Saturday Night Live Power Rankings: It’s Fred Armisen’s Time To Shine


Share photos on twitter with TwitpicAfter Saturday Night Live went through one of its most active off-seasons in recent memory — two castmembers departed (one of their own volition, one not), while four newbies were hired — the cast and crew who call Studio 8H their home gathered to start working on the show’s 36th season. Creative turbulence issues aside, the show continues to go on, as it did on Saturday night when host Amy Poehler and musical guest Katy Perry’s Breasts kicked off a new season to strong interest from the public at large; reports that the show’s ratings were up a stellar 15% from last season’s debut.

Due to this increased level of interest and what can only be described as a bull market for television recaps on the Information Superhighway, we here at decided that we’d approach the show differently this year. Rather than doing a regular ole rundown of the evening’s sketches and musical performances, we decided to put our focus on the people who make the magic happen (or, depending on the night, don’t make anything happen whatsoever): the show’s cast. More specifically, our aim is to come up with a ranking system that illustrates how valuable each of the show’s cast members are to the show during any given episode and, subsequently, the entire season. So we’ve dusted off our Texas Instruments calculators and started doing some quantitative analysis that will hopefully show AND tell the importance of each of the show’s 13 regular castmembers1.

So, after one episode of the show, who do YOU think the show’s most valuable cast member is? Follow along for our highly scientific analysis.

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE POWER RANKINGS: 9/25/10 (Host: Amy Poehler; Musical Guest: Katy Perry)
1 (tie). Bill Hader, Fred Armisen (36 points): It makes perfect sense that the show’s two most-gifted chameleons are leading the way out of the gate this season. Armisen’s ability not to crack while performing an impression of New York state Governor David Paterson with Paterson sitting right next to him was this week’s most talked about moment that didn’t include Katy Perry’s heaving rack, and Hader garnered big laughs in both the Ladies Who Lunch (aka Tiny Hats) and Ground Zero Mosque sketches. These veterans will be tough to top as the year progresses.

3. Kristin Wiig (34 points): With the possible exception of Kenan Thompson, Wiig stood above the rest when it came to being last season’s workhorse and MVP. However, there does seem to be a nagging sense that audiences are over Wiig. She is entering her sixth season on the show and hasn’t launched a breakout character for quite some time. Although she appeared in a number of sketches this week, nothing she did really connected with the audience, save for maybe her angry chewing in the Ladies Who Lunch sketch.

4 (tie). Jason Sudeikis, Andy Samberg (25 points): Sudeikis really stepped up his game last year, both on the show and as a tabloid presence. If he puts together a good season, he could find himself as the face of the show. Sadly, his performances this weekend were mediocre across the board. Same goes for Sandberg, who failed to make an impression in his digital short, Boogerman, and his a 1:1 appearance with Justin Timberlake (who, by the by, needs to stop hanging around the set so often!). Is the Andy Samberg era coming to a close?

6. Abby Elliott (21 points): Word on the street is that this controversial performer barely survived the summer, but somehow she managed to score herself a promotion from a featured player to a full reporatory member. Many fans of the program are angry that Elliott stayed while Jenny Slate was shown the door, and Elliott’s subpar performances in The Lean Years and as Brooke Hogan didn’t do much to win those folks over. This will be a make or break year for Elliott.

7. Jay Pharoah (18 points): Pharoah made the biggest impression of the four newcomers this week thanks to his keen impression of Will Smith during a Weekend Update segment. He seemed a smidge nervous and didn’t quite tear the house down, but he did well for his first time. Looking forward to seeing his contributions increase as the year progresses.

8. Vanessa Bayer (17 points): Of the four new cast members, Bayer was able to work her way into the most number of sketches. Being that it was her first episode, though, this iO alum didn’t get a chance to do anything than perform general set-up duties.

9. Bobby Moynihan (16 points): Moynihan, like Elliott, also got promoted over the summer. He didn’t show much of his stuff in this episode, though. In particular, his impression of Hurley in The Unwatchables parody commercial was cringeworthy.

10. Kenan Thompson (14 points): As Fred Willard once asked, “Wha happened?” Kenan had a breakthrough year during the show’s 35th season, but he was virtually invisible this week. Is he in Lorne’s doghouse? His activity level in the Bryan Cranston/Kanye West episode this weekend will speak volumes.

11. Taran Killam (13 points): He’s the guy who did the Steven Slater impression, which got one of the biggest laughs of the night. We’re not sure how much of that was due to newcomer Killam’s skill, though, and how much was due to the residual popularity of the Jet Blue folk hero.

12. Nasim Pedrad (12 points): Meep! Pedrad showed promise last year, her first on the show. She outwitted, outplayed and outdueled Jenny Slate to keep her position as a repertory player on the cast, but didn’t have many chances to shine on the live show on Saturday. That said, when she did get a crack (playing Poehler’s famous Kaitlin character in one sketch and Edie Falco in another), she got laughs. We would be shocked if she stayed in this position much longer.

13. Paul Brittain (11 points): This new guy didn’t get much face time at all. Does he have game? Too early to say.

So, after all that, you must be curious about the method to our madness. Well, it goes a little something like this:

  • Appearance: We assign a score to every cast member for every bit that airs in a given episode, save musical appearances. If a cast member appears in a bit, even if its just as a background performer, they are awarded one point. If they speak in said bit, they are awarded two total points. If they are one of the leads in the skit, they are awarded three total points. And if they appear as a recurring character (like Fred did this weekend on two separate occasions), they get five total points.
  • Performance: If a performer actually says or does something noteworthy in a skit, they are automatically assigned 3 points. If the performance is very good to excellent, they can receive up to 5 total points in a skit. On the flip side, if they flub their lines, corpse or otherwise suck, points can be subtracted, with one being the lowest score one could achieve.

Hopefully, this scale in which a performer can receive between 0 and 10 points per bit makes sense. If you’re looking for an individual breakdown on a sketch-by-sketch basis, simply click on the image below to enlarge.

Questions? Comments? Thoughts?

1. For the purposes of this countdown, we’re not counting Seth Meyers to be a “regular” cast member. Why? Because he rarely makes appearances outside of Weekend Update these days.

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