Poor Cecily Strong. After only one season of serving as co-anchor on the longest running segment on Saturday Night Live, she is being shuffled back into the deck of SNL players. Replacing her will be former Daily Show correspondent Michael Che. On September 27th, we’ll see if Che and current anchor, Colin Jost, will be able to pick the pieces up and help restore “Weekend Update” back to full glory.
And just how glorious has “Weekend Update” been since Chevy Chase created it for the very first episode of SNL?
Let’s take a look back at every single anchor to sit behind the WU desk, and you be the judge of that. (note: From 1981-1985, Lorne Michaels had taken a hiatus from producing the show, and the Weekend Update name was changed–those years will not be covered.)
Chevy Chase (1975-1976)
As the story goes, creator and executive producer of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels, met Chevy Chase in line to see a Monty Python film. Chase would go on to start SNL as a writer, actually creating Weekend Update, but then became a part of the cast during rehearsals. On the debut episode of the sketch comedy show, Chase rolled out “Weekend Update”along with co-writer Herb Sergent, but Chase’s version of the segment came to an end when he left the following year.
Fun Fact: Chase started off every edition of “Weekend Update” with the line, “Good evening, I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not,” which was inspired by New York news anchor Roger Grimsby.
Jane Curtin (1976-1980)
When Chevy Chase was injured during a sketch in the beginning of season 2, the multi-talented Curtin stepped into the role of faux news anchor. Her comedy chops impressed Lorne Michaels enough that when Chase quit the show a few weeks after reassuming his position (apparently to chase some tail in L.A.), Curtin was given the permanent seat through the end of season 5.
Curtin would share the desk twice — with Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray, respectively — but Curtin’s staying power was solidified by her ability to play the role of a “straight” news journalist in the face of outlandish appearance by the likes of John Belushi and Gilda Radnor.
Fun Fact: She wasn’t just “straight” on-camera: Curtin didn’t agree with the drug-culture perpetuated by some of the early cast members.
Dan Aykroyd (1977-1978)
Before Dan Aykroyd became obsessed with UFOs, he was one of the youngest writers and cast members on SNL from 1975 to 1979. In 1977, Aykroyd would win an Emmy as part of the writing team for the show, but it would also be the year he joined “Weekend Update” alongside Curtin.
Aykroyd and Curtin were the first co-anchor team for “Weekend Update” and would set the tone for tandem, absurd hilarity with Aykroyd’s catchphrase of “Jane, you ignorant slut.”
Fun Fact: Aykroyd is the first regular male cast member to be nominated for an Oscar for Driving Miss Daisy in 1990.
Bill Murray (1978-1980)
Arguably the most beloved SNL cast member ever, Murray was actually on Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell — ABC’s failed sketch show that lasted one season — before being snatched up by Lorne Michaels for season 2. When Akyroyd got “promoted to stage manager,” Bill Murray took his place alongside Jane Curtin at the news desk, displaying his trademark wit and snarky humor. He and Curtin would be the last WU anchors of the “early Lorne Michaels era.”
Fun Fact: When notorious jerk-face Chevy Chase returned to host an episode of SNL in season 3, he and Murray got into a fight backstage.
Charles Rocket (1980-1981)
Rocket was cast as the lone “Weekend Update” anchor in 1980 when the show was reset following the departure of executive producer Lorne Michaels and the rest of the original cast. Jean Doumanian had become the new producer of the show and touted Rocket as the future of sketch comedy. To say Rocket didn’t “get it” would be an understatement.
A few weeks after he uttered an f-bomb on live TV during a February 21st episode, Rocket, Doumanian, and the rest of the cast — except for Denny Dillon, Gail Matthius, Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo — were fired. Dick Ebersol took over the program until 1985.
Fun Fact: Um…did you read that last line? Not fun.
Dennis Miller (1985-1991)
Two different executive producers would take over SNL from 1981 to 1985, changing the name of “Weekend Update” to “SNL NewsBreak” and then “Saturday Night News.” In 1985, however, Lorne Michaels would return to the SNL throne bringing back the popular “Weekend Update” with new talent Dennis Miller behind the news desk.
Miller brought a political slant to “Weekend Update,” a preclude to his HBO Dennis Miller Live program that ended each episode with an homage to “Weekend Update.”
Fun Fact: Jon Lovitz was originally supposed to helm the return of “Weekend Update” but the decision was reversed due to time constraints associated with wardrobe changes.
I flew in with Jon Lovitz to do the [SNL] audition. I remember thinking, Well, I’ll feel out the rest of the people and see what they’re bringing to the game. Lovitz tells me he has this character called the Pathological Liar. And when he elaborates … it isn’t as good as seeing it. I thought, Well, this guy’s exhibiting a limp on the Serengeti. He can be fed on. I can take this guy. Cut to: I don’t get hired, Jon gets hired, and they wanted him to do the news. But he’s in so many things that he can’t do the news, he needs the news [time] for hair and changes. So then I get hired a little later.
Kevin Nealon (1991-1994)
Kevin Nealon joined SNL in 1986, and when Dennis Miller left the show in 1991, Nealon became the new “Weekend Update” anchor. Nealon had perhaps the most straight-laced demeanor of anyone to helm the desk — he actually sounded just like a legitimate news anchor. In 1994, he asked to be removed from the news desk to pursue other characters.
Fun Fact: Al Franken tried to wrestle the anchor position from Nealon but was turned down.