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scene

Live from New York it’s … Who?

| Monday, September 26, 2016

Live_from_NY_WEBLAUREN WELDON | The Observer

SNL creator Lorne Michaels chose not to renew the contracts of Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah and Jon Rudnitsky for the upcoming season. This comes as a bit of a shock because Killam and Pharoah, both cast members since 2010, had become two of the most popular and consistently funny members of the cast. Rudnitsky had been a strong member since 2015.

This is not, however, the first time that Michaels has left behind big names in order to revitalize the long-running show. In the 1990s, Michaels let go of stars Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and Norm Macdonald in response to low ratings. With the departures of Killam, Pharoah and Rudnitsky comes the excitement and potential of new featured players Mikey Day, Alex Moffat and Melissa Villasenor.

The most experienced and proven of the three new members is Mikey Day, who has been in the comedy arena since 2002. After graduating from UCLA in 2002, Day performed with the famed Groundlings improv troupe. He then moved on to one of his recognizable roles as a cast member of Nick Cannon’s “Wild ‘N Out,” in which he appeared in seven seasons. Many may also recognize him from his role as one of the amazed and hilariously terrified spectators in the “David Blaine Street Magic” videos, which have close to 100 million views on Youtube. Recently, Day has been one of the head writers for SNL since season 39 and co-head writer of NBC’s “Maya & Marty.”

Alex Moffat is the least-known of the three new cast members, but nonetheless has a solid background in comedy. The Chicago native has performed with iO Theater, Annoyance and The Second City, which has produced the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert and a myriad of other famous comedians. Moffat is also known for his web shows “El Show with Alex Moffat” and “Good Little Winnetka Boy” and his role in the 2015 indie film “Uncle John.”

Surprisingly, the addition of Melissa Villasenor marks the first time that SNL has had a fully Latina cast member in its 42-year history, which, as the Emmy Awards showed this past weekend, is part of a larger movement to display diversity in TV. Aside from being a historical addition, she is also a proven comedian and impressionist. Villasenor is best known for her run on season six of “America’s Got Talent,” where she was one of the finalists. She has also gained fame through her YouTube channel, which has millions of viewers. What really makes Villasenor a standout talent are her spot-on impressions of various celebrities, including Christina Aguilera, Sarah Silverman, Miley Cyrus and, my personal favorite, Owen Wilson. Her vocal talents have landed her roles in “Adventure Time” and “Family Guy.” Her talents will surely strengthen the already superb female cast of the show.

With the addition of these new members, the future of SNL looks bright. The 42nd season premieres Oct. 1.

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