Will Saturday Night Live Survive Their All-Star Exodus?


Saturday Night Live actor Jason Sudeikis follows in the footsteps of Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Seth Meyers to become the fourth cast staple announcing his departure from the show. (Meyers' exit is slated for 2014, when he'll host Late Night on NBC).

After the 2012 season departures of Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig, can producer Lorne Michaels keep SNL afloat with virtually all-new talent left in charge, or is this the end?

Of course he can. Saturday Night Live will not die. It just might feel a bit different for a while.

If the past is any indication, it is unlikely that SNL will be going anywhere. Just eight years ago, Bill Hader was among the bright batch of comedians filling the tremendous void left after Will Ferrell and others left circa 2002, and he did just fine— as did Meyers, Sudeikis, and Armisen who also joined the cast around that time.

Saturday Night Live is a show built around its ability to renew. Its functionality has never relied on its cast being in place forever and that is part of the very reason it has lasted so long. When comedians we've come to know and love on the show depart, there's room to respect the new talent taking their places. It is a show that honors those leaving at the right time, and it is a show unafraid of stumbling as it breaks in a new cast.

Millennial watchers of SNL have an appreciation for the turnover rate of its cast and contemporary fans of the show are always willing to give the new guys a shot. Leave it to the original-cast SNL fans and the 90's Adam Sandler stand-bys to say the show has gone downhill. Those of us who came of age with Will Ferrell being our first taste of late-night TV and staying up after our parents went to bed will not be easily scared away by welcoming in a few newbies.

It keeps things interesting.

In a candid feature for the New York Times, Bill Hader opened up about leaving SNL and how hard of a decision it is for so many of the comedians to make — comedians that were introduced to the public eye by show producer Lorne Michaels. The article brings a certain humanity to these comedians as they describe how leaving the show is like leaving what was for them, in many ways, a family.

There is nothing static about SNL and that is why we love it. If the show didn’t change and didn’t give new comedians a shot at writing and performing then it would have died out years ago. It is an institution that we have come to celebrate at the very core of the late-night landscape and as fans of the show know, it will never be in the dark for long.

As Bill Hader points out, the show is being left in very capable hands and even if they aren't yet household names, comedians like Jay Pharoah, Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Vanessa Bayer, and Kate McKinnon are coming into their own.

That is a process we can only see with a show like SNL and it is rewarding to watch new comedians come in and make themselves at home. They keep the show moving, changing and fresh.

Sudeikis, Hader, Armisen, and Meyers are all leaving on a high professional note, and they are leaving behind a show that is built on self-preservation. To suggest SNL is not capable of surviving their departure is to deeply underestimate Lorne Michaels, the rest of the cast, and the fans of the show. Will the show get a bit awkward at points? Sure. But, as time goes on it will only get better and it will keep changing along with the times.

Just as it should.

Also, let’s not forget Keenan Thompson is still on hand. So chill out Variety Magazine, everything will be just fine.