Saturday Night Live: Grand Sortie–Mass Exodus of Talent

Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney Exit ‘SNL’

Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon and Kyle Mooney are all expected to leave Saturday Night Live (SNL) after it ends its 47th season tonight, according to sources.

The actors’ departures are likely to draw a new burst of attention to the long-running program, which typically uses its summer hiatus to recalibrate its cast of players and contributors.

As more TV viewers migrate to streaming services to watch  scripted dramas and comedies on demand, SNL has grown in importance for NBC. Once relegated to airing after the late local news in a time slot network executives didn’t consider paramount, “SNL” now runs live across the U.S. all at once, meaning that it airs in primetime in certain parts of the country. “Saturday Night Live” in the 2020-2021 season was the most-watched entertainment program on TV among viewers between 18 and 49, the demographic most preferred by advertisers.

McKinnon and Bryant have both been stalwarts of “SNL” since joining the program in 2012. McKinnon has become a cast breakout with rubber-faced characters like Miss Rafferty, who is kidnapped by aliens, or Sheila Sauvage, a desperate late-night barfly. Bryant has won kudos for her impression of Senator Ted Cruz and her recent parings with castmate Bowen Yang. Mooney, who joined the show in 2013, has become known for his offbeat sketches in which he gives viewers a skewed, behind-the-scenes look at life at the show. In several of these, he depicted a fictional relationship with former castmate Leslie Jones.

Davdison, who joined “Saturday Night Live” as a relative unknown, has become huge media celeb who appears regularly in commercials and outside projects, as well as the gossip pages.

The large number of exits brings to mind the transition “Saturday Night Live” went through in 2012, when Andy Samberg, Abby Elliott and Kristen Wiig left at the end of the season, followed a few months later by Jason Sudeikis. The show’s remaining cast and some new members had to work to gel more coherently.

In 2022, however, SNL enjoys one of its largest casts and has developed a new generation of actors who have won accolades, including Heidi Gardner, Chloe Fineman, Chris Redd and Yang. Featured players including Sarah Sherman and James Austin Johnson have also won some notice. “SNL” has also begun relying more heavily on pre-taped segments from Ben Marshall, John Higgins, and Martin Herlihy, a trio of young writers/performers known as Please Don’t Destroy.

Even so, the people leaving will be missed. Both McKinnon and Bryant have developed into mainstays of the cast, with McKinnon in particular breaking out early in her tenure on the show. Her potential exit has been rumored for years, and her stay at the show has lasted beyond initial contract. McKinnon has done everything from play a fiery Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a host of Trump administration officials to an off-putting mermaid. She and Bryant have also become a formidable comedy duo, often appearing together in sketches based  primarily on their characters’ interactions.

Their exits have been foreshadowed in recent seasons by their absences from several broadcasts so they could pursue outside projects, some of them under the aegis of “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels and his Broadway Video production company. In recent years, Michaels has allowed the cast members to juggle their commitment to the show with other work.

In recent years, Davidson has become more famous more for his life outside the program than for what he does on it. Early in his tenure, Davidson largely appeared only in segments on “Weekend Update,” where he often delivered self-deprecating stand-up routines. But he has developed broader range during his time at SNL.

In recent seasons, he has done impressions of celebrities like former New York governor Andrew Cuomo and actor Rami Malek, and has increasingly been involved in many of the show’s taped sketches. He often turns up as the recurring character Chad, an apathetic man who remains oblivious even in the face of dire or fantastic circumstances, like being stalked by a killer or going on a SpaceX mission.

Davidson’s time on the show has also brought its distractions, with gossip hounds fascinated by his dating history. During his “SNL” run, Davidson got engaged to singer Ariana Grande, though the relationship eventually broke off. Most recently, Davidson has been dating reality star and mega-influencer Kim Kardashian, who hosted the show this season.

Though Davidson is leaving the program, he is expected to continue to have a relationship with Broadway Video. Davidson is a star, co-writer and executive producer on the new streaming series “Bupkis,” which is expected to appear on NBCUniversal’s Peacock. Lorne Michaels, Andrew Singer and Erin David of Broadway Video will also executive produce the series, which is being distributed by Universal Television.

At NBCUniversal’s upfront presentation earlier this week, Davidson cracked jokes about the series and the streaming hub on which it will appear. “I can’t believe we are going to be on Peacock, the streamer responsible for so so many great shows like ‘MacGruber” and the reruns of ‘The Office,’” he said, adding: “I’m here so the media will finally start paying attention to me.”