After 20 years of laughs, SNL seemed on hard times, having fallen into the trap of predictable and uninspired comedy. Producer Lorne Michaels was left with no choice but to rebuild his cast - something he hadn't done for almost ten seasons, but needed to do fast.
Of the 1994 cast, Kevin Nealon finally retired after nine seasons, while cast members Adam Sandler and Chris Farley were released of their contracts and allowed to venture to Hollywood to produce and star in overhyped movie vehicles. Lorne even fired the much underused Tim Meadows, but decided to rehire him at the last minute in order to balance the cast. A lucky move for Meadows, who finally started appearing in more sketches this era than he did the last.
Holding on to Tim Meadows and three other cast members (Norm MacDonald, Mark McKinney and David Spade), as well as one promising featured player (Molly Shannon), Lorne brought in six new performers (Jim Breuer, Will Ferrell, Darrell Hammond, David Koechner, Cheri Oteri and Nancy Walls) who would bring unpredictable comedy back to the show. This season's "Wake Up & Smile" sketch is perhaps the greatest evidence of that claim.
They take a little getting used to, but this group proved to be the start of a new direction for SNL.