Looks like they won't be "live from New York" any longer. After a difficult, uneven season that saw an influx of new cast members, controversy and the loss of Head Writer and "Weekend Update" host Seth Meyers halfway through the year, Saturday Night Live is by cutting down its slate of featured players down to a more manageable size. Brooks Wheelan announced that he would be leaving Tuesday morning on Twitter (via a joke, natch). Later in the day, it was announced that Noël Wells and John Milhiser also wouldn't return after they failed to make an impression with audiences this year. Those announcements come about a month after Nasim Pedrad, one of the current longest-running cast members, would be leaving to work on Mulaney.
But just because they won't be on SNL any longer, that doesn't mean that it's the last we'll ever see of Wheelan, Wells, Milhiser and Pedrad. There are plenty of people who only lasted a couple of seasons on the show and then went on to become major stars: Sarah Silverman, Damon Wayans, Rob Riggle, and Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., to name just a few. With that in mind, we decided to take a look back at their tenure on SNL in order to best predict what's next for Wheelan, Wells, Milhiser and Pedrad. Although if any one of them is going to wind up playing a superhero, our money's on Heshy.
Brooks Wheelan What’s Next: Wheelan doesn’t have a lot lined up at the moment, though he does have a short film titled Lose Yourself, Save Yourself, where he plays Fighter 2. His Strengths: Possibly because he comes from a standup background rather than a sketch one, Wheelan didn’t create very many memorable characters, and his most significant moments on the show were his two appearances as himself on “Weekend Update,” where he would warn audiences against the dangers of getting terrible tattoos and binge drinking. Where We See Him: Wheelan seems to embody the same kind of “goofy, wisecracking All-American” guy that actors like Jake Johnson or fellow SNL alum Jason Sudeikis trade on. We could easily see him bringing some of the energy to a sitcom where he plays the sarcastic straight guy to a group of off-the-wall characters. Still, his weirdly funny exterminator bit with Ed Norton proves he’s capable of some truly strange characters, and so we could see him playing smaller, supporting roles in films for a while as a variety of strange, obnoxious characters. And of course, there’s always his stand up career to fall back on…
Noël Wells What’s Next: Wells has the TV series Gentleman Lobsters, which is slated for a 2014 premiere. She’s also a photographer in her spare time, and her work has been showcased in exhibitions and been printed in magazines. Her Strengths: Though they were slightly hit and miss – her Nancy Grace was four minutes of eye twitches and catchphrases – Wells made the biggest impact on the show through her impressions, most notably, playing Lena Dunham in the season premiere’s parody of Girls. Where We See Her: Though her talent with impressions and slightly offbeat characters would serve her well on another sketch show, something along the lines of Inside Amy Schumer or Key and Peele, Wells most reminds us of two other early SNL departures: Jenny Slate and Casey Wilson. Like them, Wells has a quirky charm to her that would serve her well in indie films (she actually earned solid reviews for her work in last year’s Forev) and in an ensemble sitcom, where she would be free to play up her weirder side.
John Milhiser What’s Next: Like Wheelan, Milhiser has a short film on his slate, Little Horribles, and he also starred in the indie film Camp Takota, which is available online. His Strengths: Milhiser didn’t get much of a chance to make an impression on audiences, although eh did show off a pitch-perfect Jon Cryer impression during a Family Feud sketch. He did, however, have one highlight during his tenure, a sketch where he and Lady Gaga played “encouraging” stage parents helping their child through a talent show performance, which let him show off his goofier side, and his ability to execute a high kick. Where We See Him: Milhiser strikes us as a Ben Falcone or Nat Faxon-type, someone who pops up in different things all the time, playing characters with varying levels of insanity and oddity. He’s definitely shown that he can play both weird and silly characters, but since he didn’t make that much of an impression, he’ll probably be “that guy from that thing” for a while, until he manages to find the right project to help him break out.
Nasim Pedrad What’s Next: After five years on SNL, Pedrad is leaving in order to play Jane, the roommate of John Mulaney’s character on the FOX sitcom Mulaney. Her Strengths: During her time on the show, Pedrad played a wide variety of characters, including Kim Kardashian, Arianna Huffington, Bedelia, the awkward teenager whose best friend is her mother and Shallon, the world’s most dangerous fifth grader. Though she never made the kind of impression that Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon have, she’s become a vital part of the ensemble over the past five years, thanks to her ability to inhabit both the sanest and the oddest human beings. Where We See Her: Hopefully, her role on Mulaney will be exactly what she needs to properly break out, since she never quite managed to on SNL. From there, we could see her following a similar career path to Wiig or Tina Fey, playing both broad comedy and more serious roles in both television in movies. Alternatively, she could become more of a Michaela Watkins/Ana Gasteyer- type, and becoming the go-to actress for slightly odd, scene-stealing characters.
Melissa McCarthy: arguably one of the past few years' biggest comedic breakouts. A deft wielder of a highly-tuned comedy sword, McCarthy slayed folks in her 2011 breakout movie role as Megan in Bridesmaids. She endeared fans to her as Sookie St. James on the small screen in Gilmore Girls. So we all know that the potential for fabulousness is strong with this one — so why won't Hollywood give her something better to do?
