SNL: Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah surprise departures ahead of season 42
Two big names won’t return for Saturday Night Live season 42.
Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah are departing the long-running NBC sketch comedy show, a network spokesperson confirmed to EW on Monday night.
Killam transformed into one of the marquee players on SNL over his six seasons, impersonating politicians (including Ted Cruz and an ill-fated stint as Donald Trump) and actors (Matthew McConaughey and Brad Pitt, among others). Though he inked a seven-year deal, and had assumed the upcoming season would be his last, Killam told Uproxx his contract was not picked up for the new season.
“I don’t know the other side of it,” he said in an interview published Monday. “I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home. But I do know I’m directing this movie [Why We’re Killing Gunther with Arnold Schwarzenegger] and I’ll have two months of post-production that would have bled into the SNL production schedule, so we kind of communicated that. … I wasn’t going to have to take any time off to do it, but it was a thing that they would have had to okay.”
“It’s always hard and sad to say goodbye,” Killam continued, “but it feels like an appropriate time and I am so, so grateful to have been a cast member on Saturday Night Live.”
Pharoah popped on SNL the same time as Killam, and was known for his spot-on impressions of stars like Will Smith, Jay Z, and Denzel Washington. His biggest role on the show was that of President Barack Obama; Pharoah took over the presidential impression after Fred Armisen departed the show in 2013. Perhaps no moment better embodied his chameleon traits than last March’s Weekend Update “report” on Kevin Hart and Kat Williams squashing their beef; Pharaoh impersonated nine comedians in three minutes.
Killam will make his directorial debut with Why We’re Killing Gunther, in which he’s also acting. The comedian co-wrote and will star in Brother Nature with some of his former SNL colleagues (Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson) as well. It’s produced by SNL creator Lorne Michaels.
Meanwhile, Pharoah is performing several stand-up shows around the United States, and lending his voice to a couple of animated projects: the family-friendly Sing, and the definitely not-family-friendly The Adventures of Drunky.
TVLine first reported the news.