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Melissa Villaseñor on Why She Left Saturday Night Live: “I Had Little Panic Attacks”

The comedian and artist also tells Consequence what inspired her new activity book for grown-ups

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Melissa Villasenor Interview
Melissa Villaseñor, photo by Robyn Von Swank/Illustration by Steven Fiche

    When Saturday Night Live returned for Season 48 this fall, it was missing Melissa Villaseñor, who had been with the show since 2016 — her best bits showcasing her jaw-dropping impressions and sharp silly characters. For those missing her unique voice, though, there’s Whoops . . . I’m Awesome, her new book featuring stories about her life alongside her own original artwork and fun activities for adults (get your copy here).

    In the book, Villaseñor refers to her job as an SNL cast member in the present tense, because she finished writing the book this spring but made the decision to leave the show this summer. But, she says, “all these things were created during that time there. So I think it makes sense that it’s still present.”

    When it comes to the decision to leave the show, Villaseñor says that it was a personal one. “I think it was getting a lot for me emotionally, the anxiety, and it came down to, ‘Do I want to keep having this feeling every week?'” she says. “It was just a rollercoaster, and I think I was like, ‘I don’t know if I could keep up with it.’ I don’t know if my body… I had little panic attacks and I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think I can keep going with it.'”

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    As she continues, “There was so much magic — when I got to shine and share what I wanted to, it was a dream come true. But I don’t think I was able to keep going with that anxiety on me.”

    And when the new season premiered a few weeks ago, she didn’t watch. “I couldn’t. I felt like I’m still kind of going through that loss, or just that change. So I’m giving a little space and then I’ll tune back in. I think that’s what’s best for me right now.”

    This moment in time is an era when more people are feeling empowered to make decisions just like this, and Villaseñor says that “I’ve noticed that what [those people] have been talking about is that the past years have taught them that whatever is putting a lot on you, you could set free. There’s a lot to do in this world, you know? It’s really cool to open up and step out of yourself and just take a look around at what else you could accomplish and do.”

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