The news that Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis and Andy Samberg may leave “Saturday Night Live” at the end of the current season has fans wondering why their favorite stars are looking to jump and how they’ll fare once they’ve departed the safety of the sketch-comedy institution to pursue TV and movie stardom.
Neither Sudeikis nor Samberg has commented on the rumors, but on Alec Baldwin’s podcast Monday, Wiig did address the departure talk, though she neither confirmed nor denied the chatter. “I don’t know,” Wiig told Baldwin when asked if her tenure as one of the most beloved “SNL” performers was nearly up. “Everyone has to leave … and I will say that when I do leave, it’s not because I’m sick of it and not because I see something better or anything like that. It’s just that it’s time. When I do leave, it will be the hardest thing.”
While some “SNL” performers have had shaky post-show careers, plenty have had great success, and there’s no reason to think Wiig, Samberg and Sudeikis won’t do the same. All three have plenty of projects lined up and a history of behind-the-scenes work that makes us think they’ll be just fine.
Let’s take a look at what these three have cooking:
Wiig is arguably the biggest star of the current “SNL” cast. She’s been on the show for nearly seven years and has received three Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy nominations for her performance on the show. Her characters Gilly and the Target Lady and her impersonations of Kathie Lee Gifford, Nancy Pelosi and Taylor Swift are among the show’s most well-known. If she does leave, it will be a major loss for the show, but like Wiig told frequent “SNL” host Baldwin, “Everyone has to leave.”
Like many successful comediennes before her, Wiig honed her comic talents as a performer and writer with the Groundlings comedy troupe. The latter talent served her particularly well last year, earning her an Oscar nomination for co-writing the screenplay to her hit film “Bridesmaids,” which grossed nearly $170 million in the US. Perhaps in preparation for her inevitable “SNL” departure, she’s recently been taking on dramatic parts — as in the just released “Friends With Kids” and the upcoming “Freezing People Is Easy” — and even her planned laughers skew away from the screwball comedy where she made her name, including “Imogene,” about a playwright who stages a suicide to win back her ex but ends up in the custody of her gambling-addict mother, and “The Comedian,” which will be directed by Sean Penn and co-star Robert De Niro.
Prediction: Pretty, smart and an undeniable double threat, Wiig will be just fine. She’s got a long list of promising projects in the works, indicating that while she’s already a household name, she’s probably set for even bigger things.
Like Wiig, Sudeikis is currently enjoying a surge of interest from the film community. While his recent “Good Old Fashioned Orgy” was a miss, Sudeikis found modest box-office success with the comedy “Hall Pass” and scored an even bigger smash last summer with “Horrible Bosses,” which was a $117 million-grossing hit in the U.S. and pulled in another $92 million overseas. Sudeikis has found himself in some pretty ideal company if he’s looking to launch a long-term career in big-screen comedies. He already has “The Campaign,” co-starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, in the can, as well as a still-untitled short-film compilation (think “Paris, je t’aime”) that co-stars, in some fashion, everyone from Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman to Elizabeth Banks and Emma Stone.
The actor is also carving out quite a TV niche, appearing regularly on HBO’s acclaimed “Eastbound & Down” and as a voice on the animated “Cleveland Show.”
Prediction: Sudeikis’ reputation for being easy to work with should not be underestimated here. Comedians are notoriously touchy subjects, so it’s not surprising that his easygoing nature has quickly made him a go-to for directors looking for a handsome funny guy. And let’s face it: There will always be a role for the handsome funny guy. But if he wants to prove himself to be more than a one-trick pony, he needs to take on a dramatic role in the near future. Might we suggest an ensemble pic from a director like Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Soderbergh or David O. Russell? That way, if he’s good, critics will call him a “scene stealer,” but if he’s not great, he would blend into the background.
Samberg’s departure is perhaps the biggest risk of the three “SNL” castmembers reportedly looking to fly the coop. Unlike Wiig and Sudeikis, he has not been the lead or major featured player in a successful film. Indeed, he’s been a supporting player in a number of misfires and is a hard sell as a leading man. He’s going to make a go of it with the upcoming Sundance Film Fest crowd pleaser “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” and there seems to be a lot of interest in his upcoming summer comedy with Adam Sandler, “That’s My Boy.”
But Samberg’s problem may lie in the very thing that’s made him famous: his goofball shtick. The Digital Shorts he brought to “SNL” with his Lonely Island crew have been insanely popular, but Samberg has so far been at his best in small doses. To make a strange analogy, there’s a reason Leslie Knope is the lead character on “Parks and Recreation” instead of Ron Swanson or Tom Haverford. It’s because wild and crazy works for supporting characters, but leads have to be able convey far more depth and connect with audiences. Samberg has yet to prove he can do that.
Prediction: He may have a rough go of things until he finds his footing, but if he’s able to bring the kind of creativity and innovation to his post-“SNL” career as he did to his time on the show, he’ll figure things out. He really needs to dial it back and prove he can be more than the zany sidekick.
Which “SNL” star do you think will have the most success after leaving the show? Let us know in the comments below!