The 47th season of Saturday Night Live feels momentous in retrospect. It was the final season for four of the show’s most beloved cast members, Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, and Kyle Mooney — exits which were more or less expected but still feel like huge shifts for a show that is often scared of (and reluctant to) change. Adding to that sense of change was the hiring of 13 new writers as well the exit of head writer Anna Drezen, who left the show midway through the season (after the Omicron episode hosted by poor Paul Rudd). Aside from that Omicron episode, the show was more or less uninterrupted by COVID, though we still (for better or worse) got plenty of COVID comedy. Overall, it was a big year of behind-the-scenes shifts for SNL — but how did this affect what ended up onscreen? Or, perhaps more importantly: Who ended up onscreen?
We here at Vulture annually employ a points system to answer exactly that question. The system, which was first designed by Splitsider’s Erik Voss and perfected by our own Bethy Squires, is not solely based on minutes a cast member is onscreen. Instead, a cast member gets one point if they appear onscreen at all (as a waiter with one line, or as the dead woman in a photo montage at a funeral, for instance), two points if they deliver a joke, and three points if they’re the star of the sketch. Anyone in an ensemble sketch (which by design has no star) gets two points. Anyone who plays a “Weekend Update” character (basically a sketch with one character) gets three points. Speaking of “Update,” Colin Jost and Michael Che get three default points for hosting the segment each week. If you get an applause break or if your sketch goes viral, that’s an extra point. A bonus point is also awarded for whoever gets to say “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!” Here’s who got to say that the most this season:
We also used our points system to calculate who appeared most often in “Cut for Time” sketches. Though these sketches don’t factor into the official screen time score, it’s interesting to see whose sketches are most often scrapped after dress rehearsal:
A couple notes before we get to the main event: The boys of Please Don’t Destroy (John Higgins, Martin Herlihy, and Ben Marshall) were hired as writers this season but appeared every now and again in their own isolated pre-taped sketches. Since they’re not officially individual cast members, we counted PDD as one unit (so they earned three points total for any sketch that made it to air, barring applause and virality points).
This season started off on a strange note, with screen-time champion McKinnon off for the first seven episodes. This left a screen-time vacuum at the heart of the show, allowing new featured players Sarah Sherman, Aristotle Athari, and James Austin Johnson to get some airtime at the top of the season. Fellow SNL juggernauts Cecily Strong and Pete Davidson were also absent for several episodes at a time while pursuing other projects (Strong was in an Off Broadway play and Davidson was filming a movie/dating a very famous woman). But even with McKinnon, Strong, and Davidson off duty, it was still an extremely crowded cast, which made for some close calls when it came to screen-time percentages. So, with that, here is the full screen-time breakdown for SNL’s season 47:
Please Don’t Destroy: 0.98%
Please Don’t Destroy occupied a bit of an in-between space at SNL during their first season. They’re not officially cast members, but they also appeared regularly enough to justify their spot on this very official ranking. Weirdly, several of their best sketches were cut for time — like this delightful one featuring Rami Malek — only to rake in views comparable with some of the live show’s biggest sketches once posted online. This is a strange strategy for the show to take, but maybe there’s some grand design here that we’re not aware of?
Musical Guest: 1.02%
This was not a huge year for musical-guest appearances — which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the off chance a musical guest did appear in a sketch, it was genuinely unexpected and fun, in part because it happened so infrequently. Take this sketch with Post Malone, where he only appears for ten seconds but is perfectly utilized in that short time. The most significant musical-guest cameo was probably Taylor Swift’s November appearance in “Three Sad Virgins,” a sketch that later became one of the most watched of the season on YouTube with nearly 7 million views, so do with that what you will.
Aristotle Athari: 1.55%
Aristotle Athari made a strong showing at the beginning of the season, debuting original characters Angelo and Laughingtosh 3000, which both killed and showcased his talent for playing mumbly, stuttering oddballs. But he more or less disappeared from the show after Thanksgiving, often not appearing onscreen at all for several episodes at a time — which is a huge shame! We love Angelo! Two Angelo sketches were cut for time this season, though both made great use of SNL hosts (Billie Eilish, Jerrod Carmichael) and are definitely worth a watch. Justice for Aristotle/Angelo!
Punkie Johnson: 2.28%
Punkie Johnson still isn’t appearing on the show nearly enough, but when we did see her this season, she made the absolute most out of her screen time. Her appearances in crowded sketches like “March of the Suitors,” where she plays one of many vying for a princess’s heart, earned her extra applause-break points. But the real surprise of this season was Johnson’s starring role in the pre-taped musical sketch “Intuition” as the devil on Selena Gomez’s shoulder. The hallmark of any great musical sketch is that the song is actually good — which is the case for “Intuition,” mostly thanks to Johnson.
