‘Change is exhilarating’: SNL creator Lorne Michaels, 77, insists he has no plans to retire as he eagerly anticipates ‘year of reinvention’ following mass cast exodus
- The long-running late-night sketch show experienced one of its largest recent cast turnovers this year, which Michaels says is an opportunity for ‘reinvention’
- Michaels, 77, says the last several years of performances on the show have been driven by the fear felt by audiences about Trump’s presidency and the pandemic
- As the show nears its 50th anniversary, Michaels says he has no plans to depart
SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels has assured fans of the long-running late-night television comedy and variety program that despite the show approaching its 50th birthday, and him his 78th, he has no plans to call it quits.
In an interview with the New York Times, Michaels, who has overseen many decades of the live sketch show, discussed the turns it has taken over the last several years.
He said the pandemic and the Trump presidency were a time when viewers were ‘truly frightened’ and that the show reflected that spirit.
Michaels said he is ‘proud’ of the work the show did during the Trump-era, which included the infamous post-2020 election ‘sketch’ of Kate McKinnon dressed as Hilary Clinton somberly serenading the audience with a rendition of Hallelujah.
Former SNL cast member Rob Schneider said the mournful performance was the final nail in the coffin of the show.
‘It’s over. It’s over. It’s not gonna come back,’ Schneider said about the cold open that addressed Clinton’s shocking 2016 loss.
The all-powerful NBC exec did admit, however, that things are easier for the show when national politics are less fraught and there is no once-in-a-century pandemic making the rounds.
SNL’s creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels (center) at the 2022 Emmys with SNL’s Bowen Yang (left) and former SNL star Kate McKinnon (right)
Alec Baldwin pictured as Donald Trump. SNL has received praise and criticism for the hyper anti-Trump stance it assumed during the last presidency. Michaels said it was reflective of a time when people were ‘truly frightened’
‘It’s much easier when everything is normal in politics and it’s just the two parties hate each other. We went through really scary times, the last four years. Hopefully we’re coming out of it and it’s just the old scary things like a depression or war,’ he said.
Michaels is also losing four of the show’s key players this year, in addition to four less well-known performers, marking one of the show’s biggest exoduses in years.
Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, and Kyle Mooney all made their departures known at the end of season 47. But also leaving this season are Melissa Villaseñor, Alex Moffat, Aristotle Athari, and Chris Redd, who announced his departure Monday just two weeks before the 48th season premiere.
Kate McKinnon, one of the show’s breakout stars of the last decade, announced plans to leave the show before the end of last season
Pete Davidson, another star of the show who has become a pop-culture icon, said he would leave the show following several years of waning appearances
In response to the large-scale loss of cast members, Michaels said, ‘This is a year of reinvention. And change is exhilarating.’
He also noted that one reason so many cast members walked away this year is because COVID-19 had stalled their exit plans.
‘The pandemic had put us in this position where no one could really leave because there were no jobs. And at the same time, if I don’t add new people every year, then the show isn’t the show. There have to be new people,’ he told the Times.
When a large handful of exits happen at the same time on the show, Michaels says he looks at it as an opportunity to reshape its dynamism, adding that he wants it to be a show that people opt to watch live on Saturday nights.
‘What I want it to be is, there’s a reason to watch it live because you don’t know what we’re going to do. Something big happened in the news, and you want to see how we’re going to deal with it and you know the people you’re hoping to see deal with it,’ he said.
For his part, however, Michaels says he has no plans to depart the show, with which his name has become synonymous over the years.
Though there are still a few more years before SNL hits 50, Michaels explicitly told the Times ‘I have no plans to retire. I’m not a big person for celebrating. Even the 40th [anniversary show], in the end, the only way I got through it was because I knew I was doing a show, and at a certain point, the credits would roll and we’d be off the air.
‘The 50th will be a big event. We’ll bring everyone back from all 50 years and hosts and all of that. It will be a very emotional and very strong thing.’
Aidy Bryant (left) and Kyle Mooney (right) also left the cast at the end of season 47
Former SNL cast member Rob Schneider has been a vocal critic of the show’s political orientation over the last several years. He says it’s no fun to watch performers make fun of politicians when the audience knows hatred fuels the impressions