On Thursday, for the first time since that tearful farewell, McKinnon opened up about the decision to leave after such a long tenure. She is one of only seven cast members to have lasted more than a decade on the show.
Interestingly, two of them are still with the show. Kenan Thompson has completed now 20 seasons on the show, while Cecily Strong was just a few episodes behind McKinnon at the end of the 47th season. Neither has announced their departure from the cast.
The only other cast-members who’d been there as long or longer are Fred Armisen (11), Seth Meyers (13), and Darrell Hammond (14, and currently the show’s announcer). Al Franken was part of the show for a long time, serving as a featured player in 11 seasons across 17 years.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, the cast saw surprising stability in recent seasons, even as so many cast members were approaching or over their own decade marks. McKinnon’s final episode also marked the farewell night for Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney and Pete Davidson. So what convinced McKinnon it was finally time?
“All I ever wanted to do in my whole life was to be on ‘Saturday Night Live,'” McKinnon said on “Live with Kelly and Ryan” on Thursday. “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.”
While many of her longtime friends remain with the show, McKinnon admitted she’s not sure if she’ll be tuning in when Season 48 kicks off in the fall. “I don’t know that I can watch the show yet because it’s too emo because I miss everyone so much,” she said. “It’s my family.”
Instead, she joked that she’d probably just tape ‘The Bachelorette’ and watch that instead.
McKinnon’s is one of the most storied in the history of the show. She was nominated eight times for an Emmy, picking up two statues along the way. She also had the honor of saying “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night” a total of 75 times, per EW. That puts her only behind Hammond.
Her long tenure also has her positioned as the longest-tenured female cast member, though Strong could be poised to take that crown from her in the coming season if she does stick around.