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Posted: 2:18 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013

Nöel Wells makes 'Saturday Night Live' debut 

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Stephanie Nelson
Former Austinite Nöel Wells is a new featured player on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

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By Dale Roe

When the opening credits ran on the Season 39 premiere of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” Saturday, there were a lot of new faces. Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis left the show before the new season began and featured player Tim Robinson was sent to the writers’ room.

In their place, the sketch comedy show has hired six featured players, including Noël Wells (the only new female) who was born in San Antonio and performed at Esther’s Follies from 2006-2009 while studying film and animation at the University of Texas at Austin.

The “SNL” writers and host Tina Fey wisely introduced the new cast members at the top of the show. During her monologue, Fey joked about the fact that she never played any characters during her “SNL” tenure (no mention of Sarah Palin here) and then called out the new cast members, forcing them to strip to tight, shiny gold shorts and jackets and dance behind her.

Fey put her arms around Wells, asking her age. When Wells responded that she was 26, Fey told her “you stand over here,” and pushed her to the far edge of the group. When the dance routine ended, Fey congratulated the new performers and told them they were “done for the night.”

But Wells’ first big moment on the show came in a filmed piece that traditionally runs after the host’s monologue. This week it was a fake commercial for the HBO series “Girls.”

All of the impressions in the piece were good — Vanessa Bayer’s Shoshanna and Taran Killam’s Adam stood out — but Wells’ gift for impressions (she does a killer Zooey Deschanel) was showcased through an uncanny caricature of “Girls” creator and star Lena Dunham.

“If you’re going to live with me, you should know that I have OCD,” Wells, as Dunham’s character Hannah, said to “new” girl Blerta, an older, Albanian woman played by Fey. Blerta explained that she also had OCD — Old Cow Disease, a condition that resulted in a rubber, prosthetic hand.

“Honestly, your life is just so much more interesting than mine,” Wells’ Hannah whined. “It’s just not fair.”

What’s really not fair is that Wells got just one more notable moment, in a game show parody called “New Cast Member or Arcade Fire?” in which Fey had to guess which of a pair of performers was a new featured player and which was one of the evening’s musical guests.

Many of Wells’ new and longtime fans (her YouTube page includes a video she made of the iPhone’s Siri learning that Steve Jobs died that has almost 2 million views) took to Twitter to celebrate her “SNL” debut.

“Noel Wells being in SNL makes me giddy!!! Go UT - Austin! Representing! She’s also the only featured female! Woo!” tweeted user @DreadsomeDrew.

“Already a big fan of new #SNL featured player Noel Wells. idk man she just seems swell” wrote @fanta_no_coke.

“What a nice surprise seeing Nöel Wells on SNL. :D Discovered her comedy a few years back on youtube. Congrats to you girl!!!” @MandyRascal_ tweeted.

Wells’ own Twitter handle is @RealTomHankz. You can find more information at her website, www.noelwells.com .

Dale Roe

About Dale Roe

Dale Roe is a lifestyle writer and columnist for the Austin American-Statesman. His weekly columns "The Buzz" and "TV Tips" take humorous and informative looks at pop culture, while his monthly live comedy previews let readers know who's headed where and when to make them laugh.

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