The Departing Cast Members of “Saturday Night Live”

When it comes to the amount of seasons, it’s incredibly rare for a television series to make it to double digits. Even some of the most legendary shows didn’t even come close.

Seinfeld? Nine seasons. The Sopranos? Six. Breaking Bad is destined to be a television classic, yet it only ran five seasons.

When a show *does* make it to ten seasons, that really is a special achievement.

Saturday Night Live just finished its 42nd season. That’s a whole lot of special.

The NBC sketch comedy show is basically an institution at this point. It’s hard to imagine television without it. Indeed, when you consider all the of the catchphrases it’s inspired and all of the careers it’s launched, it’s hard to imagine American culture as a whole without it.

Of course, when a show lasts 42 years, it’s practically impossible to maintain the same cast/crew. Lorne Michaels, the show’s creator, is most likely the only person who works on the show now that also worked on the show in the beginning. Cast members have come and gone throughout the duration of the show’s run. Darrell Hammond and Kenan Thompson have both completed 14 seasons on the show, which only amounts to a third of the show’s history (Thompson is a current cast member, so he will break the record next season).

This season is no different. When the season finale aired on May 20, it marked the final episode for three of the cast members: Bobby Moynihan, Sasheer Zamata, and Vanessa Bayer. The show paid a loving tribute to Moynihan and Bayer (Zamata didn’t announce her decision until after the completion of the season).

So now that they are no longer part of the cast, we can at least start to put their stints in historical perspective. What were their best sketches? How important were their contributions in general? And what’s next for them? We will break it down, actor-by-actor.

Bobby Moynihan

Bobby Moynihan’s first season SNL came in 2008, which makes him one of the longest serving cast members in the show’s history. He was also one of the funniest, at least of his time. Like every performer who finds their way to the SNL stage, he had a repertoire of celebrity impersonations, the most notable ones being Snooki, Guy Fieri, and Chris Christie. But his strength was not in impersonations; his most memorable characters were invented. Think the unnamed drunk uncle he played on installments of “Weekend Update.”

Moynihan is moving on to star in his own CBS sitcom, Me, Myself & I. The show is slated to be included in the CBS lineup next Fall. Historically, when SNL members leave for their own sitcom the results are a mixed bag. Given Moynihan’s perfect comedic timing and expressions, we’re confident that the show at least has potential. It doesn’t hurt that he will be joined by Emmy award winning actor John Larroquette.

Sasheer Zamata

Sasheer Zamata started as a guest player on SNL back in 2014. She didn’t become a full-time cast member until the season before this one. So of the three departing cast members, she had the shortest stint. She also didn’t announce her decision to leave until after the season wrapped. Given her short tenure, it’s fair to say that Zamata didn’t leave behind a tremendous impact on the show. That’s not at all the same thing as saying that she wasn’t funny. In fact, she most certainly was. But is she leaving behind particularly memorable characters? Not really. In fact, her biggest legacy might be her arrival in the first place.

Before Zamata, SNL had been without a black female cast member for seven years, after Maya Rudolph’s departure. Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson were often asked to fill the void by impersonating black female celebrities when required, and both of them publicly went on the record stating that it made them uncomfortable. SNL tried to mock its own lack of diversity when Kerry Washington hosted the show in November 2013. That sketch backfired (of course), and SNL started feeling immense public pressure. The circumstances behind Zamata’s exit are still mysterious. She only made the announcement a few days ago in a cryptic Instagram post. SNL will justifiably feel pressure to cast a black woman to fill the void and to continue to address their poor history when it comes to diversity.

Vanessa Bayer

Vanessa Bayer joined the cast of SNL in 2012. Before that, she had been a guest player for a few years. Even though Bayer was not part of the cast for too long, there’s little doubt that she has been one of the funniest cast members during her tenure. Bayer created a multitude of hilarious characters, including the incompetent “Weekend Update” meteorologist Dawn Lazarus and precocious child actor Laura Parsons. While on SNL, Bayer has rightfully been nominated for several awards. It’s fair to say that Bayer’s departure is the one inspiring the most disappointment among SNL fans.

To this point, Bayer has not announced any specific future plans. It appears she left simply because her contract was up, and she wasn’t prepared to sign another one. She has spent the past few years building a resume of memorable supporting turns in movies and other shows though. Given her versatility, there’s little doubt that she will continue to make audiences laugh, no matter the medium. And hey, if Jennifer Aniston doesn’t want to be part of a Friends reunion, Bayer can always contribute with her hilarious interpretation of Rachel.