously dumped. Specifically, I’m thinking about Jenny Slate, Michaela Watkins, and Casey Wilson (who has been starring on Happy Endings).

It seems like the real talent on the show lies with the men. Fred Armisen is almost always funny (though with the success of Portlandia, I’m wondering if he’s only sticking around to play Obama during the election year), Bill Hader is great, and Kenan Thompson has my favorite recurring sketches (I’m a sucker for What Up With That?, Scared Straight, and Grady Wilson’s Put The Fire Back). There were rumors that Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg were going to be leaving the show too, but it appears as if they are staying (or leaving with much less fanfare than Wiig). Samberg seems to be very popular, though I think I am a little old for his odd brand of humor (my generation had Adam Sandler to fill that role back in the day).

I am very curious to see how the show will respond. It is my hope that some of the female cast members step up to fill in the void. Will they be able to, or will Lorne Michaels need to go out and find some fresh young talent? If I were Michaels, I think I might go out and seek a veteran female for the cast. Why not have Armisen bring his Portalandia partner, Carrie Brownstein, to New York? How about the always funny and seemingly ubiquitous Andrea Savage? Just a thought.

Any funny females you would like to see on SNL next season?

Photo Credit: NBC

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6 Responses to “Saturday Night Live – Who will step up in Kristen Wiig’s absence?”

May 20, 2012 at 6:05 PM

Doesn’t really matter, they should concentrate on improving the writing first.

May 20, 2012 at 6:06 PM

I’m going to miss Wiig terribly. Of the seasoned featured players, none of them have really stood out. I’m not really a fan of Vanessa Bayer. She seems to always be shouting her lines. Nasim Pedrad is good, but again, she hasn’t shown much development in characters and she’s always stuck playing little boys. Abby Elliot also hasn’t really had a breakout character, and it seems she was made a regular cast member because she’s dating Fred Armisen. The only one I see that could have Wiig’s potential is Kate McKinnon. She had a few great spotlight moments on her first show (the Tabatha Coffey impression was spot on), but she’s been relegated to the background since then. I would think by this time they would upgrade Bayer or Pedrad to regular status, but McKinnon is the one with real star potential.

May 21, 2012 at 12:39 PM

Suit was awesome, reminded me of Carol Brunette. I will miss her being on SNL. No one can fill her shoes, hope that she is the host of SNL as often as Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.

May 20, 2012 at 8:37 PM

I’m a really big fan of Anjelah Johnson (MadTV). I think she would make a great addition to the cast.

May 20, 2012 at 10:11 PM

Kate McKinnon seems to have potential, but she has crazy eyes… as in WOW, she looks CRAZY…

May 21, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Wiig did a ton for this show and, along with Amy Poehler, is one of the funniest SNL women since the original cast. (Tina Fey really broke out as a performer after her time on the show, though as a writer she definitely brought it.) But they did over-rely on her and probably killed a few of her characters by overusing them. She will be missed for sure.

Brooke beat me to pointing out McKinnon’s chronic crazy eyes. I pretty much uttered that exact sentence in describing her to my wife. She could be funny or she could stab someone. Need more data.

I think the funniest returning woman is Nassim Pedrad. Think about when she’s in a sketch. I don’t think she’s ever fallen flat or failed to really throw herself into a character. I compare her to Rachel Dratch (and Wiig) in the way she can pull off a lot of different personas. Now that they’ll be relying more on her, I think she’ll step up and become the new go-to gal.

Abby Elliot… I want to like her, but let’s be honest. She’s not on the show because she’s funny. She’s on the show because she’s hot, and because her dad was a cast member. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that… Jason Sudeikis got on because of his uncle George Wendt, and he’s really panned out.) It’s a rare moment when she really delivers a laugh. She’s never going to play a diverse set of recurring characters (like Pedrad already has, to an extent), and she might never hold a sketch on her own at all. (Rachel Maddow? Fairly weak.) I don’t hate her, but I’m trying to be objective.

Vanessa Bayer’s coming around, and you can tell the writers like her. She has that childlike optimism look going on (hence the Miley Cyrus) – it’s probably the huge smile – and a decent amount of versatility so far. So she was a good pick-up.

Of the women who were dropped in recent years, I really liked Casey Wilson. Jenny Slate and Michaela Watkins were really meh from my perspective, and I didn’t miss them.

It’s true what you said about the talent being with the men right now. I’ve come to appreciate Bill Hader more and more, and I think he’s funniest person on the show right now. (I miss Will Forte, though.) Armisen is of course a rock. Samberg has brought a different dimension to the show with his digital shorts, which, while not live, tend to get the biggest laughs and be the most quotable. Sudeikis, as I mentioned, has really shown a tremendous amount of consistency regardless of what he’s doing. Taran Killam is my favorite newbie by a mile. Kenan has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid.

So yeah, all in all, great cast, and they’ll miss Wiig, but she probably couldn’t have left a better legacy.

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