The rumors are true: Fred Armisen is leaving Saturday Night Live after 11 years on the show. The comic confirmed his departure in a recent interview with Splitsider. While Armisen was thought to be leaving, along with Bill Hader and, possibly, Jason Sudeikis, there was never an official announcement, though the season finale in May did feature somewhat of a send-off skit when Armisen reprised his conservative punk Ian Rubbish for a singalong with indie rock heroes including his Portlandia co-star Carrie Brownstein, as well as Kim Gordon, J Mascis, Aimee Mann, Steve Jones and Michael Penn.
"I didn't do any kind of official announcement, but I really felt like it was obvious," Armisen said. "An ending that was a love letter to all the music I grew up with, and also to my friends and to SNL and to [creator] Lorne [Michaels] and to the cast. There was a lot of emotion attached to it, but it was a very positive emotion."
Armisen said the departures of Hader and, last year, fellow SNL veterans Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg made his decision to leave easier, along with the increased time commitment his other show requires. "Portlandia started to pull me away more and more, schedule-wise, and I just felt like it'd be nice to focus on it a little more and go into the fall a bit more with shooting," Armisen said. "So it was because of that. And also it was just a feeling."
That feeling, Armisen added, was both confidence in the show's new cast, and also a sense of fulfillment after getting so many opportunities to experiment and try new things on SNL for so long. "I came away from Saturday Night Live feeling very well represented," he said. "I felt, and I still feel like, they let me do so much stuff that I wanted to do. Stuff that I almost didn't even know what it was. I was like, this is kind of a little bit of an experiment, or this is just a band thing, this is just a music thing."
Even though he's technically departing, Armisen pointed out that few cast members never fully leave Saturday Night Live: "Everyone kind of stays close," he said. "For example, like when Kristen [Wiig] left, we saw her again. And Andy [Samberg] and Tina [Fey] and Amy Poehler and Maya [Rudolph]. On one level, we stay in each other's lives, but also the show. I feel like people don't really just leave in a cold way. I think people stay around in their own way."