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Over the course of its 41 seasons, Saturday Night Live has seen its cast change up pretty much every year, with varying degrees of severity in the swap-outs. This summer brought on one of the more notable splits between actors and their repertory player status on the show, with the duo of Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah exiting SNL between seasons. Executive producer Lorne Michaels has put an explanation to why Killam and Pharoah were given the boot.
I think that the lifeblood of the shows change. I love Taran, I love Jay, I think they're both super-talented. They've both been here six years. And if you don't keep making changes you don't change. You know? I can't explain it any other way, because there's no way of explaining it. Every now and then new voices come in --- both in the writing staff and the cast.
At its face value, that answer sounds like Lorne Michaels is being cagey about how he speaks of Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah, and perhaps he is. But perhaps there weren't any outwardly poignant reasons behind getting rid of the comedians other than wanting to go in a new direction. As someone whose life doesn't mirror Michaels' I can't claim to know the formula for putting the ideal sketch troupe together. Maybe he saw something happening that he didn't think was working in the long run.
Still, unless whatever those imperfect factors were came about suddenly, six years is a long time to keep two performers on the main stage just to kind of pull the prop rug out from under them. In that short amount of time, The Amanda Show and MADtv vet Taran Killam became only the fourth SNL cast member to ever hit 100 impressions. (Including Donald Trump, which will now be performed by someone else.) And even though Jay Pharoah doesn't have that distinction, he was still a major part of the process, obviously when it came to several more prominent black celebrities. So it's not like they were't hefting their weight.
When asked to compare their tenure to those who lasted longer, Lorne Michaels told this to THR.
Well, put it this way. Chevy Chase was there for a year-and-a-half. John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were there for four years. Jimmy Fallon was there for five years. Fred Armisen was I don't know how many years. It's whether or not they're --- I don't know. There's people's lives involved here so I'm not really... There are decisions that you intuitively come to, that now we have to do something different, that's all.
Incidentally, Fred Armisen was there for 11 years. But this answer calls back to the other one. When there isn't any obvious bad blood involved, no one is going to be open and honest about the nitty gritty behind somebody getting axed. Best to keep things amiable and chalk it up to the unpredictable river of life.
That said, it still sucks that Killam and Pharoah won't be back for the new season. Sure, they've got other stuff happening that sounds pretty great, but none of that is coming in a couple of days. Hopefully new featured players Mikey Day, Alex Moffat and Melissa Villaseñor are exquisite substitutes.