6 ‘SNL’ Cast Members Who Left Mid-Season

6 ‘SNL’ Cast Members Who Left Mid-Season

The mass exodus of cast members after Saturday Night Live Season 47 was a mostly by-the-books affair, at least in terms of when everyone said their goodbyes — Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Pete Davidson and Kyle Mooney all finished out the year before cleaning out their Studio 8H lockers. But throughout the show’s history — and for a variety of reasons — a number of cast members have chosen to jump ship midway through a season. 

Here are six SNL cast members who couldn’t wait until the season’s end to call it a day… 

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Cecily Strong

The most recent cast member to wave adieu waited until hours before her last show to announce her surprise exit. “I’m sorry I’ve been a little quiet about it publicly,” Strong posted on Instagram last December. “I didn’t want the extra pressure on something already so emotional for me. … I am ready to go, but I’ll always know home is here. I’ve had the time of my life working with the greatest people on earth.”

Molly Shannon

“I wasn’t leaving to do a TV show or a movie,” Shannon writes in her memoir, Hello Molly. “I was just leaving because I wanted to develop a personal life.” She worked out a plan with producer Lorne Michaels — she’d leave the show in February but come back for a primetime Mother’s Day special scheduled for May. Shannon’s mother passed away when she was a child, but her dad appeared with the other SNL moms. “This is exhausting,” he said about performing on the show. “There’s a hell of a lot people don’t realize about how much goes into it.”

Dana Carvey

Like his Wayne’s World co-star Mike Myers, Carvey made a sneaky mid-season departure, exiting in February of Season 18. “By ‘93, I’d done seven years,” he says in the oral history Live From New York. “It just felt like the right time to go. I just didn’t want to stay too long. … I know that Lorne didn’t want me to leave, so it was bittersweet that way.”

Eddie Murphy

Between 48 Hours and Trading Places, Murphy had become a bona-fide movie star and was ready to be done with the weekly grind of SNL. But producer Dick Ebersol was desperate to keep Murphy for the 1983-1984 season. So he came up with a deal: Murphy would only have to appear in 10 of that season’s scheduled 20 shows. He’d pre-tape other bits that SNL could run on weeks when he wasn’t live in the studio. If Murphy agreed to those terms — and he did — he could be done with SNL by March to focus on his movie career. Cue the early exit.

Janeane Garofalo

“I wanted to quit after the first week,” says Garofalo in Live From New York. That didn’t happen but Garofalo, who had a miserable experience on the show, didn’t last past March. “Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. And I walked into Lorne’s office and I basically told him I was leaving. It wasn’t a debate or a discussion. I think when I quit, it was the first time Lorne ever respected me, to be honest.”

Norm Macdonald

Macdonald is the only performer on this particular list to leave mid-season due to getting fired (although he’s not the first or last cast member to suffer that indignity). The legend goes that Macdonald lost his job for refusing to stop joking about alleged murderer O.J. Simpson, who also happened to be good friends with NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer. But Ohlmeyer argues that Macdonald was canned for his insistence on doing his own brand of anti-comedy whether the audience laughed or not. “That was the whole problem,” argued Ohlmeyer in Live from New York. “When Saturday Night Live is really good, they do care what the audience thinks. And when Saturday Night Live is not really good, they’re kind of doing it for themselves and their pals.”

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