Saturday Night Live Season 42

SNL Boss Lorne Michaels Breaks Silence on Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah Ousters: 'They Served the Show Well'

Ahead of this weekend’s return of Saturday Night Live, exec producer Lorne Michaels is speaking out for the first time about his surprising decision to pink-slip longtime cast members Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah.

“I think they were great, and they did wonderful work when they were with us,” Michaels tells USA Today. “They served the show well, and are two people I really care about. [But] change is the lifeblood of the show; it always has been. And you have to keep bringing new people in. Hopefully it’s for the best. I’m not worried about either of them going on to success.”

Killam and Pharoah — who recently signed on to headline separate Showtime comedy pilots — were let go one year shy of their seven-year contracts. The decision blindsided Killam. “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 at the time. “I was never given a reason why, really… I honestly don’t know what happened on the other side.” (Rookie featured player Jon Rudnitsky was similarly shown the door.)

Michaels also addressed this fall’s other big SNL headline: The casting of Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump. Turns out, it was Tina Fey’s idea. “She said, ‘You know who would be a great Trump is Alec!’ ” he recalls. “I talked to Alec, who was finishing a movie, he was getting ready to have a baby — it couldn’t have been worse timing. But, slowly, the idea grew on me.”

The decision had “nothing to do with” Baldwin’s predecessor, Darrell Hammond, who Michaels insists was “obviously great at” playing Trump. But “just as Darrell took over from Phil Hartman doing Bill Clinton, these things have to change. I don’t know how many people have played Hillary Clinton.”

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  1. Tom says:

    “I don’t know how many people have played Hillary Clinton.” But clearly Kate McKinnon is the best to date.

  2. Max says:

    “Change is the lifeblood” doesn’t explain why he kept Kristen Wiig well beyond her welcome or why Bobby Moynihan and Kenan Thompson are still there!

    • iHeart says:

      Bobby is probably due to leave soon because he’s been here since either the writers strike season or the 08-09 season.

    • Jill says:

      I agree with Bobby & Keenan. But I still don’t understand how Kyle Mooney has a job

      • Smithac2502 says:

        I really like Kennan and think he could stay, but I have never been Bobby fan… he’s just not funny. I could not agree more about Kyle Mooney; I just don’t see the talent there at all.

    • melissa says:

      didn’t kristen make her own decision to leave? i think i just assume favorites like that move on when they feel like it for the most part. i think they would have kept her forever. same with Hader and Armisen. i could be completely wrong. i am very surprised that they let taran go though…seems like it had something to do with his schedule with other projects.

      idk about the other fellas,…but with few favs left i’m not super pumped about s42 unless some old favs come back to host. is it too soon for Hader to go again? lol

  3. jimmy says:

    Kind of a BS answer, if you ask me. Taran Jay were two of their best. (I even liked the new guy they fired, too.) There were other cast members who should’ve gone first.

  4. Kevin K says:

    Still disappointed on Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah leaving SNL. Kate McKinnon is one of the best SNL cast members I’ve ever seen and there’s a reason why Kyle Mooney is still there because people really can’t stand him not even his BFF Beck Bennett.

  5. Amna says:

    Will miss both Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah, they made SNL really fun to watch! Hopefully there are equally talented new cast members added in the upcoming season!

  6. danoregon says:

    The last great recurring character SNL had was Jedediah Atkinson. NEXT!!!

    I understand the Trump thing. Hammond does Clinton and his version of Trump is not the “Election Trump” Plus, Baldwin’s “work” with his daughter on voicemail has prepared him well.

  7. iHeart says:

    does anyone know what tomorrow’s SNL classic will be?

  8. Chris says:

    If change is the lifeblood of the show, why is he still there?

  9. HAP says:

    Lorne’s nose just grew.

  10. Andy says:

    “Change is the lifeblood of the show” and yet Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett are still there…

  11. You mama says:

    I hope Kate leaves too.

  12. DL says:

    Really starting to believe it’s time for everyone — Lorne Michaels especially — to come to terms with the fact that his historic reign at SNL should come to an end. The writing is generally subpar, there are underutilized cast members, and now he lets go of two MVPs? I’m stunned.
    Thank you for all your incredible, tireless work, Lorne. But retirement is calling.

  13. Greg says:

    Change because…reasons.

  14. So, he gets rid of Killam and Pharaoh, but is keeping Pete Davidson? Really?

  15. dman6015 says:

    Great non-answer, as usual. Um, what about Kenan? Does he have incriminating pictures? Can’t you just admit you dumped Kollam because of his limited availability due to a movie?

    • KT says:

      So with you about Kenan. I just cannot figure out why he has been allowed to stay on when he has the least amount of talent of anyone on the cast. It has to be because of blackmail.

  16. The Ghost of SNL Past............ says:

    It’s all about money. It’s always about money. Kate’s making the big bucks and Lorne doesn’t want everyone else to think that they can demand it, too. It’s a warning shot to the others. Unfortunately, that warning shot just killed the show. It’s time for Lorne to go, everything he touches looks like, sounds like, and stinks like SNL. Fallon is no longer The Tonight Show. It’s just a boring, egotistical version of Saturday Night Old and Boring. PULL THE PLUG AND PUT SNL OUT OF IT’S MISERY.