True, most of their names have been floating around the Internet since August. But today, it’s official: Saturday Night Live‘s 39th season will feature the debut of half a dozen new cast members, including one longtime SNL writer, one skilled impressionist, and one very familiar face — provided you don’t fast-forward through commercials. Here’s the announcement, straight from the peacock’s mouth:
Please join us in welcoming our newest cast members: Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, Mike O'Brien, Noel Wells & Brooks Wheelan!!—
Saturday Night Live (@nbcsnl) September 16, 2013
(The names of all six new cast members were confirmed in a big New York Times story yesterday, which also revealed that breakout player Cecily Strong will co-anchor Weekend Update this season — and that featured player Tim Robinson is being relocated to the writers’ room.)
Where might you have seen these six before — and what former cast members could they be channeling? Let’s break things down, person by person:
His sketch group Good Neighbor has a deal with Comedy Central, and he recently shot an indie comedy with SNL cast members Kate McKinnon and Jay Pharoah — but you probably know him best as the stone-faced suit in AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” commercials. His authoritative, deep voice and clean-cut vibe make him a natural for what SNL vet Kenan Thompson calls “father figurey” type of roles; just call him the new Chris Parnell.
His official bio, courtesy of his old sketch group’s website: “He is warm and caring, but his icy glare will melt your soul.” This UCB veteran also runs a blog dedicated to “baguetting” — a meme he helped create — and has a history with Lorne Michaels: He wrote, directed, edited, and starred in a Step Up parody for Above Average, the YouTube network of Michaels’ production company. Given those Internet-friendly bona fides, Milhiser may be the next Andy Samberg.
Like Bennett, he’s a member of the sketch group Good Neighbor. Unlike most people, he’s been singled out by Louis C.K. as a particularly great up-and-comer. (Granted, Louis didn’t remember his full name — but it’s the thought that counts.) Mooney has written for Comedy Central’s Nathan for You, conducted awkward man-on-the-street interviews for Jimmy Kimmel Live, and appeared in a short but memorable Parks and Recreation guest appearance. His absurd, spacey sense of humor gives off Fred Armisen vibes.
A writer on SNL since 2009, he’s interviewed everyone from Tina Fey to Insane Clown Posse in his popular web series, “7 Minutes in Heaven.” O’Brien has a round-faced, boyish quality about him that echoes Jimmy Fallon — and much like Fallon, he’s clearly got an eye for what might go viral.
SNL‘s cast is a crowded field of talented women — which may be why Wells is this year’s only new female cast member. Thankfully, a well-entrenched YouTube presence mean she already has a stable of impressions under her belt, including Zooey Deschanel, Kristen Stewart, and Michele Bachmann. Michaels may as well have put out a casting call for an Abby Elliott type — though would SNL really bring back “Bein’ Quirky”?
Wheelan is the final addition to SNL‘s cast — according to the Times, Michaels hired him just last week. He’s also the only full-fledged standup comedian. (According to his routine, Wheelan ‘s L.A. neighbors are a couple of methheads; clearly, a move to New York will be good for his sanity.) As of now, Wheelan is the toughest new featured player to pin down… though he gives off a bro-y aura that’s Jason Sudeikis-esque.