Most likely? Because they're scared. Because people still don't seem to be comfortable with McCarthy, her body, and her steadfast commitment to comedy above all else. She's going to give it all to you — even if that means you might see a body you're uncomfortable with, audience. Just look at critic Rex Reed, whose commentary about McCarthy's "humongous" and "hippo"-esque stature (his awful words, not mine) sent a barrage of hate his way, sure, but speaks to a commonly-held belief. That fat and fat people should be shamed rather than accepted as the reality of a world with a veritable smorgasbord of body shapes, sizes, and types. And it's also sort of Hollywood's fault for perpetuating the insidious idea, but they have an opportunity to fix it if they stop underestimating the comedy audience.
Sure, her performance in Identity Thief was good — one that perhaps outshone the hokey and dated-feeling movie to which it was affixed — but it's so clear that she's capable of more. We, as consumers, are starting to get really sick of the ease with which fat jokes seem to be strewn into any film that has a woman of a larger size in it (the number of punchlines where McCarthy's own body is the implied point of humor throughout Identity Thief is frustratingly high — similar to Rebel Wilson's Fat Amy from Pitch Perfect). But we all know that ladies like McCarthy and Wilson are capable funny people, and deserve more. So give it to them. It's time.
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It's time for Hollywood to nut up a bit and let McCarthy be McCarthy. Homegirl needs a role that will steer the conversation away from her weight and onto her very real talents. And yes, that does include her incredible capacity for physical humor, before anyone thinks otherwise. That's because McCarthy's slapstick is related not to the size of her body, but to her ability to be fearless when she performs. She is so comfortable in her own skin that she's not afraid to do things in a more human (and therefore, inherently goofy-at-times) way. She's got spunk and a little pizazz, that one. Plus: she's really f**king funny.
Just look back to McCarthy's monologue when hosting Saturday Night Live:
What makes the SNL monologue funny is not that McCarthy is a fat woman saying she's a dancer with any sort of talent. A fact that is made explicitly-clear by the inclusion of cast member Kristen Wiig in the number. It's a nod (in an almost vaudevillian manner) to old variety shows and their comedic stylings. It's also the commitment with which she carries out the moves that she does have (and, she does have some moves — don't forget her impressive leg-up on real-life husband Ben Falcone during the flight from Bridesmaids) and how both women were so obviously not the ones behind the screen. Not just McCarthy. The build-up, the other dancers, the accents, the glitter, the pa-pow and zig-zam of it all: it all contributed to a hilarious little nightclub number. A parody of so many on-stage entertainment events we've experienced on our own. Poking fun at the obviousness of smoke and mirrors is just a plus.
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McCarthy's comedy game is on-point. Her talent is undeniable: whether the role is worth of her talents — we're not naming any names, cough — or not, her ability consistently be the star of any scene she's in, says something. But we need more for Melissa McCarthy. She can do real, she can do honest, she can do charming. And she no doubt has a wealth of life experiences that speak to her time on this earth as a woman, a mother, and, yes, a person living in a fat body — though when she talks about it, it's not a bunch of predictable jokes about how terrible it is that she's the size she is — from which to pull from. This gives her a leg up on a lot of other people: dynamic enough to truly nail character depth, even in places where the comedy is lighter. In order to do this, we have to take the idea that McCarthy's body is a barrier to her or a thing worth mocking, and throw it out of the f**king window. You're better than that, Hollywood — so stop thinking that the audience won't like it. Because we'll like it. We'll really, really like it. Besides! Self-deprecating body humor is so passé.
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But like all astute observers of Hollywood soon learn: sometimes you have to do it yourself. The work you want doesn't always just appear, so if you want something done, create it yourself. McCarthy recently launched a production company (On the Day), with three projects already in development at Universal and Fox. She's set to star in one, co-write and star in another, and the third is based on a book from a Girls co-executive producer. And as if that wasn't enough, her upcoming movie Tammy (which she also co-wrote and is starring in) just tapped her to take on a third hat: that of co-directing. So maybe there's hope for McCarthy's future roles yet.
It seems that today, after a whirlwind of controversy about Lena Dunham's body and what it "deserves," we should all agree that they're all different, and they all deserve more than society might try to dictate.
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]
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Full disclosure: we are big fans of Mr. Melissa McCarthy aka Ben Falcone. So when we heard the news he was finally getting a show of his own that might get picked up (CBS recently passed on a pilot he co-wrote and starred in), we did a very Napoleon Dynamite-esque "YES!" from our chair. According to Deadline, the show, titled I'm Not Dead Yet, is TV Land’s first single-camera pilot. (Their other shows are all multi-camera.)
Written by Jon Sherman (of Fraiser fame), the show is about Sandy (Falcone), a man who finds out that he has a rare heart condition that could leave him dead as a doornail at any given moment. Sheesh! The crisis-inducing revelations brings clarity for Falcone's character, whose then decides to start speaking his mind and living life to the fullest. I believe this is what they call a YOLO Show. (Just kidding no one says that because no one is that terrible.)
Falcone is most well-known for his Target commercials and as the hilarious counterpart to his wife's character Megan in Bridesmaids, also known as Air Marshall Jon. When it comes to this show, we'll take the first watch. No! We know; you're not actually an air marshall. We've got first watch.
Also joining the TV Land family is another comedian, Jay Mohr, who's taking on a role in Brothers-In-Law. The show (which sounds like it will be filled with zany antics and total shenanigans), revolves around a husband (Josh Cooke) and the eccentric new boyfriend (Mohr) of his wife’s fraternal twin sister (Ellen Woglom), who have nothing in common but the sisters that continually force them to bond. Crazy!
These two shows continue TV Land's foray into the comedic landscape, with their returning shows The Exes and Hot in Cleveland.
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Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
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