NBC’s Saturday Night Live has just lost two of its best impressionists. Cast members Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam are departing the show a year early, and won’t return for the upcoming 2016-2017 season. Jay is reportedly leaving, while NBC elected to not have Killam work his last year of his contract. Killam was surprised by the decision, a fact he shared in interviews with news outlets like Uproxx.
I was there for six years. I have not been anywhere in my life for six years. I don’t know that the end of something that you’ve committed that much time and energy to is ever going to feel “great” … You sign for seven years, so I had one more year. I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren’t going to pick up my contract. I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home.
Killam joined SNL in 2010 and was a big part of the show, doing impressions of notable figures as well as playing the straight man in many of the show’s sketches. In the middle of a hot election, NBC needs all of the political impressions it can get. Now Pharaoh is leaving and with his departure from the show means the loss of his Obama, one of the better impressions of the POTUS that has been on SNL.
Of course, where does this leave SNL? After Killam couldn’t produce the laughs with his Trump impression, SNL turned to 90’s cast member Darrell Hammond when Trump announced his candidacy. The veteran SNLer should be around at least until November. Kate McKinnon is already nailing the role of Hillary, but her VP, Tim Kaine, would probably have been played by Killam. No word yet on whether SNL is holding auditions for new cast members, but it’s likely that Lorne and Co. are seeing a few comedy showcases right now. Jon Rudnitsky, who never really found his footing, was also let go from SNL. Supporting cast members Leslie Jones and Pete Davidson are cultivating a good amount of buzz, and will probably stick around.
What’s Next for Jay and Taran?
Don’t cry over their loss just yet, because they’re going to be just fine! Killam is directing a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and both have landed lead roles in Showtime series. Pharoah will be starring in “White Famous,” a new show from Jamie Foxx loosely based on his life and written by Tom Kapinos of Californication. Pharoah will play a “talented, young African-American comedian whose star is rising, forcing him to navigate the treacherous waters of maintaining his credibility as he begins to cross over toward becoming “white famous.” Killam will be the lead in the first season of an anthology show called Mating, which “explores modern dating, with each season exploring a different protagonist’s journey.” He’ll be in the first season of the show. These new roles may very well show that the time to leave SNL was right, even if it didn’t feel so at the time.