Michael Che: 2.65%
Michael Che had a standard season, appearing regularly on “Weekend Update” and even anchoring it without Colin Jost in the December Paul Rudd episode where everyone was out with COVID. That time, we saw him join former “Update” anchor Tina Fey for a pared-down segment performed on a bare stage with director’s chairs and no desk (we call that “Acoustic Update”). Che made one appearance outside of “Update” in the pre-taped sketch “Inventing Chloe,” where the joke is mostly that he’s ready to leave the show (maybe a reference to rumors that he might do just that sometime soon).
Colin Jost: 2.73%
Jost also had a pretty standard season, appearing just a couple times outside of “Update,” most significantly in the “Football Press Conference” cold open as Roger Goodell. His rich-person antics outside of the show, including purchasing a Staten Island ferry with Pete Davidson, often found their way onto “Update” via desk bits, but YMMV on how funny you found that meta-commentary. His best work this season was actually opposite Sarah Sherman, which we’ll get into more below.
Sarah Sherman: 3.22%
Sarah Sherman wasted no time carving out a space for her (self-described) freaky/horrifying/untelevisable comedy on SNL this season. There she was in the poop-testing commercial from the season premiere, spewing black bile as a human meatball in this pre-taped sketch, and of course starring as Chucky in one of the best sketches of the season. But Sherman was most herself when performing opposite Colin Jost of all people, which makes a weird kind of sense: There are no two performers on the show more opposite from one another, and thus more compelling to watch together. Which is to say it was extremely fun to watch Sherman bully Jost on “Update”! More of this, please.
Melissa Villaseñor: 3.30%
Melissa Villaseñor was the only cast member whose screen-time percentage didn’t change at all from her score last season. We don’t know what to do with this information except to say that Villaseñor deserves more, especially because she tried her hand at a few original characters this season and was a damn delight (she’s not just impressions!). Villaseñor’s “Weekend Update” character Cesar Perez was a favorite of ours, and it makes no sense that this “Update” desk bit where she plays herself was cut for time.
Pete Davidson: 3.36%
Pete Davidson stuck to his usual patterns during his final season on SNL, phoning in “Update” bits, pre-taped musical sketches, and the odd cold open. It’s safe to say at this point that Davidson’s star has eclipsed his presence on SNL; he was conspicuously absent during the back half of the season, though to be fair, he had a lot going on. But the virality of Davidson’s hijinks outside of the show helped the sketches that he did manage to film earn many millions of views online (i.e., the Squid Game pretape, the Jasmine and Aladdin sketch, “Three Sad Virgins,” etc., etc.), so there’s that.
Chloe Fineman: 3.79%
Now that Britney Spears is mostly out of the news, Chloe Fineman got the chance to showcase her impressions in a different format this season: pre-taped sketches. “Inventing Chloe” and “The Understudy” both saw Fineman roam around Studio 8H and talk to her fellow cast members in silly voices, and we’re not mad at it! It was nice to see Fineman’s impressions get some room to breathe outside of crowded ensemble sketches. Watching her imitate Elizabeth Olsen flawlessly in front of Elizabeth Olsen? Perfect TV, no notes.
Alex Moffat: 4.12%
The burden of playing Joe Biden has finally been lifted off of Alex Moffat, and for this we are thankful (it never seemed like his heart was in it). This season Moffat was freed up to do what he does best: play deeply broken men on “Weekend Update.” Moffat’s two “Update” characters, Terry Fink and Guy Who Just Bought a Boat, are both played with manic, unblinking energy by Moffat, who is a champion of the rapid tongue-twisting monologue. Both Terry and GWJBB’s sunny exteriors belie a profound sadness, which is a complicated tension to project in four-minute bits, and yet!
James Austin Johnson: 4.24%
SNL’s cold opens got more mileage out of James Austin Johnson’s impressions than any other cast member in recent memory. Johnson’s borderline-senile Biden anchored several cold opens this season — and for the weeks when Biden wasn’t doing anything newsworthy, we were treated to Johnson’s Trump. Here’s the thing: We normally wouldn’t support more Trump content on SNL, but Johnson’s Trump is a thing of beauty. Not only is the voice and cadence eerily accurate, but Johnson’s monologues don’t rely on the tired joke formulas we expect from Trump impressions. Instead, it favors nonlinear, associative word salads — basically complete nonsense — that often have nothing to do with the week’s news. Rather than weighing a sketch down (as Alec Baldwin’s Trump so often did), there’s something weirdly energizing about Johnson’s take on the 45th president.
