Stefon, the giddy "Weekend Update" correspondent, will soon meet Gilly, the Church Lady, and perhaps even the Coneheads in Saturday Night Live character heaven: Bill Hader is leaving Saturday Night Live after this weekend's season finale. The New York Times's Dave Itzkoff reports that Hader, an eight-year veteran of the comedy launching pad, will move to Hollywood—and his departure could usher in a new, perhaps more exciting era at SNL.
As we learned over the weekend, "Weekend Update" anchor and head writer Seth Meyers is out the door on his way to host Late Night (though he reportedly will stay on at SNL through the fall), and Itzkoff implies that other SNL stalwarts like Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis could be out the door at 30 Rock's Studio 8H as well. SNL overlord Lorne Michaels told Itzkoff that those two are "making their decisions and we'll know soon enough." Indeed, it appears the period of transition that began with Andy Samberg and Kristen Wiig leaving the show last year is now in full swing. It's the first wholesale cast rotation in SNL's often very full revolving door since Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, and Co. left for 30 Rock as Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph left, too, and Will Ferrell and Molly Shannon before that, and since the Mike Myers/Adam Sandler/David Spade crew moved on to the movies before them. And while Hader's city correspondent may no longer flirt with Meyers at the "Weekend Update" desk, this shift—like those before it—could be a good thing for a legendary show always in a legendary state of flux.
The season of SNL that's just concluding has seen Hader frequently playing game show hosts, giving the writers an easy—and, frankly, tiresome—trope to trot out. Armisen hasn't been doing much of late—he even seems checked out amongst his other projects—and Sudeikis has always been an able straight man. Most of the truly memorable moments this year have come from the newish crop of female cast members, like Cecily Strong's "Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party" or Kate McKinnon's bizarre and wonderful woman who hits it off with Louis C.K. at a bar. Hader even told Itzkoff that "[t]here's a new sensibility happening, and if it isn’t totally apparent on the show yet, I see it on Wednesdays at the table reads." Even though that new sensibility may mean letting go of Hader, it's a sacrifice SNL viewers have and should be willing to make. (And we don't have many worries about Hader's career. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders, and some interesting things up his sleeve.)
It's still very unclear what the future holds next season for SNL, and Michaels clearly has some big shoes to fill, both in the cast and the writers' room. But there's always a fresh crop of comedy stars in the making out there, and, hey, for all we know Hader could be back hosting next season.