Is Brooks Wheelan Just the First to Go at ‘Saturday Night Live’?

Someone had to go.

After a rebuilding season that wasn’t nearly as awful as some critics made it out to be, first-year cast member Brooks Wheelan was shown the door Monday, announcing on Twitter he would not be returning for the 40th season in September.

PHOTOS: Short Timers at ‘Saturday Night Live’ Who Made it Big

“SNL” usually trims a cast member or two before its fall premiere, so the termination was no big surprise. All the more so coming off a transition year in which eight of the 17 cast members were rookies, the equivalent of throwing everything against the wall just to see what sticks.

It was inevitable someone would fall off the wall.

But there’s a few questions to consider in the wake of his ouster: Was Wheelan deserving of his pink slip, and even if he was, were there others even more deserving of the boot? Furthermore, will Wheelan be the only one to be canned in the offseason, and if not, who is going to follow in his footsteps?

If you watched “SNL” in its entirety this past season, Wheelan’s exit shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was barely used, and didn’t seem to connect in any one of the sketches in which he did appear. There was one sketch early in the season that practically served as the writing on the wall in which Wheelan played himself as a gameshow contestant, and a joke pointedly played on the fact that no one watching had any idea who he was.

Of course, it’s the “SNL” freshmen who are going to be most susceptible to cuts. But it’s a credit to “SNL” that most of the newbies seemed untouchable: Colin Jost is the head writer in addition to being the new face of “Weekend Update,” so that was never going to happen. Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney got plenty of post-12:30 p.m. sketches to themselves, so they’re doing something right. Sasheer Zamata also acquitted herself nicely in a midseason entry that kicked up some attention as the series’ first female African-American cast member in ages. I’m willing to bet Noel Wells sticks around though she didn’t do anything particularly memorable, just solid impression work.

From there, the odds get a little longer. Were Mike O’Brien not already a writer on “SNL,” his on-air tenure would seem ill-fated considering how inconsistently he was used, though he got some featured sketches late in the run that may indicate he’ll be back. If there is any one person who seems most likely to join Wheelan on the unemployment line, it’s John Milhiser, who was the least-used cast member last season, according to this handy chart from comedy-news website Splitsider. If another head is going to roll, it would have to be his.

Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if Wheelan was the only cut and “SNL” didn’t even bother to replace him. That would actually be a nice show of confidence in a cast that may be short on stars for now, though Kate McKinnon got a shot in the arm last week with an Emmy nomination.

Don’t forget, it’s likely veteran player Nasim Pedrad won’t be back considering she is joining the cast of the new Fox comedy “Mulaney,” though no official announcement has been made.

Chin up, Wheelan. It’s sad to see a young comic take his lumps, though “SNL” history is littered with talent that didn’t last long on the show, only to find success elsewhere. Don’t be shocked if Wheelan suddenly shows up in pilot season next year, laughing all the way to the bank.

Though “SNL” is an incredibly powerful springboard for launching new talent, it’s not for everyone. Just because someone flames out on “SNL” doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have the goods for a showbiz career.


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  1. Guadalupe says:

    It’s going to be ending of mine day, except before end I am reading this fantastic article to increase my know-how.

  2. G-Ro says:

    I hope there’s a future for SNL. There’s talent in the current cast (I don’t think any of them are “totally useless”) but the writing hasn’t clicked, which is a management problem. As for my personal dislikes, while I like Taran I cannot fathom the laughs his Jebidiah character gets. Next…!

  3. Paul says:

    Aidy Bryant was totally useless. don’t know why she’s still on there.

  4. Sasha says:

    The show is horrible now, just not funny at all. Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan and Kate McKinnon need to find other arenas in which their talents can be better utilized, because they are supremely talented. However, as for the show – it needs to end now.

  5. Bebe Rebozo says:

    I thought the best use of Brooks Wheelan during all of last season was when he showed up during a “dialog” sketch and somebody asked who he was. “Oh, that’s Brooks Wheelan, he’s one of the new cast members this year.” “Really?” I thought Brooks was a good sport for being in that sketch. However, I think the handwriting was on the wall that unless the show developed a good role for him, he’d be on his way to his next job. And that’s what has happened.

  6. heypost says:

    I agree. Was unaware that SNL aired in the afternoon. (I like that the comments are moderated and may be edited for clarity.)

  7. okonheim says:

    I don’t know about variety but most websites can’t afford copy-editors nowadays. If you want some clean pristine copy-editing, donate some money to the publication for that cause. Otherwise, suck it up

    • It’s not that they can’t afford it, it’s they choose NOT to afford it. A publication like Variety — online or off — part of a big conglom can surely afford it and should care about such things.

  8. Matt says:

    This year was terrible. The writing was unoriginal and tired. First off, half the show is pre-recorded anymore. When did this show stop being live? If I wanted to watch pre-recorded sketches, I’ll go to youtube.

    There is a handful of talent here, but the rest of them need to go, including pretty much everyone that joined last year. Teran Killam, Bobby Moynihan and Kate McKinnon are the only ones with any staying power.

  9. Rusty Shakelford says:

    Does the current SNL cast even rehearse? Im sick of watching these paid actors read cue cards, the material is not funny either. Last couple seasons have had viewers begging for 20+ year old reruns, Lorne Michaels should retire, its obvious he cannot connect with viewers or hire the right guy for the job, the tonight show and the late night show is proof that he has lost his touch. Put all 3 shows to pasture Lorne, hang it up.

  10. Mcoleman says:

    Likewise, I have watched SNL since childhood (late 70s). This season has been very disappointing. Whereas I am watching from a distance, Brooks departure is putting bandaid treatment on a severed leg.

  11. rocky-o says:

    i miss phil hartman…

  12. witzshared says:

    I’ve watched SNL since the very first episode and I’m sorry Andrew, but I disagree and feel that it was very awful to watch this season. It wasn’t very funny, horrible skits, the news desk is not funny any more and except for some great guest host monologs that offered promise of a great show at the beginning just nose dived deeper into the show. It’s actually time to put the format to rest.

  13. Kathy says:

    If they are firing people that are deemed unfunny or nor connecting with the audience, then when are they going to fire Kenan Thompson? He runs every skit he is in.

  14. wjm980 says:

    If Whelan is the only one to go, and Michaels brings in even more people, it may take half the show just to introduce them all. For god’s sake Lorne, Don Pardo is 96, must you continue to make him read off 17 (or more) names?

  15. Fre says:

    I didn’t realize anyone Watched SNL anymore.
    It lost it’s funny ‘eons’ ago.

    • Jacques Strappe says:

      The past several seasons, including this wretched one just seem like one of those painfully unfunny and awkward SNL sketches that seems to drone on and on, not knowing how or when to end. Humor is timeless; SNL, not so much.

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