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'SNL' sends off longtime cast members

Updated May 22, 2022 at 3:03 PM ET

Saturday Night Live said goodbye to four longtime cast members this weekend as the show wrapped its 47th season.

Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson are all leaving the show, marking a major exodus of talent at the end of a season that boasted the biggest cast in SNL history. All of the departing cast members had been on the show for eight years or longer.

For her sendoff, McKinnon brought back a favorite character, alien abductee Colleen Rafferty, for a recurring "Close Encounters" sketch in the show's cold open. This time, McKinnon boards the spaceship with extraterrestrials, bidding farewell to the audience.

"Well, Earth, I love ya," she said. "Thanks for letting me stay a while."

Then, for the last time as a cast member, she opened the show: "Live from New York, it's Saturday night."

McKinnon, perhaps known best for her political impersonations on the show, has taken turns as Hillary Clinton, Jeff Sessions, Elizabeth Warren and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg since joining the cast in 2012. McKinnon stepped away for a time to play Carole Baskin in the Tiger King limited series Joe vs. Carole.

Davidson appeared on Weekend Update as himself to mark his closure after eight seasons.

"I appreciate SNL for always having my back, for allowing me to work on myself and grow," Davidson said. "Thank you to Lorne [Michaels] for never giving up on me or judging me even when everyone else was, and for believing in me and allowing me to have a place I could call home with the memories that will last a lifetime. So, thank you guys."

Davidson, the last of the departing bunch to be hired, has played a far less prominent role this season than in years past, only appearing in a handful of episodes. His relationship with Kim Kardashian that began last year, meanwhile, has ginned up much media attention.

After he was hired as the show's youngest cast member in 2014, he co-wrote and starred in The King of Staten Island. He's also set to executive produce, co-write and star in the upcoming Peacock series Bupkis as the son of Edie Falco's mom character in a fictionalized half-hour comedy based on Davidson's life.

As is the case with the four outgoing stars, once prominently featured players have increasingly seen less or irregular screen time to take on non-SNL work, leveling the playing field for rising stars like newer cast members Bowen Yang and Sarah Sherman.

Executive producer Lorne Michaels has allowed cast members more leeway in recent years when it comes to pursuing outside projects — several of which the SNL creator and his production company Broadway Video have had a hand in.

Aidy Bryant gets love while Kyle Mooney doesn't have a formal sendoff

Bryant and Yang returned to the Update desk as trend forecasters, giving the low-down on what's "in" and what's "out." What's "in"?

"A friend I couldn't have done this without," Yang said, holding Bryant's hand.

Bryant then gets her goodbye pecks on the cheek from Yang and Update co-anchor Michael Che: "I'm just hearing — something new is in," Bryant said. "In: My best guys, kissing me."

Bryant, whose most memorable characters include Ted Cruz and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also joined SNL in 2012. She split some of the latter part of her tenure starring in the three-season run of Shrill, a Hulu series she helped develop.

Mooney appeared in multiple sketches during the season finale, but none made a reference to him leaving the show.

The lack of send-off on the live show was somewhat fitting, as fans observed. "I can't think of anything more on-brand than Kyle Mooney's SNL goodbye being cut for time," tweeted one viewer.

Like Davidson, he's often played a version of himself on the show — that of a gentle, awkward loner. Early on in his SNL career, the sketches he starred in were often "cut for time," instead appearing in the show's online-only clips.

Hired in 2013 alongside writing partner Beck Bennett, Mooney leaves the show a year after Bennett.

Russian Doll star Natasha Lyonne hosted the finale episode, with musical guest Japanese Breakfast.

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