Taran Killam Saturday Night Live Fired Exit

Taran Killam Talks His SNL Ouster: 'I Honestly Don't Know What Happened'

If you’re looking for a reason that Taran Killam was let go from Saturday Night Live well before the end of his contract, don’t expect him to be able to explain it to you.

As TVLine exclusively reported Monday, neither Killam nor fellow Not Ready for Primetime Player Jay Pharoah will be part of the series’ cast when Season 42 premieres later this year.

Killam recently told Uproxx that NBC’s long-running late-night series decided not to pick up the final year of his seven-season contract, but he’s not sure why. “I had sort of had it in my head I would make this upcoming year my last year, but then heard they weren’t going to pick up my contract,” he said. “I was never given a reason why, really.”

Killam mentioned that he’s directing the film Why We’re Killing Gunther, and that some of the post-production process on the movie would have coincided with SNL‘s production schedule.

“I honestly don’t know what happened on the other side, but I do know we had expressed I have work on this film and in bonding this picture, that has to get cleared with SNL,” he said.

In the end, he added, “my feeling about it is I got my dream job. I set out to be on SNL and I got to do that and I did very well. And I love and adore and will forever have close ties and tight bonds with the brilliant, smartest, funniest people I’ve ever met in my life. So, I have no gripes at all.”

UPDATE: Killam addressed his SNL exit on Twitter early Tuesday:

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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71 Comments
  1. MyFavoriteSong says:

    I love Taran on SNL! He could play such a diversity of characters and do it well. Jay was very much underutilized so we really did not get to see the depth of his experience. What is NBC thinking?

    • ThisIsCrazy says:

      They aren’t thinking. Not the first nor the last time they’ve opted to remove more talented people over others.

  2. kat0711 says:

    He will be missed but I’m more upset at Jay Pharoah. He was sooooo talented with his impressions! Why has SNL hidden him these past few years and now gotten rid of him? Does he have a bad work ethic? I guess we’ll know if he shows up in movies or disappears forever.

    • nNark says:

      I just figured it out: Obama’s term ends in a few months, so, Jay’s excellent impression is no longer needed. Hmmmmmm.
      Oh well. Underutilized, for sure! Hope he gets a kick over into movies. There have been a few SNLers who seem to have disappeared altogether, and that’s too bad.

      • kat0711 says:

        No because he could do any black guy. He’s like a Kardashian. The only thing I remember Jay from last year was when he was on weekend update and ran through about every impression he had. It’s like that was his hello I’m still here and goodbye.

  3. tjchurch2001 says:

    I believe it’s like Janeane Garofalo, who reportedly was offered a job there years ago, but turned it down when she was against using cue-cards… After all, I first knew Taran’s name from Nick Cannon’s MTV show, which is all about improvisation. (Maybe when the movie work is done, he can go back there… They have nobody with his talent & humor now, & I believe just started a new season.)

    • Steve says:

      But…. Jeanine WAS on SNL. She quit mid-season, because she hated the ‘frat boy’ environment that Sandler and Farley brought with them.

      • tjchurch2001 says:

        She has stated in the past she got offered a spot, but turned it down due to issues with cuecards (unlike the improvisation she probably still does on movies, & where Amy, Wil, Taran, & others got their big breaks prior to “SNL”)… But feel free to contact & correct her if you think you know her past better than she does.

        • Wendy says:

          Well, maybe you misunderstood what Ms. Garofolo said, because she WAS a cast member of SNL. She didn’t turn it down. She was even interviewed for the “Live From SNL” book that covered the show in an oral history fashion. And what the other poster said was correct: She quit the show.

        • maggie says:

          Janeane Garofalo was a regular on SNL during the 1994-95 season, leaving after 14 episodes. She has said numerous times that she left SNL before the season was up because it wasn’t a good fit for her.

        • Dysturbed says:

          Despite your claim of her turning down an offer to be on the show, she was factually a brief member of the cast. What you’re referring to is why she chose to not continue with the show, half way through the season. She said that it made her anxious and depressed and spoke of the juvenile behaviors on the set.

          It’s ok to admit that you got it wrong…it happens.

        • gmdirect says:

          Guys, you can be offered a job and turn it down, only to accept it another time. Both stories could be true. This is TV we’re talking about.

          • tjchurch2001 says:

            EXACTLY!!!… In fact, if you watch the “8 Mile” spoof on the episode Brittany Murphy (RIP) hosted, Chris Parnell refers to the fact Lorne “liked me so much that he hired me TWICE!” (I think that Jay was also let go at least once before, & rightfully so, but brought back when so many audience members complained about Fred’s failure to resemble the incoming President Obama.)

  4. Et al. says:

    Yet they keep Kyle Mooney, widely considered one of the worst cast members in history.

