Colin Jost Has Addressed Cecily Strong’s Exit From ‘Weekend Update’ In 2014

In 2013, ahead of his departure from Saturday Night Live for Late Night, Seth Meyers co-anchored “Weekend Update” for 12 episodes with Cecily Strong. It was a popular pairing, although it also meant losing some of Strong’s popular “Update” characters, like ”The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation with at a Party,” which Strong co-wrote with head writer Colin Jost.

When Meyers left for Late Night, Cecily Strong was paired with Colin Jost on “Weekend Update” to finish out that 2013-2014 season. However, when “Update” returned in the fall, Cecily Strong — at that point, clearly the more skilled “Update” anchor — had been replaced with Michael Che. In the intervening years, there’s been a lot of speculation about why Che replaced Strong, but there’s never been a definitive answer.

In Colin Jost’s new memoir, A Very Punchable Face, Jost addresses the situation, although his explanation is not entirely definitive, either. According to Jost, the reviews he received for his first eight episodes with Strong were not kind, and during the summer between seasons, Jost decided to drop everything else — his job as head writer, work on a Paramount movie (Staten Island Summer) he had written, and stand-up — to focus all of his concentration on the one thing he wanted most of all: “Weekend Update.” The only problem was, heading into the new season, he had no idea if he still had the job.

In fact, when August rolled around, Jost had to audition for the role of “Update” anchor again, which he found “demoralizing.” He auditioned with Vanessa Bayer, Leslie Jones, Chris Kelly (a writer), Sasheer Zamata, and Michael Che. Cecily Strong was not among those who he re-auditioned with, even though — as Jost notes himself — “Cecily was unquestionably a better performer than I was.”

Going into the 2014-2015 season, Strong’s role on “Update” was an “unknown,” and Jost didn’t know if she wanted to keep doing “Update” or wanted to go back to doing “Update” characters again like “Girl at a Party,” and a bunch of other characters that were huge hits. Jost also didn’t know if she wanted to do “Update” with someone else. “I had no clue what she or Lorne [Michaels] was thinking,” Jost writes. “One of the reasons we did ‘Update’ together in the first place was because Cecily and I wrote together a lot. She’s one of the funniest performers in the history of our show and also one of the best writers.”

Ultimately, Jost suggests, Cecily was such a natural and so good as a regular cast member that, “I’m guessing that’s why Lorne wanted her to do characters again rather than being an anchor.” Of course, Jost doesn’t say for sure, because at that time, he didn’t know what “Lorne or the producers were thinking because everyone stopped talking to me.”

In the end, Jost did finally land the job, although Lorne Michaels was apparently very angry that the pairing between Che and Jost had leaked before he’d announced it. Cecily Strong, meanwhile, returned to the regular cast, where she has been hugely successful over the last five years, creating several more popular “Update” characters, including Jeanine Pirro.

Source: A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir by Colin Jost