Andrew Dismukes: 4.28%
Andrew Dismukes had a banner year on SNL. Appearing with consistent frequency in live sketches as well as now and then on “Weekend Update,” he earned the most screen time out of all of the featured players in season 47. Though fans of Dismukes have deemed him “baby Mulaney” — which on a visual level we understand — he really has more in common with Tim Robinson or Pete Davidson (in his SNL heyday). You can often find Dismukes playing a loud, overbearing weirdo à la Robinson (like in the above sketch) or a disaffected teen boy of the Chad type. This season also saw Dismukes step into Kenan Thompson’s usual role as disgruntled game-show host in “Word Crunch.”
Kate McKinnon: 4.77%
Okay, before you freak out at Kate McKinnon’s relatively low placement on this list, bear in mind: she was absent for seven episodes at the top of the season while filming that Tiger King adaptation for Peacock. For the remainder of the season, she could most commonly be found in cold opens, playing Fauci or Laura Ingraham or the ghost of RBG, which earned her plenty of “Live from New York” points but didn’t make up for lost time. She also made a couple “Weekend Update” appearances, as Amy Coney Barrett and as herself, but overall, it was a bit of a subdued final season for McKinnon, who confirmed a day before the season finale aired that she is leaving SNL after ten years. The show gave her a touching sendoff during the finale, however, which you can watch above.
Heidi Gardner: 4.86%
Heidi Gardner may not have had a breakout character this year like she did last with The Last Dance’s John Michael Wozniak, but she still had a solid season, appearing regularly in supporting character roles in several cold opens as well as in sketches like “The Talking” and “Billionaire Star Trek.” When Gardner was given center stage, like in the sketch above, she went above and beyond, always committing fully to the bit and then some. “Blue Bunny” sees Gardner get emotional over ice cream opposite episode host Benedict Cumberbatch, and it’s a great example of Gardner’s ability to play full-throttle kooks. Another good example is “Hip-Hop Nativity” with Billie Eilish, which never quite finds its footing but is worth a watch for Gardner’s accent.
Kyle Mooney: 5.26%
Kyle Mooney’s first season on SNL without Beck Bennett was a little sad to watch — like watching Mary-Kate without Ashley, it feels wrong. As Mooney himself says in the above sketch, “They don’t know how to use me on this show,” which rang more true in Mooney’s final season than any other. His best sketch, “Serious Night Live,” was cut for time this year, and he didn’t get a proper sendoff during the season finale like Pete, Aidy, and Kate — all he got was SNL tweeting out this compilation of his clips from the show (it was all very Kirstie Alley tweeting “Thanks for your input” after Stephen Hawking died). Carrying the mantle of Lonely Island, Mooney (along with Bennett) ushered the SNL Digital Short into the 2010s, carving out an experimental space that is currently being filled by Please Don’t Destroy. History will remember Kyle Mooney. Mark our words!
Bowen Yang: 5.34%
Bowen Yang is well on his way to becoming an SNL Hall of Famer. This season saw the return of Trade Daddy Chen Biao on “Weekend Update” as well as the debut of new “Update” characters like a Proud Gay Oompa Loompa and Trend Forecasters. Yang also shone in sketches where he wasn’t necessarily the focus, like “Irish Play” and “Guidance Counselors,” in which his line deliveries consistently stole the scene. Yang is just as funny when he’s the star of the sketch, like in “Bug Assembly,” or in one of the best sketches of the season, “Don’t Stop Believin,’” which highlights Yang’s incredible intensity and chemistry with episode host Zoë Kravitz. Watch that sketch above, and try to resist looking up the “Don’t Stop Believin’” cover on Spotify.
Ego Nwodim: 5.39%
Ego Nwodim really came into her own this year, writing and starring in sketches like the insanely horny “Parent-Teacher Conference,” where she plays a mom cuckolding her husband (Kyle Mooney) by seducing a teacher (Jason Sudeikis). SNL also reached the singularity with “The Dionne Warwick Talk Show” this year, when Dionne Warwick herself dropped by to sing “What the World Needs Now,” along with Nwodim-as-Warwick, which was just as sweet as you’d expect. Nwodim is also a master at long-suffering “Weekend Update” characters, with both a Black Woman Who’s Been Missing for Ten Years and Weary Mother in Her Darkest Hour making appearances this season. With Aidy and Kate leaving the show, we can look forward to seeing even more of Nwodim next season, because she is indeed a star, an icon, the moment, etcetera etcetera.