  5. BlittleU says:

    Taran has been a long time solid player for SNL, that they would drop him without even allowing an on air goodbye is disrespectful and tacky. I would take Taran and Jay over EVERY male left on the show. Jost? Mooney? Bennet? They get to stay? I would name a few more but I honestly can’t remember the names of most of the male cast, that is how bland and/or bad they are. I think it’s long past time Lorne Michaels was let go.

  6. Gena says:

    Taran being let go really surprises me. He was a pretty frequently used cast member and he played Trump in a lot of the opening skits; you would think that this election cycle would keep on as a necessary player. Anyway, excited to see what he does next.

    If they know what’s good for them they’ll be chucking money at Kate to make her stay.

    • KatsMom says:

      Didn’t they take Trump away from Taran though? Seems like Darrell Hammond wound up playing Trump a lot more than Killam did. That being said, I agree with your general sentiment that this is really surprising because he seems so essential to the show. I thought he’d make a good Mike Pence to Hammond’s Trump, for example.

  7. Joel Maurice says:

    Kyle Mooney creates the worst sketches, nowhere near the Lonely Island level he is trying to repeat, and the two mot talented male comedians on the show are let go. Jay Pharoah could mimic almost all black actors on tv and film and Taran Killam was the everyman player that SNL needed. I am assuming they are going to be going heavy to the women next season which isn’t a bad thing but the women won’t be around long because of their burgeoning movie careers. I have never been one to say SNL is dead. but this was a very bad move on their part and one that will be hard to come back from.

  8. Terri Sinclair says:

    No no no! I’m not happy. What about Jedediah!?!?

  9. Scott says:

    Given that he started out on MAD TV now with revival, he could return to that.

  10. Kevin K says:

    Very sad about Taran Killam’s departure from SNL as did Jay Pharoah. Hope Vanessa Bayer stays on SNL depending on what the future holds for her as does the current female cast in Kate, Cecily, Aidy, Leslie and Sasheer.

  11. Joey Padron says:

    Mess up they didn’t let him to do more season of the show so he could have his goodbye like other cast members that have been on the show for a long time. He was great on the show.

  12. Little Boo says:

    This is ridiculous. He is the best guy they have had in a long time. He’s so funny and so talented. Plus, to tell him this late? That’s just rude. We fans love those last emotional shows. It makes for a much better experience.

    But no surprise, as SNL has been going down hill. Sadly, Mr. Killam was one of the only reasons why I still watched.

  13. Miss Dawn Davenport says:

    They must have some incredible cast additions that we don’t know about since these two are their best male performers and among the top of the cast overall. This, while the show may still be collared with the talent-free Kyle Mooney, Michael Che and the over-the-top Keenan Thompson am not sure why NBC continues to let Lorne Michaels run this trainwreck.

  14. jimmy says:

    He really is the best guy they’ve had in years. I’m so sad about this.

  15. Yep! says:

    Not that either of these talented guys are hurting for other opportunities, but it definitely would have been nice if they weren’t “dropped” without notice, got to play out the final season, and then were given proper send-offs from the show. I remember all the fuss that was made over Kristen Wiig’s departure, and Andy Samberg was “dropped” before return the same year, but he never got an actual send-off either, and he did all the digital shorts. I definitely don’t understand “TV logic”.

    • TJ. Church says:

      Hit me maybe “SNL” stands for “Sorry; No Logic.” As I waited for page to load, created “Sorry Nice-one, Lorne”…. Wondering how many we all could come up with before new, less-funny season premieres?

    • KatsMom says:

      Didn’t Andy Samberg decide to leave though? That departure always seemed to me like it was Andy’s choice anyway, which means he also decided he didn’t want to have any big farewell on the show. Plus, when he left, I think Lorne told him the door was always open for him to come back with more Lonely Island stuff (or, at least, they have popped up periodically), so even though he’s out of the credits, he’s still got a bit of a presence there. Point is, I don’t think the situations are really the same.

      • kat0711 says:

        But nobody got big send offs until Kristen Wiig and that was totally weird and out of place. All SNL does for a send off is when the camera pans the hugging cast at the end, it gives a slight pause and the person gives a little sad face wave. Kristen had to be boning Lorne because nothing she did was funny. I feel like the show is a popularity contest behind the scenes and they don’t care at all what we want to watch.

        • KatsMom says:

          You’re incorrect about Wiig starting a trend. There have been quite a few big send-offs on the show, going back to when Wiig was just a kid. Over 20 years ago, Phil Hartman had a nice, sentimental moment on stage with Chris Farley after the cast sang The Sound of Music’s “So Long, Farewell” number. Jimmy Fallon’s Grease Summer Nights send-off is another one I remember, and that was almost a decade before Wiig. Will Ferrell had a bunch of heartfelt messages from the cast, followed by Tracy Morgan ranting too, as I recall. I agree Lorne was way too in love with Wiig and her one character that she tried to stretch into several, but she didn’t get any special treatment in the good-bye department.

