Did you know that Jon Rudnitsky was also fired from Saturday Night Live alongside Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah this week? Do you know who Jon Rudnitsky is? The only addition to the cast last season, Rudnitsky barely made a dent on the show, doubtlessly suffering from the pile-up caused by the massive 16-member cast in season 41. It wasn’t fair, but Saturday Night Live isn’t about fair or not, it’s about good or bad and luck and new cast members inexplicably finding a few moments scattered throughout a season that scream out to Lorne Michaels and the audience that they belong. Jon Rudnitsky had one of those moments, an inspired, strange, and dark interpretation of Dirty Dancing Live where he pantomimed jumping rope with Baby’s guts. The whole thing was a stand-out moment from last season for those of us that are unabashed fans of those rare times when SNL gets really weird, but it clearly wasn’t enough to earn Rudnitsky another shot. An unsurprising thing, a sad thing, but not something that is guaranteed to stunt his career.
Despite all the times Lorne Michaels has been right about a young talent that eventually went on to great success on Saturday Night Live and beyond, it’s important to remember that he has, at times, also said goodbye to cast members too early. Adam Sandler and Chris Farley are two all-time greats who were fired. Robert Downey Jr. was fired from SNL then went on to get nominated for two Oscars and star as Iron Man. Sarah Silverman and Damon Wayans were, like Rudnitsky, one and done. Wayans was fired mid-season and became the driving force behind In Living Color, one of Saturday Night Live‘s most celebrated competitors when it ran in the early ’90s. Silverman made it through one season then became one of the most notable stand-up comics of her generation.
Those are the headline-grabbing names from yesteryear but there are plenty of quickly dispatched Not Ready For Primetime Players that have shown a readiness away from the show and proven that not everyone who gets on SNL is a good fit for it or its culture. Jenny Slate has become a cable and indie comedy darling thanks to Obvious Child and her work on FX’s Married. Rob Riggle has made notable appearances in 21 Jump Street and The Hangover. Casey Wilson co-starred in Happy Endings and has popped up everywhere. Noël Wells was delightful beside Aziz Ansari on Master Of None, which is an Emmy nominee for Best Comedy.
The same kind of successes can be Rudnitsky’s now that his signal has been boosted and he is freer to create on a less crowded stage (because there are no guarantees that he would have had an easier time getting screen time this season). Now more than ever, there are plenty of outlets that can more adequately nurture and benefit from Rudnitsky’s talent. The only question is, can he make that happen for himself?