Two veteran cast members, Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah, as well as a featured player, Jon Rudnitsky, won't be returning for this fall for the show's 42nd season, a spokeswoman with NBC confirmed to The Post. The departures of Killam and Pharoah, first reported by TVLine on Monday night, means the show is losing its main President Obama impersonator and one of its Donald Trumps.
The news came as a big surprise to Killam, he told Uproxx, adding he doesn't "know fully" the reasons behind it. "I honestly don't know what happened on the other side," he said.
"You sign for seven years, so I had one more year. 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," Killam said. "I was never given a reason why, really. I can assume until the cows come home."
Killam is also directing a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger with "two months of post-production that would have bled into the SNL production schedule," he said.
A representative for Pharaoh did not return a request for comment.
Not knowing the reason — and not being told directly — are common experiences for cast members. (NBC declined comment.)
Jenny Slate's 2009 debut included the now-infamous moment when she dropped an expletive on live television. But she was reassured of her place on the show by executive producer Lorne Michaels, and stayed on for the rest of the season. When the season wrapped, she remembered "thinking I had a rough year," and was soon overcome with the feeling of her impending firing, Slate recounted to Marc Maron on his podcast "WTF" in 2014.
"I waited all summer to get fired," Slate said. Then one day as she exited a therapy session and checked her phone, she saw the news on Deadline Hollywood.
Slate called her agent, saying, "I just read I got fired but nobody called me," she recalled to Maron. The agent hadn't been told, either, but made calls to confirm the development.
"I started crying. I feel like somebody just put me in a hole," Slate added. "I feel so embarrassed. And then it was just a huge sense of relief."
Sarah Silverman, who worked as a writer and a featured player during the 1993-1994 season, was fired via fax (it was the early 90s, to be fair). The whole cast was undergoing a shake-up, and she has said, "by the way, I wrote not a single funny sketch, so that might have something to do with it."
Cast members with short stints like Slate and Silverman might have seen it coming. But for those who have longer runs on the show — and have presumably already proven their worth — the news can come as a surprise. The reasons can be tied to the show's budget, part of a broader "cleaning house" to change the tone of the show or disagreements with upper management's vision.
Norm Macdonald, for instance, joined SNL in 1993. As host of "Weekend Update," he earned the ire of NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, who cited falling ratings in firing Macdonald mid-way through the 1997-1998 season.
Macdonald caught wind that he might be removed from "Update" in December 1997, within hours of learning of Chris Farley's death. "But by that point who cared about 'Update?' Because Chris had just died," Macdonald recounted in book "Live From New York," by James Andrew Miller and Washington Post critic Tom Shales.
When Macdonald returned for the first episode back after Christmas, "no one would come right out and tell me what was going on," Macdonald recounted. "Lorne has a hard time telling you bad stuff."
When Macdonald pressed as to whether he was doing the "Update" segment that week, he was told "we don't think you are." He responded, "Somebody's got to tell me I'm fired."
So Macdonald called up Ohlmeyer, surprising the executive, according to Macdonald. Ohlmeyer explained the segment wasn't as funny as it could be.
Even major stars with movie hits have been let go. Adam Sandler had two years left on his contract before he was let go in 1995, as recounted in "Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live."
"See, I don't even know if I was fired. I don't know how it was handled," Sandler said. "I just remember feeling like, 'Did I quit, or did I get fired? I have no idea.' But all of a sudden I wasn't on the show anymore." (Chris Farley was also fired, with a year left on his contract.)
Chris Parnell stands out in the annals of SNL employment. He was fired twice, first before his fourth season on the show, only to be rehired midway through.
His manager called him to break the news he was canned in 2001, and according to Parnell, was given "no real reason" for being let go that first time.
"I was very surprised. I was pretty devastated — I've never been fired from any job," Parnell told Marc Maron in 2014. "I just parked the car and sat there. I don't think I cried. I was just stunned."
Apparently, fellow cast-mates such as Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan "went to bat" for Parnell, who was told that the door may still be open for him to return. "Finally one day, they brought me back."
Later, Parnell said Michaels apologized for the initial firing: "Look, I made a mistake." And Parnell's return brought him break-out moments, such as the digital short "Lazy Sunday."
In 2006, Parnell was let go a second time, along with Rachel Dratch and Horatio Sanz, amid budget cuts. He had performed for eight seasons.
"I was ready to go off," Parnell told Maron. "I had done my time."
This post has been updated.