Kristen Wiig’s tear-filled adieu on the May 19 season finale of Saturday Night Live confirmed what industry folks had been whispering about – and NBC refused to comment on – for months: the seven-year late-night vet was leaving the show.
She coyly told Alec Baldwin during a recording of his podcast that “everyone has to leave” when he asked whether her time at Lorne Michaels’ star-making laugh-machine was winding down, effectively answering the question without saying “yes”.
But now that we know the Oscar-nominated actress will no longer be making us laugh on the weekends, she joins a group of brave, and sometimes foolish, souls who decide that they’re ready to see what life after SNL looks like. Andy Samberg hinted that he may be next out the door by spewing out the last line of the Digital Short Lazy Sunday 2; “On these New York streets I hone my fake rap penmanship. That’s how it began, and that’s how I’m-a finish it.” And the third breakout star that may be waving goodbye to 30 Rockefeller Plaza is Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses, Hall Pass), though as you can imagine, no one is saying anything on the record.
But whether the for-sure departing Wiig will see her career take off at lightning speed (a la Tina Fey) or wither in between gigs and failed projects (sorry, Rachel Dratch) remains to be seen but it seemed a good time to take stock of what her future could look like with an inventory of recent, less visible former cast members and check out where they are now.
Jenny Slate (SNL run: 2009-2010)
The actress and comedienne will most likely be remembered for letting the f-word slip in a skit where her leather-clad biker chick character was supposed to say “frick” in place of the expletive – on her FIRST episode. Whether or not her slip of the tongue was responsible for her contract not getting renewed has never been confirmed but Slate has popped up on HBO’s Bored to Death and did voice work for Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax and found unlikely success as the creator and voice of Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. The stop-motion adventures of the walnut-sized shell took off online and now Slate, and her director fiance Dean Fleischer-Camp, have written a children’s book about Marcel’s miniature life. She also experienced viral success with the silly and absurdly hilarious videos Bestie X Bestie, two-minute chat show segments with her BFF Gabe Liedman.
Will Forte (SNL run: 2002-2010)
The boyishly handsome Forte joined SNL in 2002 as a featured player and by the next year was a full cast member, which meant that Lorne Michaels and co. had faith in the diverse and funny actor. He took over George W. Bush impressions from Will Ferrell and created MacGruber (which worked brilliantly as a short skit but not so much as a feature film), Greg Stink, The Falconer and Tim Calhoun. Since his departure two years ago, Forte has appeared as a guest star on various sitcoms (How I Met Your Mother, 30 Rock, Up All Night, Parks and Recreation) and has at least four films in pre and post-production (Rock of Ages, That’s My Boy, Nebraska, The Watch), which means he’s well on his way to stand-alone success after his stint as a key Saturday night player.
Casey Wilson (SNL run: 2008-2009)
With the distinction of being the first SNL cast member to have been born in the ‘80s, Casey Wilson auditioned in 2007 and was hired in early 2008 but because of the writers’ strike, didn’t appear on the stage at studio 8H until February. If you weren’t watching during that year-and-a-half, you may have missed her but, hired to replace Maya Rudolph, she did her thing as Dusty Velvet, a paralyzed stripper, Toni Ward, one of the hosts of Cougar Den, and rocked impressions of Ginnifer Goodwin and Rachael Ray. Since then, she’s become one of the very fine cast members on ABC’s improv-heavy, breakout show Happy Endings, which just got renewed for a third season.
Rachel Dratch (SNL run: 1999-2006)
Rachel Dratch used her, well, distinctive facial features to take on characters ranging from ancient, bespectacled Hollywood producer Abe Scheinwald, boozy Boston teen Denise, forever bummed Debbie Downer and freakish Siamese twin Qrplt*xk during her time on SNL but she’s never reached the heights her success on the sketch comedy show hinted at. Her post-SNL career seemed to be off to a killer start when she joined Tina Fey’s new show 30 Rock but after she didn’t test well in the pilot episode, the role of Jenna was recast with Jane Krakowski and Dratch was permanently replaced. Not that she’s been bored. She had a baby at 44, wrote a memoir (“Girl Walks Into A Bar: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle”) and continues to appear on 30 Rock as various, quirky, characters. She recently signed on to the NBC comedy Lady Friends with Minnie Driver, so we could be seeing a lot more of Dratch if the show gets picked up.
Chris Kattan (SNL run 1996-2003)
The pint-sized comedian and actor wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but he got plenty of air-time on SNL with an impressive roster of characters including Mr. Peepers, Mango, Azrael Abyss and one half of the Butabi Brothers with Will Ferrell. He did about a million celebrity impressions and seemed a likely lasting figure in big and small screen comedy when he left SNL but hasn’t been able to stay with a gig long enough to make his mark. He was supposed to star in Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway play The Frogs but was replaced during previews and was slated to host Gameshow in My Head before Joe Rogan took his place. That one has to sting. In 2009, Kattan starred in the IFC miniseries Bollywood Hero, playing himself as a frustrated has-been, fed up with Hollywood and fleeing to India to become a leading man. Kattan found himself appearing in Google news feeds more recently because of a screenplay entitled Peepers, a canticle, written by Justin Becker, which imagines a self-serious, political Peepers movie that had to be shelved after 9/11. Kattan had no involvement in the screenplay, written as a joke and planted in various bookstores in the U.S., but it got people talking about him again, which can’t be a bad thing.
Ana Gasteyer (SNL run: 1996-2002)
The squinty-eyed funny lady kept up with Will Ferrell as one of the go-to players on SNL during its late ’90s, early ’00s solid run and she hit it out of the park as Bobbie Mohan-Culp, a buttoned-up high school music teacher, NPR radio host Margaret Jo McCullen, Lilith Fair poet Cinder Calhoun, while her impressions of Martha Stewart and Celine Dion were not so much spot-on as fun reinventions. She slipped off the radar after Mean Girls (2004) but has found a home as a nosey neighbour on ABC’s Suburgatory and has a handful of movies coming up, hinting at a career resurgence.