Kate McKinnon reveals how difficult it was for her to leave SNL: ‘I will forever miss it’

Kate McKinnon smiles at the camera while wearing a black top and bright blue blazer on top. She is standing in front of a black background with pink and white writing on it

Kate McKinnon was ‘scared and sad’ to leave behind her Saturday Night Live (SNL) “family” after over a decade on the show. 

The comedian, who spent 11 seasons on SNL, discussed her decision to leave in an emotional, in-depth interview on Vulture’s Good One podcast. McKinnon broke down in tears when asked about telling SNL creator Lorne Michaels about her exit. 

“Telling Lorne was really hard,” she recalled. “He knew it was coming. He was very sweet.”

McKinnon continued: “But he has been a father figure to me, and so much more. 

“It was just really hard — simple human emotions, not wanting to say goodbye to something you love.”

McKinnon, speaking through tears, added the experience was still “fresh” as it “only happened two months ago”. 

She described having mixed feelings of joy and sorrow as it hasn’t “quite sunk in yet that [she] won’t be popping into the office soon”. While she’s “certainly excited” for the future, she knew she will “forever miss” being on the show and around her “absolute family of people”. 

“I’m certainly excited for what the rest of my life will entail, and happy to have the opportunity to find out, and happy to be going to bed at midnight — so happy,” McKinnon said. “I feel really healthy and really good. I’m wearing my retainer again. I’m taking vitamins for the first time.”

She added: “I know that I will forever miss it, and especially the people — just the greatest people, and an absolute family of people. 

“But I’m also excited to join new families and explore other parts of myself. I mean, I think that as you could maybe tell from listening to this interview, I also have sadness. 

“I have joy and I have sadness, and maybe I’ll see if I can do something with that. I don’t know.”

Kate McKinnon wears a black dress as she stands in front of a yellow background. Her hands are on her hips as she smiles at the camera

Kate McKinnon is “excited to join new families and explore other parts” of herself outside Saturday Night Live. (Dan MacMedan/WireImage)

Kate McKinnon, who joined SNL in 2012, said during an interview on Live With Kelly and Ryan that she thought about leaving the long-running sketch comedy show for a “very long time” before making the “very, very hard” decision to quit.

McKinnon described her run on SNL as the “best decade” but admitted her “body was tired” towards the end. 

The Emmy-winning comedian told Vulture that there were two moments when she felt “most connected” to the SNL audience. 

“One was after Hillary [Clinton] had lost, and the cold open was me playing ‘Hallelujah’ on the piano,” McKinnon said. “I felt that for the people for whom that was a tragic event, I felt very connected and in a very real way.”

She added that she felt “really connected that first when” when she did the “alien abduction sketch”. McKinnon reprised the in-your-face character from the skit one last time for her final show where her character bid a tearful goodbye to earth – and the audience

“It was a completely different experience — people were laughing instead of crying — and yet it was the same recognition of, like, we’re all in this together, guys,” she recalled. “We all feel the same way about something.”

Kate McKinnon said she wanted her final sketch to be a “moment of catharsis of trying to encapsulate what the whole thing had meant to [her] and telling that to the audience”. She described how the final scene where she gets into a spaceship was a “beautiful” way to wrap up her career.