Melissa Villaseñor’s impersonations should be seen on TV again

What happens when comedians sit down with Lorne Michaels remains such an enigma shrouded in mystique that Marc Maron has made it a staple of his popular podcast. In fact, it’s one of the ultimate WTF moments in comedy.

Does Lorne outright hire anyone for Saturday Night Live, or does the offer come forth through doublespeak?

The show holds such an iron grip on the process, neither confirming nor denying, although not allowing the talent to broadcast their great news to everyone, either. Not until The New York Times or Deadline/Variety/THR can break it “officially,” that is.

A handful of fresh-faced aspiring comedians sat down with Michaels this week in his office after passing initial auditions in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, then a round of screen-tests on the stage where SNL films inside 30 Rockefeller. Among them: Joanna Bradley (a UCB player who wowed during New Faces this summer in Montreal), Alex Moffat (currently playing Bill Clinton in an ongoing show, and recent transplant to Los Angeles after performing with all of the major Chicago comedy theaters), Chris Redd (who shined on the big screen with The Lonely Island in Popstar, co-starred with Moffat in an aborted NBC primetime sketch comedy series in 2014, and whom sources told me accepted an offer from Lorne, although that has been disputed by others), and Melissa Villaseñor (a former semifinalist on NBC’s America’s Got Talent, who also performed this spring on USA in First Impressions with Dana Carvey).

Michaels already promoted Mikey Day in-house from writer to cast member on SNL, but that was telegraphed this summer when Day performed as a billed feature act and head writer on NBC’s Maya & Marty.

So rather than tell you what I know (or what multiple sources told me), I’ll just share this: I first saw Villaseñor several years ago (before AGT) when she was preparing for her first SNL audition in NYC, and she has grown so much as a performer since then. I got to meet her in person in Los Angeles later and she was wonderful then offstage.

And her work as an impersonator speaks for itself.

This year she has showcased several impersonations — including Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Silverman, Kristen Wiig, Owen Wilson, Sonia Sotomayor, Gwen Stefani and Hillary Clinton — in a webseries for Más Mejor, the video channel fronted by Fred Armisen and Horatio Sanz for Lorne’s Broadway Video/Above Average imprint.

And here is Villaseñor explaining her favorite voices to inhabit time and time again:

Whether or not you see her on SNL this fall isn’t up to me, but more of you should see her perform.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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