‘Saturday Night Live’ adds new cast members including Chicago comedian Sarah Sherman, aka Sarah Squirm. Beck Bennett departs

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“Saturday Night Live” has announced three new cast members are joining the show for its 47th season, including former Chicago comedian Sarah Sherman. Not returning is Beck Bennett (who joined the show in 2013) and Lauren Holt, who was a featured player last year.

In addition to Sherman, the two other additions are Aristotle Athari and James Austin Johnson, the latter of whom is known for his Donald Trump impersonation. Unlike in years past, when cast members were frequently drawn from the world of sketch and improv and therefore had little to no on-camera experience, all three have modest TV credits.

Sherman is a Northwestern alum and performs under the moniker Sarah Squirm. In 2016 she was named the best stand-up comedian by The Chicago Reader. That same year, the Daily Northwestern featured her and wrote that “the themes she explores in the performances often involve body image, which she highlights via the use of visual art components.” Sherman was also the creative force behind a regular stand-up show at The Hideout called “Helltrap Nightmare” that ran until 2019.

Reviewing one of her shows for the Tribune in 2018, critic Zach Freeman wrote that Sherman “isn’t shy about tossing out jokes with disconcerting verbal imagery, and she’s equally adept at creating and playing with truly gruesome visuals for laughs as well,” which goes to explain some of the ideas behind the Sarah Squirm stage name. On the night in question, she arrived in a “flowing robe of multicolored reflective circles over a shimmery spandex bodysuit covered with painted pictures of squiggly intestines and veined bare breasts.”

Sometimes burgeoning comedians steer clear of joking about anything relating to “SNL” for fear of running afoul of the show, but that didn’t stop Sherman from posting a video last year with a jokey audition wherein she plays a series of characters, all with the same Mike Myers-as-Dr. Evil pinkie at the corner mouth mannerism.

“SNL” has a pretty narrow conception of comedy, generally speaking. It will be an interesting experiment to see how Sherman’s alt-comedy instincts are (or aren’t) allowed to flourish within that environment.

The 47th season premieres on NBC Oct. 2 with host Owen Wilson and musical guest Kacey Musgraves.

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