          • kat0711 says:

            Ok you’re right I do remember most of those. I think Kirsten’s stood out to me because I always thought she was awful and undeserving of all the sketches she got. Jimmy’s send off was one of my favorites and I totally forgot about that one!
            I will always watch the show but every year I fast forward through more and more.

          • KatsMom says:

            I agree with you that it’s getting harder and harder to watch the show. The decision to fire 3 of the guys I liked best on the show isn’t really helping things for me right now either.

  16. Jane Marcus says:

    I will so miss Taran and Jebidaya — I really looked forward to his scathing comments on whatever topic he chose.

  17. Frank says:

    I guess I’m in the minority on this one but it’s about time Jay Pharoah was let go. He is a great mimic but he’s not funny at all. I was really excited about him when he started on the show but he ended up being a major letdown.

  18. Donna Salvi says:

    The show has been awful for years. Time to put this one down.

  19. BillyBobJohnson says:

    Did Pharoah decide to leave or was he fired, too?

  20. John says:

    This is how stupid Snl is or Lorne michaels is. They let go one funny guy (taran killian) and Jay is not that good. He mostly relies on his so called not great impressions. BUT they leave that talentless leslie jones on the cast. She has no talent whatsoever. She can yell. I don’t watch Snl because she is on it. Lorne michaels is an ass..period

  21. Maria montenegro says:

    Taran ur the only reason my family watched SNL. No one else made me a fan again of SNL! There r so many cast members on the show besides u and jay and Keenan on the men side. The late night news is horrible.

    • Maria montenegro says:

      Sorry typo on my recent comment all other men e horrible except u jay and Kennan is what I meant aboce

  22. Luis says:

    He was one of the more versatile performers on the show. Strange

  23. tara17 says:

    This sucks, he was my favorite male player on SNL. He wasn’t as present during last season and he was missed.

  24. Lorne was probably upset that one of his “kids” was making a movie that Lorne didn’t have executive producer billing for. Taran was great but he’ll land on his feet.

    • KatsMom says:

      That’s what I think too. I’ve heard way too many stories along those lines for there not to be some truth to those rumors.

  25. Dina Heller says:

    Whoa…wait a minute. I thought he left on his own (I thought that’s what I read last night), but now I read that he was FIRED??? That is insanity! I thought he & Jay Pharoah were the bees knees. What are they doing over there?

  26. Michael says:

    Now they just need to fire most of the rest of the current cast. It’s telling that they have to use retired Darrell Hammond so much.

  27. Dina says:

    Wait…I thought I read last night that he & Jay left on their own. Now I’m reading that they were FIRED?? That’s insanity! What is going on over there? Yikes.

  28. gary says:

    THE SHOW SUCKS!

  29. Nero tTVFiddler says:

    Will miss Taran on SNL, but I do look forward to seeing him on whatever project he has in store for us.

    In the meantime, best wishes to him… he now has a very successful run on SNL on his resume, and gets to go home each day after work to a nice family and his lovely wife (Ms. Smulders)… that’s as good a life as any of us could hope for.

    All the best Taran, and future success and happiness!

  30. gale1001 says:

    This is truly baffling. There have been very few SNL cast members that have had Taran’s range, and Jay is one of the best impressionists the show has had. Taran’s Jebidiah and Brad Pitt impersonation always cracked me up. The rest of the males in the cast are forgettable. There must be more to the story.

    • gale1001 says:

      If Lorne wanted to clean house, he should have fired Kyle Mooney (boring) and Sasheer (has she ever done anything remotely funny on that show?)

  31. Carlos T. Jackal says:

    I bet they meant to dump Michael Che and Colin Jost, since all they do is Weekend Update and pretty much anybody can do that. But they accidentally grabbed the wrong generic white guy and generic black guy.

  32. eviloverlore says:

    If I’m being totally honest, it will be a relief not to have to watch Taran every week. His looks seriously creep me out. The first time I noted him was in the lizardman film with Anne Hathaway where he threw up green stuff all over her – the creep factor was born there. Taran also never shied away from having the creepy intensity of a serial killer in sketches, either.

    My personal preference aside, I do think he’s a better actor and comedian than many of the newer and younger male actors left on the show. I feel like SNL always has a “leading man”, a solid, go-to male player, and Taran filled that role in the last few years. I also think it’s kind of crappy to not pick up people’s options without telling them why. I know from past experience that Michaels will try to make us all forget Taran exists. And that’s even more creepy.

  33. Lynn Manak says:

    How sad, Tarzan Kills was definately
    one of the most talented of yhe current bunch of SNEers. He was very versatile.
    Going to esp miss his film critic Jeb
    Atkinson and his many wacky impressions.

