The last couple of years have seen most of SNL‘s veterans graduate from the show, including Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers. This forced the 2013-14 season into a state of rebuilding, something that long time fans know is simply part of the process. You’re forced to put up with it, waiting to find out who will become the next Will Ferrell, and who will become the next Jay Mohr, Janene Garafalo, and Sarah Silverman (I’ll stick to those examples to give some hope to anyone who gets the boot this year). Now that the season is over, PopFilter has ranked all of the cast members according to their performances this year. This is not a list of who we think is most likely to come back, but instead what we would say if we were allowed to weigh in. That being said, let the culling begin. Today is part one, which is the bottom half of the cast. These are all of the people we would cut. Tomorrow, we’ll reveal the top half, or a much smaller cast that next season can build around, and give time to find their footing. There are some future stars in the current cast. We just won’t be discussing any of them today.
THE CUT LIST
17. JON MILHISER
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that the majority of the featured players will appear on the Cut List. This isn’t an uncommon thing; the featured players are like an SNL minor league team, and many of them are just one-year wonders, only there to show how great the actual prospects are. It will be sad to see some of these featured players go. That is not the case for Jon Milhiser. It’s not necessarily because he was awful, but we were never really given a chance to see if he was awful or not. He logged just about as much screen time as I did last season. I can only judge based on what was made available to me, and I have to believe that SNL is such a well-oiled machine that if he was truly great, the show would have had no choice but to show us.
16. NOEL WELLS
See above. Wells had a pretty good start to the season, debuting a decent Hannah Horvath in a Girls parody. It wasn’t stellar, but it was the kind of thing featured players need to do as soon as possible to plant their flag. Everything fizzled from there, as she was utilized less and less as the season went on.
15. BROOKS WHELAN
Brooks Whelan is this season’s poster child of “might be funny, but funny doesn’t always equal SNL success. His skit work was almost non-existent, but he was given a chance to appear on Weekend Update a couple of times. The character he played was Brooks Whelan, telling stories that happened to Brooks Whelan. In other words: stand-up. We will most likely never hear the names Noel Wells and Jon Milhiser again, but I would be much less surprised if Whelan popped up somewhere on something. Hopefully he can figure out what that thing is.
14. COLIN JOST
This also feels a little unfair. Colin Jost was a natural candidate to fill Seth Meyers Weekend Update vacancy halfway through the season: they were both head writers whose talents probably worked better with fake news than impressions of celebrities. Seth Meyers went from Poehler-coattail rider to capable co-anchor to an actually pretty great solo guy, but he was given all the time he needed to find that groove. Colin Jost feels like a placeholder. He was good enough for 13 episodes because Meyers had to leave halfway through the season, but is this the guy SNL wants for the next 5 years or so. Tim Robinson went from writer to writer/cast member (last season) to writer (this season). That’s probably the course Jost should be on too.
13. NASIM PEDRAD
This is probably a done deal regardless of where she ranks on the list, as she is a cast member of the new FOX show Mulaney. This was Nasim Pedrad’s fifth season on SNL. Nasim Pedrad will never be asked to host SNL after she leaves. I think that’s a pretty good formula for moving on and finding something else to do. Which she did, so…cool.
12. SASHEER ZAMATA
All politics aside, Sasheer Zamata, along with the rest of her fellow-featured players, just wasn’t given enough to do. Everyone screamed that SNL’s lack of black females made them racist, stupid jerks, but when they finally hired one, they gave her nothing to do but sing hooks on rap parodies. I wouldn’t be upset or surprised if Zamata was given another chance, as that’s some press that SNL doesn’t want, and I would like to see more of her. Let me please take this chance to reiterate that these rankings are based only on what I’ve seen, and have nothing to do with perceived potential.
11. MIKE O’BRIEN
This one hurts the most. Mike O’Brien started the season as one of 20 new awkward white guys added to the cast. He ended the season with some truly weird and great characters, mostly shown off during filmed segments. It seemed like we had competing film teams, with Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney teaming up on one side, and Mike O’Brien doing his own thing. The show absolutely has room for both, especially considering how much stronger most of the filmed segments are compared to most of the live segments (exploding whales aside). Alas, half the cast has to go, so bye Mike O’Brien. Comedy Central or Adult Swim should get his agent on the phone the second he receives his walking papers.
10. KENAN THOMPSON
Going back to the host formula used for Nasim Pedrad, would Kenan Thompon ever be asked to host after he leaves the show? I honestly don’t know if he would. It’s been a long, rocky road for Thompson, going from “guy from that Nickelodeon show” to “potential SNL leading man” to “he’s still on that show?!?” To keep the baseball metaphor going, Kenan Thompson seems like he’s that post-hype sleeper who was a serviceable player for his whole career, but just never achieved that superstar status. I’m never sad to see him in a skit (many people are), but I think the time has come.