Thursday, September 10, 2009

SNL Fires Casey Wilson & Michaela Watkins (and picks up Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad)

10/20/09 Update: We're updating to let you know that Kristen Wiig joining the Weekend Update desk was just a rumor. Seth squelched the rumor himself. It was also verified that Darrell Hammond is off SNL (he made an agreement to make a few appearances this season). Originally posted on 9/4/09.

Wow, SNL is turning into a soap opera!!! Hahaha. Not really.

Casey Wilson and Michaela Watkins are out and being replaced by Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad. Don Pardo (the SNL announcer since the first season) is retiring and won't return this next season. Darrell Hammond (who has been on since 1995, the longest SNL cast member ever) is negotiating his contract still (he's officially off SNL). No other changes on the men (Andy, Bill, Will, Fred, Seth (Weekend Update), Jason, Kenan, and Bobby are still on).

...And Kristen Wiig is NOT GOING TO graduate to co-anchor SNL with Seth Meyers. That might mean less Kristen in the skits. (The rumor of Kristen joining seth at the WU desk is wrong. Seth Meyers squashed it himself.)

Unfortunately, Jorma still hasn't been extended a contract to be a featured player. Lorne, you should at least ask him! That way you can keep The Lonely Island involved longer! Plus, Jorma's hilarious!

Now on to Casey and Michaela...

Lorne Michaels made a potentially wise move in not extending a contract to Casey and Michaela. He obviously needs some fresh blood to make up for the absence of Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig can't be the only entertaining female on SNL. In the last few seasons, Kristen's been used a lot more than any of the other women on SNL, and I think Lorne realized that he needs more women who can be key players like Kristen.

This is all debatable, of course.

Casey Wilson: Check out Casey here as she reads Internet comments:

If only Casey was this funny on SNL (this was from May 09), but even this vid loses steam at about 2 minutes in...

The truth is that I've never found Casey that funny on SNL, so I think that was a wise move. Casey just had some success with "Bride Wars," which she wrote and played a bit part in. She is scheduled to join the Upright Citizens Brigade in Hollywood on Sept. 24. Hopefully she can continue her success on Bride Wars with more films.

I know she's funny, because it comes across sometimes (Bride Wars, the vid above, sometimes it shows through a little on SNL), but it just doesn't translate onto SNL as well as it does for Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, and Abby Elliott.

I think the contributing factors are that her impressions aren't hilarious and that she has no characters (Toni Ward on Cougar's Den, something I found super annoying). So it just doesn't translate well on SNL.

I think Lorne needed to fill in a female late in the 08 season, and Casey did the job well. But he needs to move her on in order to build a "dream team" on SNL.

Michaela Watkins was just starting to warm up on me. Her Angie Tempura blogger was hilarious, and she seemed to be a good player who could act in a range of characters (more so than Casey and Abby, who have less range). Her Hoda impersonation was also a valuable addition to SNL this past season (playing well off of Kristen's super annoying Kathy Lee Gifford impression).

However, that said, I still agree with the move. I found her Angie bit hilarious, but I know a lot of people who didn't understand why the audience was laughing. Afterall, it was more of the "how" of her comedy than the "what" that made it funny. The "what" was that she was being mean and nasty. It wasn't funny on its own. Sometimes you need the content itself to be funny as well in order to hit a larger audience.

On top of that, I think the kind of roles that they would fill with Michaela were exactly the roles that Kristen Wiig normally plays (yet another reason to not keep Michaela), and so they couldn't find ways for Michaela to truly stand out. This seems to coincide with what Lorne has told Michaela... that the decision was more about the mix of the show.

...Which is why I think they're keeping Abby Elliott. Although we don't know if it's true, there's a chance that she made it just by the seat of her pants. If they were throwing out two females to keep things fresh, they probably had her name in the hat for a little while. But I assume they chose to keep her due to her stellar Angelina Jolie impression (we've heard it asked of her in interviews, so we think there's good buzz there), as well as other fine impressions (Joan Cusack, Jamie Lynn Spears, etc.). Also she's the designated youthful female member and "hot chick" of the cast, so they will always have her when they need to fill that role.

Conversely, the kind of roles that they would fill with Michaela were exactly the roles that Kristen Wiig normally plays (yet another reason to not keep Michaela). Abby is unique in her ability to play those roles. Plus, she's getting great buzz that she's the first second generation cast member (although that's not a factor in keeping her; it's just a small factor in her popularity and momentum).

Here's a warning to Abby though: you need to step up your game and get your own skits if you're going to stay on for the long term. Filling in Weekend Update with your sweet Angelina Jolie skit isn't enough. You need to do an Angelina Jolie Show (like Chris Kattan's Antonio Banderas show, Jim Breuer's Joe Pesci Show, or Amy Poehler's Dakota Fanning Show). And then you also need to team up with a dude (or possibly a woman) and do a unique skit of characters that you can repeat (like Wayne's World, Goth Talk, Dog Show, etc.).

So Lorne decided to get some fresh blood in two new ladies who can round out the kind of roles they need from their women cast members.