Though the actual percentage of screen time remained roughly the same, cameos this year were much less spread out, with zero celebrities earning “Live from New York” points (as they did so often for the last two seasons). This season instead had the most cameos concentrated in Kim Kardashian and John Mulaney’s episodes, and more specifically, in two sketches: Kardashian’s “The Dream Guy” and Mulaney’s “Five-Timers Club” sketch. In Kardashian’s case, as the most famous host this season, it was perhaps appropriate that we got a sketch with seven celebrity guest stars (and applause breaks for each, obviously). For Mulaney, the “Five-Timers Club” sketch also served as acknowledgment for Paul Rudd’s sad Omicron episode, and was also an excuse to see Conan O’Brien back on NBC again, so we can’t complain.
Mikey Day: 5.51%
Nobody plays an exasperated straight man like Mikey Day. His feathers are reliably ruffled in at least a couple sketches per episode, and without him, there wouldn’t be anybody for the weirdos to play off against! There he is being confused and getting annoyed in the Six Flags sketch, in “Three Daughters,” in “Shop TV,” in “Threesome,” in “Paw Patrol”, in “Car Heist” — the list goes on. Though Day did on occasion get to play the fool this season, like in the “Old Enough” parody where he was excellent as the manbaby boyfriend of host Selena Gomez, his straight-man roles greatly outnumbered these instances — and for good reason. SNL needs a dependable straight man in order for its comedy to function properly (see: David Spade opposite Chris Farley), and Day is always up for the job.
Aidy Bryant: 5.83%
Aidy Bryant had the highest screen-time percentage out of all of her fellow retiring SNL cast members (Pete Davidson, Kate McKinnon, and Kyle Mooney), appearing consistently on the show throughout her final season. Though in the above sketch she summed up her ten years on the show on SNL as time spent playing “dozens of teachers, principals, mothers, women named Diane, Susan, or Teacher,” Bryant was able to play against type this season with roles like Rami Malek’s kooky wife, the bra saleswoman, and Ted Cruz (to be fair, she did also play her share of mothers and teachers). The true delight of Bryant’s last season, though, was the “Trend Forecasters,” two very fashionable Weekend Update characters from the brilliant minds of Bryant and Bowen Yang, and it was only fitting that Bryant bid farewell to the show with a trend forecast during the season finale.
Cecily Strong: 5.92%
Despite performing what appeared to basically everyone like her swan song during last season’s finale, Cecily Strong very much did not leave SNL this year. In fact, she was a constant and invaluable presence on the show this season, winning the most “Live from New York” points of the entire cast thanks to her cold-open impressions of various Fox News ghouls. Strong also consistently killed in live sketches, including “The Fainting Couch,” “Cabaret Night,” and “Workplace Harassment Seminar,” where she’s terrifyingly convincing as an HR rep. On Weekend Update, Strong also shared her thoughts on abortion via Goober the Clown, one of the best Update characters of all time. As the last remaining member of the Kate-Aidy-Cecily triumvirate, Strong will most likely dominate next season. We look forward to it!
Chris Redd: 6.36%
This year was the year that SNL finally figured out that Chris Redd is one of the funniest people on TV right now. Whereas previously Redd was mostly relegated to supporting work, this season saw him star in several sketches of his own: “Car Heist” (above,) in which he plays a car thief who can’t drive stick; “Urkel Reboot,” in which he plays … Urkel; and “Seat Fillers,” in which he plays Will Smith at the Oscars are three excellent examples. Also contributing to Redd’s overall screen-time score were several cold opens and sketches where he stars as the character he was seemingly born to play: Eric Adams. Redd’s Adams is an overconfident doofus who has been a police officer “for over 70 years.” The last time we had a mayor of NYC impression on SNL was eight years ago (Fred Armisen as Bloomberg, if you’re curious). It’s fun when the show leans into the New York City of it all, and there’s no one better than Redd to carry on that legacy.
Kenan Thompson: 7.47%
Kenan Thompson deserves some sort of lifetime-achievement award or medal of honor for his service on SNL. The man is everywhere all the time on the show, and he has range; Thompson is more than anything the best utility player the show has ever seen (he set the record for most SNL sketch appearances of all time this year with his 1,500th sketch). He’s just as effective deadpanning as the straight man (as he does in multiple game-show sketches) as he is playing the weirdo (as he does in “Strange Kids Tales,” or “Casino Proposal,”), and he elevates any sketch where he’s a supporting character (see: the Black Eyed Peas sketch or “Chain Gang”). The sheer number of applause breaks Thompson got this season was unbelievable — even in sketches where he only appears for seconds at a time, like “Car Heist”! Thompson is a man of many varied talents, like a solid singing voice — as he exhibited this season with the return of “What Up With That” and the latest Diner Lobster installment — and the ability to somehow appear as if he’s fast-forwarding in real time (?!) in the “Old Home Movies” sketch. The show is blessed to have him, and he has more than earned the crown of most screen time of season 47.