A Definitive Ranking Of SNL’s Current Cast

01/30/2014 10:00 AM |

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This year has been a particularly eventful one for Saturday Night Live with seven new cast members joining the ranks following the 2013 departures of Bill Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg the year before that (they’re all doing so well now!). In fact, it’s been so eventful that some people may have given up on watching the program with so many audience favorites gone.

We’ve kept up with this new wave of players for the sake of journalism and so far, there have been a lot of hits and a lot of misses in this, the 39th season of SNL, but that’s always been the case whether the cast was full of veterans or not. Still, you deserve to know who’s worth watching and who isn’t. After all, these are the people who are going to be in all your indie rom-coms seven years from now.

p.s. We’re giving Sasheer Zamata a break since this is only her third week on the show.

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4 Comment

  • I CAN’T BELIEVE I WASN’T CONSULTED ABOUT THIS (well, actually, I can because I’m a movie guy and this is your article but what I really mean is OH JESUS I WISH I THOUGHT OF THIS).

    Nikita, you obviously actually pay attention to SNL instead of complaining about it not being funny anymore and I love that I can tell that from this ranking, which I largely agree with but will nitpick anyway!

    -The weirdest thing about Noel Wells is that she looks and sounds a lot like Abby Elliott, down to doing a similar Zooey Deschanel impression. I kind of liked Abby Elliott but I don’t know why I’d want watered-down Abby Elliott.

    -Kyle Mooney and Mike O’Brien are great! I love them both so far and would put them above Jay Pharoah, who is a brilliant impressionist and has done some better non-impression work this year than in years past, but hasn’t really convinced me he’s all that funny on his own. That “attention teachers and students” thing is all vocal tic! A lot of his characters are mostly vocal tic! It’s pretty cheesy. He’s good, but could be better.

    -I’m glad you adore Aidy Bryant and Nasim Pedrad as much as I do, though Pedrad has been chronically underused (more in the past than in this season).

    -Taran Killam has improved a lot — someone else somewhere on the internet once referred to him as having too much of the “I’m doing comedy!” face, and he’s calmed that down a bit… but he does mug sometimes. And his Brad Pitt impression sucks. Actually, most of his impressions are pretty bad, but that’s fine; not everyone is an impressionist.

    -Is it just me or has Kenan been on a TON this year? Especially for a guy who’s gotta be a year or two from leaving. I’m not complaining; he’s gotten so much better during his time on the show. Though he does have similar cadence in a lot of roles, he’s also developed a killer deadpan. His first year or two on the show was pretty rough, but now that they don’t do that stupid Scared Straight character anymore, I’m a big fan.

  • Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett > Jay Pharoah, Taran Killam. I 100% agree with commentor Jesse above (below?) – Taran Killam is so aware he’s trying to be funny that it’s cringe-inducing. Calm down, dude. Mooney and Bennett are so much more natural. And Noel Wells is the female Killam. GREAT impressions – such promise with the Lena Dunham from the first episode of the season. But everything else she does is so over-the-top. It’s like she IS that young musical theatre girl Vanessa Bayers plays so well.

    I have faith in Brooks Whelan and John Milhiser. I think we haven’t seen enough of them yet. But I also felt the same way about Paul Brittain a few seasons ago.

    Spot on with Kate McKinnon – she is the best thing that could happen to SNL with the mass exodus from last season.

    I’d also like to say that I too appreciate your admiration of SNL. Anyone that says it’s “not funny anymore” probably doesn’t even watch!

  • Oh, yeah, I meant to add about McKinnon… she’s great BUT my agreement that she’s the next Kristen Wiig cuts two ways. Like Wiig, I can see a major tendency of the writers to overuse her because they know she’ll get a laugh just by making a crazy face or something. Wiig and McKinnon are both incredibly skilled, which sometimes brings out the worst in the writers — whereas Andy Samberg isn’t as naturally versatile as a sketch comedian, but could almost do no wrong in sketches because he’d so rarely zero in on a one-note, very performance-oriented character to repeat and repeat. So far McKinnon has mostly avoided this trap, but I can see pitfalls of putting too much stock into her crazy-face schtick.

    The old Russian woman character, though… amazing. Cried laughing the first time I saw it.

  • great list though i would put Vanessa at 3. kyle is a great comedian, check out his stuff on youtuber with beck. he hasnt really shined yet on snl.