Jenny Slate is fresh off her one-woman show "Dead Millionaire" (at the UCB-NY in May 09), where she played a cast of characters in her character's life, featured Gloriz Estefan, and made a great use of recorded clips.

Read the review:

She is also hot off of comedy runs in her weekly "Gabe & Jenny" show at Rififi, the "Big Terrific" showcase on Wednesday nights in Brooklyn, a Verison TV ad, and probably the most impressive to NBC was her turn as an NBC page and promotion to Jimmy's assistant in "7th Floor West," a parody drama series within Late Night with Jimmy Fallon:

So Jenny Slate was a sure win for SNL. Her New York star has burned so bright and so fast in one year that Lorne probably felt fortunate that she wanted on SNL. But now comes the tough first season, where she has to prove her chops, fight for air time, and then make it count when she gets it. I'm excited to see what she does.

Nasim Pedrad has been turning heads in a similar way over on the west coast. She's worked with The Groundlings, the UCB Theatre, the Improv Olympics, and she recently has been a player in the Sunday cast of The Groundlings. Her one-woman show was "Me, Myself & Iran," and it was played at the UCBLA and at the Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.

Also, similarly, she's been on NBC, but this was a bit more dramatic, playing "Nurse Suri" in 9 episodes of ER (and she's been in 1 episode of Gilmore Girls). Plus SNL knows the value of diversification, and this woman with an understanding of Iranian culture has something unique to offer to SNL.

All her videos have been removed from the Internets. =^(


So what does all this mean for Andy Samberg fans?

I really hope that SNL starts pairing up their players like they used to when Will Ferrell was on, and now would be a perfect time to do it. I'd love to see Andy interact and collaborate with Abby and these two new women. Let's see what happens!




Anonymous said...

thanks for pulling this out for us- everytime i went to the news section i could not see all of the information

Anonymous said...

I just want to know why they still have Kenan on that show. HE IS NOT FUNNY!!!!! I could a bunch of other people who could replace him and be way funnier.

Ed Price said...

Anony 2,

I agree. I felt the same way about Seth, and I was glad that they moved him behind the desk. I think Will, Fred, and Jason are also a little stagnant, but much better than Kenan. I think they need Fred for his impressions, his cult following (he's been on TV and in films for a long time), and he's the only African American on SNL (looking from SNL's history, they've usually had 1 or 2 and have fought to get the funniest commedians). That said, I think they should hire Alpha Cat (who does the best Obama impression on YT). Thanks!


Eve said...

They've gotta keep Darrell. They've just gotta.

Anonymous said...

"Plus, she's getting great buzz that she's the first second generation cast member (although that's not a factor in keeping her; it's just a small factor in her popularity and momentum)."

Uh, no. It's a BIG factor.
Except for the Angie Jolie impression, there is nothing that compelling in what she's shown so far. It would be too embarrassing to let her go so soon, and who wants all those calls from Chris Elliott?
Don't forget -- if it wasn't for HIS father, he wouldn't be in showbiz either.

Ed Price said...


I agree that she hasn't shown much compelling. But I think it's a combination of the Angelina Jolie impression, buzz on her being the first second-generation cast member, and cast dynamics. She's an attractive young woman with a round face. Kristen can't play those roles, and neither could Michaela or Casey. However, the two new ladies should balance things more.

That's why Abby needs to step up her game (pull out some hilarious characters, capitalize more on her Angelina Jolie, come up with ideas to work with Andy and crew, and pull out some other awesome impressions) or she might not make a future cut.


Ed Price said...

Eve! Have you seen the Oreo commercials where Darrell plays Trump's twin? That's awesome for Darrell and that Donald Trump is a good sport about it!


Eve said...

Yes! I have seen that commercial. And srsly, I saw it on TV and I freaked out. My literal reaction was me shouting, "OH MY GOD, DARRELL HAMMOND!? THAT'S GENIUS!" And then proceeding to go on the Internet and blog about it for like, 3 hours.

... Kidding about the latter.

Anonymous said...

What are you talking about?/ Keenan is hilarious!!! and p.s. Adam I'm really surprised to hear you as such a shit talker. I had such a different impression of you (i dont even know you so what the fuck am i talking about? You just seemed like a nice decent person on TV). Wrong i guess. becareful, you may burn some bridges for your future career. You wont be on SNL forever and as far as your movie career... well, lets just say we all know how Hot Rod did.

Ed Price said...

Most recent Anony,

The opinion is mine and not Andy Samberg's (it took me a second to realize that you were talking about Andy because you said "Adam"). Andy's name is sometimes confused with Adam Sandler.

Andy loves Kenan and wouldn't ever say anything negative about anybody.

It also took me a second to try to figure out what you're talking about. I think you're referring to my comment above, and all I said about Kenan was "I agree."

Anyway, I agree about Hot Rod. Not exactly a success. My main issue with it was that the character never improved and you never felt truly interested in the character. It was mostly just watching him fail constantly.

So it wasn't as appealing as Adam Sandler's first attempt, Billy Madison.


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