Fred Armisen's Saturday Night Live days are over. The celebrated cast member, 46, confirmed he won't be returning for new episodes of NBC's live sketch comedy show during a June 28 interview with Splitsider. (Around the time Bill Hader announced he was leaving SNL just before its May 18 season finale, Armisen was rumored to be quitting, too.)
"I didn't do any kind of official announcement, but I really felt like it was obvious," said Armisen, who was once married to Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss and later dated former SNL cast member Abby Elliott. "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."
(During the May 18 episode, the final sketch featured Armisen, Hader, Jason Sudeikis and Taran Killam playing a British rock band saying their goodbyes on the final night of a tour. Armisen's Portlandia costar, Sleater-Kinney rocker Carrie Brownstein, also joined the group on stage.)
Armisen joined the cast of SNL during its 28th season in 2002. He is the second-longest tenured cast member behind Seth Meyers, who will take over as the host of Late Night in 2014. Armisen said his decision to leave felt "very natural."
"I love Saturday Night Live, and I really feel like people who have left before me have always stayed with the show. They never really quite left, which is nice. Everyone kind of stays close," he explained. "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."
The other factor that made Armisen want to walk away from SNL? IFC's Portlandia, which was recently renewed for two more seasons. "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. . . I was there for a long time and I also felt like I came away from Saturday Night Live feeling very well represented. 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. They just let me do so much, so I felt very fulfilled."
He added that the new cast members made him "feel really good" about leaving. "It was a combination of everything, between Portlandia and the feeling of real satisfaction and happiness," Armisen said. "I was like, 'I'm enjoying this so much, this'll be a good time to kind to go to the next phase.'" Armisen said what he'll miss most is writing the sketches with his fellow cast members.
In addition to Portlandia, Armisen said he hopes to create other projects. "I just want to keep making things. Just keep going. I love doing it," he told Splitsider. "I want to make more and more things. It just makes me happy."