'Saturday Night Live' Creator Lorne Michaels Wants Most Of The Cast To Stick Around Until Season 50

This fall, Saturday Night Live will be entering its 47th season of late night sketch comedy at NBC. The series is a network TV staple that has spawned some of comedy's biggest stars over the years. Typically, when cast members start to become household names and take on other movie and TV roles, they part ways with the show. However, it sounds like SNL creator Lorne Michaels wants to hold on to as many cast members as he can over the next few years until the show's 50th anniversary.

After SNL's season 46 finale this past spring, there were rumblings that longtime cast members like Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, and Kenan Thompson might be on their way out. Even younger cast member Pete Davidson seemed like he could be leaving the show. Strong, McKinnon, and Davidson have publicly said their return to the show is up in the air while Thompson has reassured fans that he's not going anywhere anytime soon. But if Lorne Michael has his way, they'll be sticking around a few more years.

Negotiating With Returning Saturday Night Live Cast Members

Variety has learned that negotiations for cast member contracts started a little early this year, because Lorne Michaels is in the process of convincing cast members whose contracts are expiring to stick around until the show's 50th season, which would begin in the fall of 2024. The hope is that Michaels can keep the veteran cast members around so the show won't be struggling to rebuild by the time its milestone 50th season rolls around.

In order to keep most of the Saturday Night Live cast around for a few more years, Lorne Michaels has become more flexible when it comes to letting cast members step away to work on other projects while the show is in production. This is something that Michaels started allowing last season, when Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant were able to work on their respective shows, Schmigadoon! on Apple TV+ and Shrill at Hulu. Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd have also been afforded some flexibility as they work on the NBC sitcom Kenan. However, it should be noted that all of those shows are produced by Broadway Video, the production banner owned by Lorne Michaels.

Even so, it seems like Lorne Michaels is generally softening his previously firm stance of keeping the cast focused only on Saturday Night Live during the show's production. In fact, these efforts to keep the cast around until the show's landmark 50th season may also serve as a signal that Lorne Michaels may be looking to make a grand exit from the late night sketch series.

Could This Signal the End of Saturday Night Live?

As of now, Lorne Michaels has a contract with NBCUniversal that keeps Saturday Night Live on the air until 2025. If Michaels is trying to get most of the current cast to stick around until then, that sounds like he's trying to go out with a bang instead of having to deal with rebuilding a cast in his final years of the show. After all, he'll soon be 77 years old, and the time may finally be coming for him to step away from his baby.

However, when/if Lorne Michaels goes away, will SNL leave with him? The show is still iconic after all these years, despite aging yokels always proclaiming, "SNL isn't funny anymore." Surely NBC wouldn't want to let the show die. But is SNL still the show fans love without Lorne Michaels steering the ship? When he famously stepped away from the show in the 1980s, it was a total disaster. It's almost universally agreed to be the worst period in SNL's history, though Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo did offer some high points during that time.

As a longtime fan of SNL, I'd be sad to see the series come to an end after 50 years. But I'd probably be even more disappointed to see the show crash and burn in the hands of someone who doesn't have the same touch as Lorne Michaels. Either way, all good things must come to an end, and we'll see what happens in the next few years. No matter what happens, if the SNL 40 anniversary special was any indicator, we're bound to get an epic 50th anniversary event.