After a decade at Saturday Night Live, actor Jason Sudeikis told David Letterman last night that he’s “definitely done” and “not coming back next fall,” breaking the news to his fans—and (in what was probably a joke) his employers—in a very public way. But anyone paying attention to Sudeikis this summer, including the fact that he was on Letterman, might not be that surprised.
SNL cast members have a history of leaving the show just when it looks like their careers elsewhere are heating up, and Sudeikis definitely fits that rubric.
Just look at what else he’s got going on: his slow trickle of non-SNL roles (Floyd on 30 Rock and voices for The Cleveland Show, for example) amped up in 2011 around the time of Horrible Bosses. In 2013 alone, he’s done Epic, this August’s We’re the Millers and an uncredited role in Drinking Buddies, also out in August. He’s been on Who Do You Think You Are? and Hollywood Game Night. He has a high-profile relationship with Olivia Wilde. Horrible Bosses 2 is out next year.
Likewise, Fred Armisen, who also left SNL during this hiatus, has been riding high with Portlandia and Bill Hader, also leaving, has 10 movie credits for 2013, from Clear History to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Armisen even said that his departure felt “obvious.”
Nor is it a new trend:
Maya Rudolph left SNL in 2011; Up All Night started in 2011 and Bridesmaids came out that year too. Kristen Wiig only lasted one more year after that.
Amy Poehler left in 2010; Parks and Recreation had already begun.
Will Ferrell left in 2006; that was post-Anchorman, the year of Talladega Nights and the year before Blades of Glory.
It’s not rocket science to figure out why a comedian who thinks he or she will make it big (on his or her own, not as part of a cast) would decide to devote more time to that. So what’s more surprising, then, is those who buck the trend, like Tina Fey, whose time on SNL and 30 Rock overlapped five whole years.