The Ringer’s Bill Simmons had it right: When it comes to roster construction, Saturday Night Live should be like a basketball team. That’s 7 or 8 players in the rotation who keep you in the game every night, with another 3 to 5 on the bench for talent development and injury replacement.

Today’s SNL cast stands at an astounding 21, not counting the dudes in Please Don’t Destroy who bring the number to 24. It’s a problem.

Imagine a basketball team that employs 10 players who never see the floor. Are they any good? Can they ever be any good? Who knows? Why are we paying these guys? Wouldn’t they be better off in the G League getting some playing time?  

SNL in recent years has made a habit of bringing new cast members in as featured players, only to cut bait at the end of the year when they don’t “pop.”  Take Lauren Holt, for example. Who’s Lauren Holt? Someone ostensibly in last year’s cast. Is she funny? Does she have a knack for memorable characters? It’s not her fault that we don’t know.

As we’ve said before, the SNL cast is too damn big. So instead of continuing to complain, ComedyNerd is going to do something about it.  

We’re going to cut down the current SNL cast from 24 to 10. Not because the current cast isn’t talented.  But because we want new blood.  Because we want interesting performers doing comedy we haven’t seen before.  And because we want people who actually want to be on the show, not something to do on the occasional weekend when they’re not filming a sitcom or starring on Broadway.

So let’s get those pink slips ready as we decide who’s in and who’s out in our new, improved, streamlined cast.  

Aristotle Athari

This is just the kind of weirdo we’re talking about.  While Athari doesn’t get a lot of chances to swing for the fences, he kills it when he gets his shot.

Pete Davidson

Hey, Pete, congrats on your new Peacock show, Bupkis

Andrew Dismukes

OK, kid, we’re going to take a chance here. Dismukes, you get Pete Davidson’s spot as Resident SNL Young Person. You’re a weird combo of Pete and his pal John Mulaney anyway -- who knows what you might pull off with a few more reps?  We may need you to put on a fake mustache and play a dad from time to time.

Broadway Video

Verdict: In.

Chloe Fineman

We’re not the biggest fans of Fineman’s Britney Spears, but it’s fine. Better when she tunes into her oddball original characters like Ooli:

Heidi Gardner

Gardner has faded into the background since bursting out of the gate with Weekend Update characters Angel, Every Boxer’s Girlfriend From Every Movie About Boxing Ever and teen film critic Bailey Gismert. 

Can we put some of those misfits into regular sketches as well?  Though Gardner gets extra points for playing the straight woman as well as anyone.

James Austin Johnson

Johnson is the latest in an SNL tradition of having an expert celebrity impersonator in the lineup, probably the show’s best since current announcer Darrell Hammond. If SNL insists on its recent trope of opening every show with a political sketch, Johnson is a must-have.

Broadway Video

Verdict: In.

Punkie Johnson

Long-time stars like Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong clearly have proven way more than Punkie, but both of those icons have been taking months-long leaves to pursue other projects.  So let’s take a shot on Punkie, putting her into one of those developmental spots on the end of the bench.  While this might be our most controversial pick for this comedy roster, at least we know she’s going to show up. Let’s see what she can do.

Broadway Video

Verdict: In.

Colin Jost

We don’t want to punch Jost in the face, honest.  But his long tenure behind the Weekend Update desk is wearing out its welcome. Jost has the crown for most Update anchors ever, so it’s time to ride off into the sunset with Scarlett and let someone else take a turn. Why do we feel like Ego Nwodim could kill this?

Verdict: Out.

Kate McKinnon

Hey, did you know Kate’s still on the show? It’s her tenth season, but she spent most of it in Australia filming Joe Exotic, a comedy take on
Tiger King. We’re in! We can’t wait to see it! But seeing as Kate hasn’t been around anyways, isn’t it time for her to create some amazing character piece on Amazon Prime or HBO Max? A Hall of Famer whose exit time has come.

Verdict: Out.

Alex Moffat

In another comedy era, Moffat could have made a living playing the rich a-hole character in movies like Caddyshack or
Back to School. The guy knows how to bring on the smarm (and we mean that as a compliment).  He’s a capable straight man but that’s a role we can fill elsewhere.  Six seasons used to be about the limit for the biggest SNL stars (Will Ferrell only lasted for 7, for Pete’s sake) -- it’s time to move on.

Verdict: Out.

Kyle Mooney

OK, we can’t get rid of all the tenured guys. We understand Mooney is an acquired taste -- his quivering dorks aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.  But his out-of-left-field sensibility is what we’d like to see more of, so how about Mooney as our elder statesman who can show the new guys the ropes? After all, he’s still capable of pulling a Baby Yoda out of his back pocket.  

Broadway Video

Verdict: In.

Ego Nwodim

Ego’s our pick for new Weekend Update anchor, either on her own or with a partner. Her “I don’t have time for this nonsense” demanor may be the perfect tonic for today’s toxic real-life news. Add her great character work and keeping Ego is a complete no-brainer.

Chris Redd

Redd has the invaluable ability to play the befuddled normal guy in the business meeting or the dim-witted car thief who doesn’t know how to drive a stick-shift.

When given a chance to shine -- he stole every scene in Andy Samberg’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping -- Redd can carry an entire show by himself.  Put him out front, Lorne.

Verdict: In.

Sarah Sherman

We were admittedly skeptical when SNL cast Sarah Sherman AKA Sarah Squirm last fall. Known for her gross-out performance art, Sherman’s in-your-face style seemed like it might be too much for ensemble comedy. We were wrong. The comedic chops are undeniable, evidenced by the increased screen time she’s received as Season 47 has progressed. And it turns out there’s a way to be uncomfortably weird and supremely funny at the same time.

Cecily Strong

Between Schmigadoon! and her recent off-Broadway star turn in Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, we haven’t seen much of Strong lately (her incendiary clown abortion bit notwithstanding). This is a good thing!  Not many players make it to ten years on SNL -- it’s time for the next chapter and Strong seems well on her way.

Verdict: Out.

Kenan Thompson

OK, big fella, you knew this day was coming. Thompson, the longest tenured cast member in SNL history, has been spread a little thin for a few years.  He’s starring in his own sitcom,
Kenan, requiring him to fly back and forth across the country to make it all work. You killed it, Kenan. But after 1,500 sketches, it’s time to let the kids take over.

Verdict: Out.

Please Don’t Destroy

Simple.  Hey Lorne, remember what you did with Kids in the Hall?  Give these guys their own sketch show on HBO and lose the sketch-show-in-a-sketch-show on SNL.  Problem solved.

Verdict: Out.

And there’s our new cast: Aristotle Athari,  Andrew Dismukes, Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner, Punkie Johnson, Chris Redd, Ego Nwodim, Kyle Mooney, Sarah Sherman, and Bowen Yang.  Young and diverse, low on proven star power, long on potential. As Lorne rides off into the sunset, we’ll take this group to launch the next fifty years of laughs.

For more ComedyNerd, be sure to check out:

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