Kristen Wiig joined Saturday Night Live in 2005 amidst its female renaissance. After years of being a boy’s club, SNL’s biggest stars were its women cast members, with Tina Fey serving as head writer and co-anchoring Weekend Update alongside Amy Poehler. Yet, even as Fey and Poehler shined, Wiig displayed a brazen go-for-broke performance style and was easily one of the show’s fastest rising stars.
When Fey and Poehler left SNL to do 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, respectively, the torch was passed to Wiig to carry on the show’s girl-power resurgence. While Wiig is an immensely talented comedienne, her tenure as SNL’s go-to player has undone the goodwill Fey and Poehler built. Thanks to essentially playing the exact same obnoxious character in every skit, being dreadfully overused and basically hijacking the show from the other performers, Kristen Wiig is becoming one of SNL’s all-time worst cast members.
She’s been nominated for an Emmy for her SNL work and many fans adore her, but humor is extremely subjective and Wiig’s inferiority can be argued even without saying whether or not you find her funny. When she appears on screen, I cringe because I already know what’s coming since she essentially plays the same character in every skit she’s in. For example, here are descriptions of some of her regular characters:
- Target lady â€“ A Target cashier who over reacts to minor situations with elaborate over-the-top lines, gestures and mannerisms. Her weird, overblown behavior makes everyone around her uncomfortable.
- Penelope â€“ A woman who has to one up everyone else’s stories. She uses over-the-top hyperbolic lies, coupled with manic gestures and mannerisms to make everyone around her uncomfortable.
- Judy Grimes â€“ An awkward commentator whose nervousness is illustrated by constant use of the phrase â€œjust kidding.â€ She delivers fast, over-the-top hyperbolic lies in rapid succession that make everyone around her uncomfortable.
- Shana â€“ an overblown Marilyn Monroe-esque caricature who says non-sexy things in an over-the-top sexy manner. Her weird lines, gestures and mannerisms make everyone around her uncomfortable.
- Mindy Gracin â€“ an old movie starlet whose inappropriate outbursts ruin an old game show. She repeatedly blurts out the one phrase she isn’t supposed to say, using over-the-top mannerisms and gestures that make everyone around her uncomfortable.
- Sue â€“ a partygoer who cannot contain her excitement regarding surprises. Her repetitive inappropriate outbursts and odd, over-the-top gestures make everyone around her uncomfortable
- Gilly â€“ a psychotic child/clown hybrid who hurts people when no one is looking. Her odd appearance and over-the-top facial expressions make everyone around her (and everyone who’s seen a Gilly skit) uncomfortable.
It’s as if Kristen Wiig saw Gloria Swanson’s performance in Sunset Boulevard and thought it was too subtle and should be overblown and applied to every one of her comedic creations. Each of her characters are one-trick-ponies that have the exact same traits, mannerisms and ticks. Her Target lady character was a success, so she decided to make every single character a mild variation of her.
Her impressions of actual people aren’t much better. Other than different costumes and a slightly altered voice, what is the difference between her Judy Garland, Suze Orman and Kathy Lee Gifford impressions? They all have the same elaborate mannerisms that are all slight variations from everything else Wiig does.
Also, Wiig is seemingly in every single SNL skit, as if she were the host each week. In the most recent episode, she was in six of the nine live skits â€“ second only to host Jon Hamm â€“ while the other female cast members were relegated to sporadic supporting appearances. Abby Elliott could’ve easily been the female lead in the â€œI Didn’t Ask for Thisâ€ viral video sketch, but Wiig was the star of the sketch, as she had been in each that preceded it.
In addition to being overused, she hijacks the spotlight from anyone forced to share the screen with her. When Kristen Wiig is in a skit, it is a Kristen Wiig skit. She will be the focus of attention and other performers must react to her instead of acting with her. With only a few exceptions (like the horrendous parodies of The View), skits featuring Wiig revolve primarily around her and everyone else must play the straight man/woman who acknowledges how zany her behavior is. In the recent Emma Stone hosted episode, an entire skit was based on this premise, as Stone was forced to stand solemnly beside Wiig – who was portraying an overly excited HGTV host – and simply be the normal one who illustrates just how wacky Wiig can be.
There have certainly been less talented SNL performers (i.e. Keenan Thompson, Horatio Sanz, Ellen Cleghorne), but Wiig’s crimes â€“ including overuse, repetitive obnoxiousness and notorious spotlight stealing – are making her one of the long-running comedy’s worst cast members. Yet, she has shown how funny she can be without relying on the one-note characters currently plaguing SNL. She has been brilliant in guest spots in Flight of the Conchords and Bored to Death and has held her own in supporting film roles in Knocked Up and the criminally underrated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
Wiig’s prominence on SNL is also setting a bad precedence for new female cast members. Second year featured player Nasim Pedrad has introduced 2 different characters in her short tenure: an extremely nerdy girl fascinated with her older brother and an extremely nerdy girl fascinated with her parents – essentially the same obnoxious character. Though the blame for Wiig’s performances may lie with the writers, producers or executives who are enabling her, unless she suddenly finds a burst of originality, one of SNL’s most talented performers will tragically be remembered as one of its worst.