In this space a couple of weeks ago I laid out the case for six potential new members of Saturday Night Live. Though I worked hard on it and felt like it was a pretty solid selection, don’t worry about reading it because Lorne Michaels has only picked one new cast member for the 2015-16 season, and it’s viral video maker and stand-up comic Jon Rudnitsky. Last season saw the debuts of Pete Davidson, Leslie Jones and Michael Che (three performers which got a LOT of screen time for first-timers, by the way); this year SNL has decided to go with one fella. There’s already some negative buzz about him due to some crass tweets he wrote a couple of years ago, a la the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, but you can check all that out on your own. I’m not here to bury the guy before he starts. So let’s look at some of his stuff.
For starters, it’s kinda clear that Lorne may have hired Rudnitsky for his viral video potential, something I wish would catch on for the brilliant short films of Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett, as Rudnitsky’s fairly prolific on the internet. There’s his parody of the NWA biopic, which is funny in spots:
And then there’s his one-note, seven-minute House of Cards short film, which goes on WAY too long and isn’t terribly great (even though most press for Rudnitsky thus far has cited this as proof of his chops). Lorne’s gonna need to teach Rudnitsky how to edit, and fast.
And finally, there’s his standup career. I swear I pored over a lot of footage of this on YouTube and I am not encouraged by any of that. Yikes. See for yourself. Not that strong.
It’s kinda clear from these clips that Lorne may be looking to fill the recently-emptied slot of Andy Samberg, who balanced dude-bro and absurdity expertly and won over a lot of America pretty easily with his easy-going goofiness. Based upon the proof out there, Rudnitsky isn’t quite the same vintage (even early, pre-SNL Samberg is pretty strong) but I’d expect a few short films from him in the 2015-16 season. He doesn’t seem to be a big impressions guy, so it would seem almost certain that he’s been cast for his viral presence. I’m not convinced his videos are all that fantastic, but we have to give the guy a chance, right? After all, Michaels remains likely the single greatest evaluator of comic potential in the country.
Saturday Night Live premieres October 3 with host Miley Cyrus on NBC.