Kate McKinnon reveals why she left ‘Saturday Night Live’ after 10 years

Kate McKinnon smiles while standing at the Golden Globe Awards
Kate McKinnon arrives at the 77th Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton in 2020.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Kate McKinnon was one of several cast members to step away from “Saturday Night Live” earlier this year. It wasn’t an easy decision for McKinnon, who had been a mainstay on the sketch comedy show for 10 years after joining in Season 37.

But speaking with Ryan Seacrest and Kelly Ripa Thursday on “Live With Kelly and Ryan,” she stressed it was time for a change.

“I thought about it for a very long time, and it was very, very hard,” McKinnon said. “All I ever wanted to do in my whole life was be on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ So, I did, I loved it, I had the best decade, and then I was just like ‘my body was tired’ and I felt like it was time.”

‘SNL’ is entering a new era as veteran cast members Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Kate McKinnon prepare to depart the series.

May 20, 2022

Seacrest then asked what she’ll do now on Saturday nights, but McKinnon is still figuring that out.


“I don’t know what I will do,” she answered. “I don’t know that I can watch the show yet because it’s too emo because I miss everyone so much. It’s my family, it’s too emo. So I think I’m just going to tape ‘The Bachelorette’ and watch it.”

With 10 consecutive years under her belt, McKinnon holds the record as the the longest-running female cast member in the NBC show’s history (and also yelled the famed opening line 75 times, the second highest of any cast member). She portrayed a number of celebrities and public officials over the years, stepping into the shoes of everyone from Justin Bieber to Rudy Giuliani to Iggy Azalea.

In May, Pete Davidson, Aidy Bryant and Kyle Mooney also departed the show alongside McKinnon. Davidson had hinted at his displeasure in the years before his exit, telling radio personality Charlamagne tha God in 2020 he thought he “should be done with that show” because of how they treated him.

Still, he signed off with a touching message on his journey that was shared to “SNL” writer Dave Sirus’ Instagram.

“When I got the show I was 20 years old and I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t but especially back then. I wasn’t really a sketch performer I was just a stand up,” his message read. “I knew I could never keep up or go toe to toe with a Kenan Thompson or a Kate McKinnon so I was super scared at figuring out what I could possibly bring to or do for such a historic, respected show and platform.

‘Lorne [Michaels] accidentally gifted me a sock, so I’m free,’ Pete Davidson said during his last ‘Weekend Update’ appearance as an ‘SNL’ cast member.

May 22, 2022

“We were together through the good and the bad, the happiest and the darkest of times,” he continued. I owe Lorne Michaels and everyone at SNL my life. Im so grateful and I wouldn’t be here without them. I appreciate you guys always having my back and sticking up for me even when that wasn’t the popular opinion.”


Mooney confirmed his departure on Instagram, but didn’t dive into the reasons why he wanted to leave. Last month, Bryant told Variety she had also been debating leaving prior to the pandemic, but decided to stay due to all the uncertainty.

“I was worried I was going to really crack it wide open and fully be crying,” she said of her exit. “It felt very joyful, and I felt incredibly fortified by having Bowen [Yang] and [Michael] Che next to me because they know me and know how considered this was for me to go.”