Every season finale of NBC’s Saturday Night Live brings anxiety for fans that some of their long-time favorites may be leaving. Tonight’s Season 46 closer left many viewers fearing that we may have seen the last of a number of long-time cast members.
With the pandemic seriously impacting the second half of last season, the entire cast of SNL returned for a do-over, including what could be the most ever cadre of cast members who have been on the show for 7+ seasons. (Seven is the standard length of an SNL contract.)
That includes Kenan Thompson (18 seasons), Kate McKinnon (10), Aidy Bryant (9), Cecily Strong (9), Colin Jost (8), Beck Bennett (8), Kyle Mooney (8), Michael Che (7).
While Che recently told The View that he’s “99.9% sure” he will return next season, Jost had indicated that he may leave after the 2020 election.
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And tonight, Davidson, McKinnon, Bryant, Strong and Thompson all hinted that this could’ve been their final SNL curtain call as the sketch comedy is likely headed for major cast changes this summer.
The finale opened with the show’s longest-tenured cast members, Bryant, Strong, McKinnon and Thompson, on central stage, welcomed by a thunderous applause from the show’s first first full audience since before the pandemic, with virtually all of the four tearing up during the Cold Open as they spoke about the past year.
When McKinnon got to the line, “This is a year when we realized we are more than just a cast, we are a family,” she got choked up and had to re-do it.
Meanwhile, Davidson ended his Weekend Update appearance in an atypical earnest style, saying, “I’m very grateful to be here, and it has been an honor to grow up in front of you guys.”
That was followed by Strong reprising one of her signature impersonations, Judge Jeanine Pirro, to close out Weekend Update with a rousing rendition of My Way, belting out “I did it my way.” (You can watch the Cold Open as well as Davidson and Strong’s Weekend Update segments below.)
McKinnon had been mulling an exit from SNL for a couple of years now. Thompson, who has not indicated that he may depart and recently said that he still enjoys doing SNL and is “never in a rush to leave,” had been juggling the sketch program and his new NBC sitcom, Kenan, which was just renewed for a second season. It films in Los Angeles, while SNL is based in New York.
I hear nothing is final yet but even if just a few of the long-time eight cast members leave, we would have one of the biggest cast overhauls in SNL history.
The most recent one came in May 2012 when Saturday Night Live said good-bye to two of its biggest stars, Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig.
It prompted a gloom-and-doom predictions for NBC’s venerable late-night sketch comedy program. But just a few months later, SNL introduced one of its strongest group of female performers ever with McKinnon, Strong and Bryant, who all were featured players at the start of Season 38 in the fall of 2012 (McKinnon made her debut on the show at the end of Season 37). The trio, along with SNL doyen Thompson and three more solid cast additions the following year, Bennett, Jost and Mooney (+Che), have kept SNL thriving and hitting new ratings highs.
Additionally, there are several newer SNL cast members who have grown into the job and could show newcomers the ropes, including Alex Moffat, Chris Redd, who also is on Kenan, Heidi Gardner, Melissa Villaseñor, Ego Nwodim, Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman.

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