  34. Lynn Manak says:

    Seems like SNL has now become
    “The Kate McKinnon Snow”, or
    even “The Leslie Jones Show.” All
    the other cast members are there to
    just lend support to those leads.
    Good luck Tarzan and thanks for all the fun we had with you on SNL.

  35. Michael Zand says:

    I get the impression that Taran’s film project was going to conflict with the SNL schedule and that’s why they let him go.
    As for Jay, yes he was underutilized but SNL is a cutthroat writing competition every week. If you don’t churn out a lot of material for yourself then you don’t get on. It could be that Jay just didn’t write enough of fast enough to be used more.

  36. McCapwell says:

    Taran Killam wasn’t used well this year, but he elevated every sketch he was in. (Admittedly not hard to do of late,). Yet another SNL mistake.

  37. tyler1861 says:

    Now if only Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones would be fired..that would be wonderful.. Of course Kate plays Hillary Clinton so no chance in that happening.. Leslie though.. no reason to keep her

    • TJ. Church says:

      I have to figure they will regardless. After all, with that line of thinking, it seems only natural to ask yourself why they let go of people like Taran with so many fans of so many characters & it seems so little time left on his contract anyway.

      Similarly, what was the reason to hire Leslie in the first place?!

    • Amy says:

      Agreed! Without wishing Leslie Jones any disrespect, I find absolutely nothing funny in her character.

  38. FrankLeo says:

    I will really miss his Jedediah character. I think Taran wasn’t really utilized much in 2015. Jays impressions are great, but had less to do then in previous seasons. Bobby, Vanessa and Peter were under utilized as well.
    (Too many cast members?)
    Sad to see good performers leave.
    Hopefully it will lead to great opportunities for them and more air time for cast members like Pete.

    That means more imaginative and creative sketches from the writers to bring out the best in all the performers remaining.

  39. Janet says:

    Boy… is it THEIR loss. I will have to force myself to watch this show to see if it actually is funny, now. Maybe it’s finally time to call it a day. I was there at the very beginning and will probably be there at the end, no matter how much torture it becomes. I will wait patiently for Taran’s next project.

  40. danoregon says:

    I realize it is a LIVE show so you don’t want to boot someone ahead of the last show and have them do something nutty – but why wait three months? Figure those affected could book some movies or TV shows, instead of being left out to dry and keeping their schedules cleared because they assume they’ll be back. Lame.

  41. Jennifer says:

    I am in shock…..I have watch SNL forever and it is very exciting to see new cast members come and develop new characters but to let go of guys in their prime??? I remember a little kids show spoof on soap operas called Moody’s Point and was taken by a young man’s talent and was excited to see Taran years later join SNL SNL ??????

  42. Steven Strange says:

    I hate to say it but they should really consider putting this franchise to bed once and for all. They’re down to about three decent shows a year now.

  43. MissTheFunny says:

    I don’t know what happened to the talent (writing and comics) on SNL. The skits tend to run to far beyond the punchline, and some of the newer “comics’ I just find tedious.

  44. CMLion says:

    Maybe it was because he’s unfunny and brings nothing to the show? All his characters are the same… he has zero range. He’s also entirely too self aware: “Look, I’m being funny!” No. No, you’re not.

    I think Jay was funny, but not brilliant. Dependable on a show that lacks consistency.

    I don’t think Loren went far enough: Michael Che and Kyle Mooney are dreadful. The show is in a major decline and needs to jettison a chunk of their cast and definitely Jost, the head writer. He and Che have ruined Weekend Update.

  45. tracy Newman says:

    Of all the stupid moves! Taran Killam is brilliant and had become my main reason for watching SNL. In the tradition of Dan Ackroyd, Phil Hartmann and Will Ferrell, Taran Killam was the go-to guy for everything. What a huge loss. I don’t know what happened between Lorne and Taran, but I hope it comes out. It must be serious cuz this is just plain dumb. And the idea that Taran doesn’t know why is pretty weird.

  46. Amy says:

    I agree with most of the comments posted that Taran and Jay were two of the better comedians on the show. It really seems like there are in-house favorites and Lorne Michaels is going to stick by them, even if his own ship sinks. It’s really unfortunate. I am not a fan of most of the women comediennes currently on the show. Really really really tired of Kenan Thompson skits. They are all the same and not funny at all. Seriously, I think Lorne Michaels needs to pass on torch. The show doesn’t feel relevant, but more geared towards the stars that are in them–and the boring, predictable monologues of “who they are” are truly painful sometimes. Really miss so many of the past members and positive creative energy. The show needs to take some risks.

  47. Jim Jones says:

    Killam was the worst, well aside from Bayer, who is only still on the show due to how much she’s a writer. They both are over the top and simply processed cheese without true comedic timing. He’s talented I admit but just painful to watch. Please fire Bayer next and its a better show without Killam.