Four more years… of Jay Pharoah on Saturday Night Live! Barack Obama’s reelection all but ensures that SNL‘s talented impressionist will enjoy job security through at least 2016. But the status of Pharoah’s sparring buddy is a lot less certain. Mitt Romney’s big loss could easily mean that Jason Sudeikis will soon go the way of Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg, two longtime SNL cast members who exited the show at the end of last season. Sure, Sudeikis also plays Obama’s vice president — but can we really expect him to stick around just to occasionally caricature Joe Biden?
Rumors about Sudeikis’s impending departure began flying last spring and intensified over the summer — especially after Sudeikis himself hinted he was on his way out in interviews with Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, and the L.A. Times. But in September, NBC confirmed that Sudeikis was sticking around for Saturday Night Live‘s 38th season — or, at least, the first half of it. “Right now the idea is that Jason will go through at least until January,” Lorne Michaels told the New York Times. Sudeikis became a featured player on SNL in 2005.
If he does say “adios” in early 2013, Sudeikis won’t be the first cast member to exit SNL mid-season. Amy Poehler left the show after having her first child in the fall of 2008, returned for two weeks that winter, then finally said goodbye for good on Dec. 13. Maya Rudolph pulled a similar move the previous season, electing not to return when SNL began broadcasting again after the ’07-’08 writers’ strike.
But it’s also possible that Sudeikis will stick around until Saturday Night Live‘s current season ends — or even longer. When EW asked Lorne Michaels to discuss Sudeikis’s status this fall, the SNL creator made it sound like the comedian is in no rush to leave: “Jason’s very loyal so I think he’ll be here,” Michaels told us. “He’s absolutely essential. I love him. I hope he stays a long time.” The producer also praised Sudeikis’s “fierce” loyalty in his interview with the New York Times. [SNL did not respond to EW’s request for comment after Tuesday’s election.]
Michaels’ assessment may be wishful thinking — especially considering Sudeikis’s burgeoning movie career. (He’s got three films coming out in 2013 alone, and he’s currently attached to star in another two as well.) Then again, the dueling forces surrounding Sudeikis may lead him to consider a third option: continue on as an SNL cast member while appearing on the show itself less and less. Taran Killam and newcomer Tim Robinson could easily pick up the straight man/frat guy roles Sudeikis often plays, leaving him free to pursue other opportunities without fully cutting ties with the series.
In the end, that may be the best solution, both for Sudeikis and for SNL itself. After all, who wants a show never punctuated by appearances from Dane Cook, Ricky Gervais, and the devil?