The 2013-14 Saturday Night Live season’s going to look drastically different from anything we’re used to. Jason Sudekis has gone on to movies, Fred Armisen is presumably going to stick with both Portlandia and popping up occasonally as an okay movie’s funniest cameo, Seth Meyers is leaving in the fall to take over Jimmy Fallon’s spot and Bill Hader, apparently, can’t stop breaking his cell phone.
Where does that leave the new cast? With a veritable buffet of open spots for new and rising sketch comics and actors. According to Deadline Hollywood, which is one of those “Hollywood insider” sites which breaks a lot of news, Lorne Michaels has made some choices for the new season, debuting this fall, to help stop the bleeding and patch up some of the holes left by four really solid cast members’ exits. Interestingly enough, while the last batch of new faces pulled largely from L.A. sketch institution The Groundlings (former home of Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Chris Parnell, Will Forte and others) and Second City in Chicago (Sudekis, Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Tina Fey), the current lineup of rookies all seem to be tied to New York’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade, which is one of the hotspots for comedy right now. What do you say we meet them, shall we? Also, it would be awesome if those of you who don’t like Saturday Night Live anymore, or don’t think it’s funny, just skipped reading this article altogether so you could jump straight to the comment section below because we all know you’re just dying to make a comment that SNL isn’t funny anymore. I’m just trying to save you some precious time. Now let’s see what these new faces have to offer.
If you own eyeballs and a television set, you already recognize Beck Bennett from the AT&T commercials in which he sits down for conversations with children. Yes, it’s that same guy. Bennett is also a member of Los Angeles-based sketch troupe Good Neighbor, from where the original versions of what would become the AT&T commercials were born. I haven’t seen much of Bennett playing characters, but he seems to possess a pretty good deadpan style that’s always helpful in an SNL cast. If you’d asked me where Beck Bennett might have ended up, I might have guessed the Daily Show, but I’m anxious to see what he brings to the SNL table. I foresee him playing a lot of businesspeople, politicians and media members. He may also be being groomed for the Weekend Update spot, which is going to have to find a new lead when Meyers leaves.
When I first saw Mike O’Brien perform at Chicago’s Second City, he went by the name Michael Patrick O’Brien and he was easily the strongest in the cast. O’Brien has spent the last two years as a writer at SNL with occasional screen time (he was an attendant in Justin Timberlake’s “Five Timers’ Club” sketch) and he’s a pretty funny guy. I recall watching him do a bit where he simulated what it looks like to make out with him by holding up a piece of plexiglass and french-kissing it aggressively facing the audience. I have a feeling O’Brien — if you can get past his innate Mike Myers-ness — has a lot of potential to break out this coming season Moynihan-style.
The only new woman on the cast this coming season is Noel Wells, who gets to NYC via LA’s Upright Citizens Brigade via Austin’s comedy scene. She strikes me as very Abby Elliot-ish off the bat, maybe because she has that sort of look and also does a Zooey Deschanel impression. My early prediction on Wells will be that she takes a Vanessa-Bayer-trajectory, starting quietly until she finds her characters and impressions. There’s not a whole lot of video on her out there, but her pedigree’s fairly solid so I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do.
Of all the newcomers, probably the least is known about John Milhiser except that he comes from a UCB theater sketch group called Serious Lunch and has been involved in Lorne Michael’s web comedy production team Above Average (think Funny Or Die). He looks super young, so expect him to play a lot of teenagers.
Those of you who, like me, were huge fans of Norm MacDonald’s sports show — which was unfairly killed by Comedy Central, exiling MacDonald to a life of 1-800-SAFE-AUTO commercials will recognize Kyle Mooney as Norm’s weird, awkward nephew Kyle, who covered sporting events for the show. Mooney comes from the same group — Good Neighbor — as Beck Bennett, and there’s also word that Lorne Michaels hired the other two members of Good Neighbor onto the writing staff as well (he did the same thing with Andy Samberg’s troupe Lonely Island, which worked out). He’s an interesting “type” for the show and it’ll be interesting to see how he’s utilized.