Ken Aymong, a key producer at NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” who has helped maintain the business of the venerable late-night program for more than three decades, is stepping down from his post.
The cast nodded to Aymong’s departure early Sunday morning during the final minutes of the first episode of “SNL’s” 47th season, with Colin Jost holding up a placard that read, “We’ll miss you, Ken.” Aymong has decided to retire, according to a person familiar with the matter, after joining the program in the mid-1980s.
Aymong has been a key lieutenant of executive producer Lorne Michaels for many years, along with current and former producers like Erik Kenward, Steve Higgins, Lindsay Shookus, Erin Doyle, Mike Shoemaker and Marci Klein. Others deal with booking guests, managing talent and keeping the sketches moving from idea to script. Aymong has long kept his eye on the flow of the dollars behind the production.
“I always look at the financial perspective of the show,” Aymong said in “Live From New York,” an oral history of the program by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller. “I want it to go on forever.”
Aymong “is a vital part” of “SNL” operations, said Miller, in an interview Sunday. “It’s a live show. There’s no margin for error. Expertise counts on a show like ‘SNL’ more than other shows, because you can’t make a mistake. By the way, Lorne Michaels hates mistakes. So Kenny Aymong is one of those people who is part of the institutional memory of the show. He’s been there a long time, and he knows exactly what needs to be done.”
Aymong “is just all about making sure that everybody is protected and everything gets done the way it’s supposed to get done,” added Miller, whose new book, “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers,” comes out Nov. 16.
The “SNL” veteran leaves a program that is changing some of its long-held ways. Michaels is giving some of his veteran cast members leeway to pursue projects outside the show, even if they have to miss a few episodes. The new policy began to germinate last season, when Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong, two longtime “SNL” players, were absent for a few weeks as they pursued work for Hulu and Apple, respectively. Both projects fell under the aegis of Michaels’ Broadway Video production unit.
Kate McKinnon, one of the key members of the “SNL” cast in recent years, appears to be enjoying the benefit. She appeared in the credits of the season opener, but was not seen on set by viewers during the show.
Another longtime “SNL” staffer, Don Roy King, who has directed “SNL” since 2006, has also left the program. He has been succeeded by Liz Patrick, a veteran of Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime talk show.