Saturday Night Live: Season 47 Winners and Losers
And with Natasha Lyonne’s final wave goodnight, another season of Saturday Night Live is in the books. The show featured its most crowded cast yet, with the usual assortment of thrilling highs and depressing lows. Live from our laptop, here are ComedyNerd’s choices for Season 47’s winners and losers.
Loser: Stage time
We promise to stop beating this drum soon, but there were too many funny people competing for too few minutes on stage. The situation is on the way to resolving itself – last week, Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson, Kyle Mooney, and Aidy Bryant all announced they are leaving the show. We'll put down $20 that says Michael Che, Cecily Strong, and possibly Colin Jost will follow them out the door. (Check your state's gambling laws to see if you can get in on the action.)
But Season 47 still felt like a lost opportunity to see what some of the lesser-used cast members could do. No one took the hit more than Punkie Johnson.
One-time SNL writer Punkie graduated to featured-player status last year but only saw 17 minutes of stage time for the entire season, according to The SNL Network. Now that she’s in her second season, it’s not getting much better.
The Benedict Cumberbatch episode? We saw Punkie for 3 seconds. The Lizzo episode? 23 seconds. The Jarrod Carmichael episode? She didn’t appear at all. Then again, neither did vet Melissa Villaseñor or rookie Athari. The “not enough stage time” problem hurts the whole cast, but Punkie seems to be hit harder than most.
Winner: Side projects
Only 7 of SNL’s 21 cast members appeared in every live episode this season: Kenan Thompson, Kyle Mooney, Michael Che, Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner, Chloe Fineman, and James Austin Johnson. But this had more to do with cast side projects than trouble getting onstage.
Cecily Strong appeared off-Broadway. Kate McKinnon missed the first part of the season filming Joe Exotic. Kenan and Chris Redd are filming Kenan. Michael Che launched an HBO Max sketch series. Aidy Bryant missed time while making Shrill, while Pete Davidson skipped out to film Suicide Squad. It’s an interesting departure for a show once famous for not letting cast members miss time for big movie deals.
Loser: Political cold opens (and James Austin Johnson)
Maybe it’s too soon to call it a trend, but after years of Alec Baldwin’s Trump braying “Live from New York!,” SNL appears to be tip-toeing away from its political cold opens. Recent weeks have featured a Ms. Raftery alien abduction, the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial, and a greeting from the Easter Bunny.
We think this is a great direction -- Fox and Friends parodies are not essential comedy viewing, at least not on a weekly basis. And with the nation's partisan temperature a little cooler post-Trump, it's not necessary to do political sketches by default. But that may mean less work for the show’s new impressionist James Austin Johnson, who has the most luck getting on stage when doing his Biden or Trump.
Winner: Sarah Squirm
It’s really hard for featured players to break out, especially ones with reputations for comedy that is truly not ready for prime time. But Sarah Sherman (AKA body horror comic Sarah Squirm) is doing just that. Whether it’s playing killer puppet Chucky, dealing with meatball body parts, or, most memorably, destroying Colin Jost on Weekend Update, Sarah has proved herself to be SNL’s latest breakout star.
Loser: Mulaney musicals
Diner Lobster is an SNL all-timer, a resurrected-from-the-dead favorite of Colin Jost and host John Mulaney. The sketch never made it to air when Mulaney was a writer; as host, he had the juice to say “yeah, we’re doing it.” Its funky mix of Broadway musical parody and the absurdity of Kenan in a lobster suit cracked up the house (and Pete Davidson) -- primarily because we’d never seen anything like it.
Unfortunately, Diner Lobster’s success has seemingly mandated a retread every time Mulaney hosts. All of the key elements are repeated -- a weird only-in-New-York food atrocity, Mulaney as the man who warns against it, and parodies of Broadway hits that get more obscure with each iteration. This year’s barely amusing entry centers on a subway churro. It’s time to put this tired idea to bed.
Winners: White Guys Coming Home
You can count on SNL bringing back old cast members to host every season. While the overall host mix is more diverse than ever, SNL reached back to its old white-guy roots as Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, and John Mulaney returned home to 30 Rock. All three delivered strong shows -- sometimes it helps to have veterans who know how this is done.
It was also a good year for old white guy guests -- Steve Martin made three appearances this year, the most since his 1970s glory days. They should just make Martin part of the set -- he’s always gold.
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Top image: Broadway Video