The latest episode of Saturday Night Live marked Kristen Wiig’s departure from the long running late night variety show. Wiig’s quirky characters and comedy will be missed, but with her success in films like Bridesmaids and Paul, a future in blockbuster movies is sure to follow.
SNL has produced many top film comedians over the decades. Beginning in 1975, the show takes relatively new comedians and casts them within an ensemble. Those who stand out more than others eventually go on to star in their own television series or films. Besides Wiig, former cast members such as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Eddie Murphy have all had successful film careers. SNL alumnus Will Ferrell is presently coming out with two films, The Campaign and Anchorman II. Other SNL alumni like Mike Meyers and Adam Sandler are now house hold names with franchises based off of their character work.
Aside from the big screen, former SNL comedians have continued their work in television. NBC’s 30 Rock star Tina Fey based her character Liz Lemon off of her experiences working as both a performer and head writer for SNL. Similar to Fey, Amy Poehler left SNL’s Weekend Update desk to play the lead in the hit series Park and Recreation. Julia Louis-Dryfus, who performed on the show before her work on Seinfeld, just began her first season of HBO’s Veep. Jimmy Fallon continued his late night success by taking over Late Night after Conan O’Brien’s departure for The Tonight Show.
Many of the shows writers have found the spotlight post-SNL as well. Conan O’Brien wrote for Saturday Night Live before hosting Late Night, The Tonight Show and currently Conan on TBS. Much like Mr. O’Brien, Stephen Colbert found work within the same late night setting as the host of The Colbert Report. Larry David, who wrote for the show in the 80s, reunited with his SNL colleague Louis-Dreyfus for Seinfeld and is currently working on Curb Your Enthusiasm. SNL not only gives opportunity to showcase a comedian’s talent but also to refine their brand of comedy and cultural influence. Former cast member and writer, Al Franken, worked on the show from its inception with creators Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. He has since moved on to a successful career in politics as a senator from Minnesota. As SNL alumni, they are recognized as lovable, relatable, and intelligent.
The show itself has created films from its more popular sketches. Starting in 1980 with The Blues Brothers, films such as Wayne’s World, Coneheads, and A Night at the Roxbury were all based off of a SNL skit. Most recently in 2010, SNL produced MacGruber, a film starring Wiig and Will Forte based off of their popular sketch mocking the TV series MacGyver. These films however, are not solely associated with the show. They have found a place within pop culture on their own, displaying the comedian’s skill away from the ensemble.
SNL is a rare show that truly showcases its talent. From its guest hosts to its spot on commentary on current events, SNL has been a pop culture phenomenon for the past thirty years. By taking a newcomer or relatively lower talent by Hollywood’s standards and joining them with big names within a fast pace setting, comedians can hold their own and go on to become hugely successful themselves. SNL is now losing another talented individual with Wiig, and in the years to come, we should expect others will follow in the historic footsteps left by the shows predecessors.
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About the Author: Currently working on my B.A in Film Studies at CSU Sacramento full time, working part time, and playing the rest of the time. Began my love of comedy with Gene Wilder, and haven't looked back. Tweet me @steviewho