Why Andy Samberg could end up the next Dana Carvey

Andy Samberg is following Kristen Wiig out the door at “Saturday Night Live,” the comedian confirmed to The New York Times on Friday. Andy_samberg_ap--300x300And while Wiig seems to have a bright future at least in the short term on the film side, the road ahead for Samberg is much less certain.

It’s too bad that Samberg didn’t get the kind of send-off that Wiig did in the “SNL” season finale. Like Wiig, the sheer longevity of his run on the show–seven years–merited on-air acknowledgment. We can only presume it wasn’t any kind of personal slight and more of a reflection of the uncertainty over his fate as terms of his contract hadn’t yet been finalized.

It’s easy to lose sight of the relative importance of any individual performer on “SNL” given the turnover there, but his legacy can’t be understated. Samberg carved out for himself something of a shadow world unto himself within the “SNL” umbrella. His “Digital Short” segment was a fixture of nearly every episode from the inaugural “Lazy Sunday” skit that practically put YouTube on the map to a side career in the music industry he paved via hilarious music videos cranked out through his Lonely Island troupe.

He brought a zany aesthetic all his own that stood both apart and together within “SNL,” one that can’t easily be replicated by just finding the right replacement cast member (though no doubt executive producer Lorne Michaels will try).

Michaels has to be sweating right now as he goes into a crucial season–“SNL” always gets a brighter spotlight during an election year–without two of his biggest talents. That’s got to improve the hand of Jason Sudeikis, a third cast veteran said to be on the fence about continuing. His importance in the short term may be even more significant than Wiig or Samberg because he plays Mitt Romney. That should mean they’ll keep him around until the end of the year at the very least, but there may be one too many zeroes at the end of his agent’s ask to guarantee his return.

Maybe Sudeikis will stay on even longer because “SNL” has a scary track record when it comes to seeing even some of its brightest lights dim once they take leave of the show. Think Dana Carvey or Chris Kattan. Insert shudder here.

As with those gents, it is the distinctiveness of Samberg’s talent that complicates his post-“SNL” future. He is a square peg that doesn’t fit into the round holes Hollywood has slotted for stars who used the NBC late-night show as a springboard like Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler. It doesn’t help matters that his next big test comes later this June opposite Sandler, whose boxoffice record has gone from gold to mold, in “That’s My Boy.” When you cast a guy like Samberg as a straight man for Sandler to play off of, even in success that’s not the right showcase for this comedian.

But Samberg wasn’t going to sit around at “SNL” forever. Hopefully he will find some more appropriate film vehicles that fit his style. Otherwise, don’t be surprised to find him back on TV. Word to the wise to NBC’s rivals: This is the kind of guy you can launch your own sketch show around. Give it a try.

Here’s more on the future of SNL sans Wiig

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