With SNL's 40th season wrapped up, we're taking a look back at the past year to recall the highs, lows, and other memorable moments as the show ended its fourth decade on the air. In this final post, we discuss the cast members on the show.
Being in the cast of SNL for season 40 was a blessing and a curse. More of a blessing, obviously. For comedians Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson, it was a dream come true: they began 2014 as relative unknowns and ended it with reserved seats in history, joining the ranks of a legendary comedy institution right as it celebrated a significant milestone. The two of them even received a special distinction during the anniversary special, introducing the best part of the night: archive footage of cast members' audition tapes. But in many ways, this heightened nostalgia has made their task even more difficult — this season's cast had to overcome four decades' worth of expectations and impress viewers that are increasingly quick to judge. Arguably no cast member in the show's history had to endure the level of harassment Leslie Jones sees on Twitter every Sunday morning.
A judgmental viewership wasn't the only struggle for the season 40 cast. Despite having slimmed down to a more manageable size from last season, the current lineup still lacks the star power the show needs to command the respect of viewers and critics. Historically, that X-factor has taken the form of a single cast member — Chevy Chase, Chris Farley, Will Ferrell — or an endearing chemistry between team players — Bill Murray and Gilda Radner, Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, the Lonely Island. There have been flashes of greatness within the 2014-2015 crew — Taran Killam, Cecily Strong, and Kate McKinnon often rise to the occasion, and the bromance between Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney has tightened since their Good Neighbor days — but many viewers continue to shrug off this cast as still in transition.
However, if we could stop comparing them to past generations and appreciate them solely for their work, suddenly this cast looks like one we shouldn't shrug off. Taran, Cecily, Kate, Kenan, and Bobby have become some of the most dynamic sketch comedians the show has ever seen, and Vanessa and Aidy have continued to be indispensable in sketches. Beck and Kyle have transitioned from rookies who only shined in their own off-beat shorts to dominant actors in live sketches. Jay and Sasheer remain expert impersonators that the show doesn't use often enough. And Leslie and Pete provided SNL with a breath of fresh air that the show seemed unable to locate last season.
Of course, it's hard to use words to accurately depict the state of affairs in the SNL cast, which is why we also use numbers. Creating a pie chart to depict SNL cast member screen time (which we did in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and below) is a huge, nerdy waste of time, but it also gives us a reasonable quantification of how much value the show's writers and producers place on each actor. Sure, it may seem cruel to reduce a comedian's hard work over nine months to a percentage and a tiny sliver of a pie chart, but this is the internet, and geeking out over TV shows is how we enjoy them. Also, we have way too much time on our hands. READ MORE