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.
Norm MacDonald (1994-1997)
With his sly smile, incisive humor, and ability and propensity to skewer just about anyone and anything, MacDonald became a hit as the new “Weekend Update” anchor. Things got ugly, though, during the end of his run when he was fired by the NBC West Coast president, Don Ohlmeyer, over MacDonald’s insistence on making O.J. Simpson jokes (Ohlmeyer and Simpson were friends).
Fun Fact: A short time after being “let go” from SNL, MacDonald appeared on Letterman and explained that he thought he was fired for not being funny.
Colin Quinn (1998-2000)
Quinn became MacDonald’s replacement behind the news desk and memorably began his first night by stating: “Have you ever gone to a bar and found that your favorite bartender was replaced with a guy named Steve? Well, I’m Steve. What can I get you?”
Quinn would often start his performance with a short monologue before sitting behind the desk, which was a break from the typical “Weekend Update” format.
Fun Fact: Kevin Brennan — Neal Brennan’s (Chappelle’s Show) brother — quit SNL when he wasn’t named Colin Quinn’s replacement.
Jimmy Fallon (2000-2004)
Fresh-faced Jimmy Fallon sharpened his comedy with L.A.’s The Groundlings improv team, and it’s his improvisational skills that helped him land a gig with SNL in 1998. By 2000 he had become a full-time player, and he and Tina Fey won the coveted position of the next “Weekend Update” anchors.
Fallon and Fey had incredible chemistry, but Jimmy left SNL in 2004 to pursue other goals.
Fun Fact: Fallon has won two Emmys for guest hosting SNL in the years following his departure.
Tina Fey (2000-2006)
By the end of Fey’s time with SNL she could claim two historic feats: being the first female head writer as well as one half of “Weekend Update’s” first all-female anchor team.
While Fey and Fallon were a great tandem, Fey and new anchor, Amy Poehler, would skyrocket in popularity with their ability to play off of each other’s similar sensibilities. Fey exited in 2006 to write and produce her own Emmy-award winning show, 30 Rock.
Fun Fact: Writer-director Adam McKay (Anchorman) is the one who urged Fey to try joining the SNL team.
Amy Poehler (2004-2008)
Poehler has been a stand-out comedic performer ever since transitioning from the Upright Citizens Brigade to SNL in 2001. Poehler and Tina Fey were phenomenal as the first all-female “Weekend Update” team and, like Fey, Poehler was able to transfer her fame from SNL to her own successful TV series, Parks and Recreation.
After Fey left in 2006, Poehler would continue her position as anchor with new addition Seth Meyers for two more years.
Fun Fact: She was promoted to full-time player in her first SNL season. Only other person to do this? Eddie Murphy.
Seth Meyers (2006-2014)
Seth Meyers started his “Weekend Update” run as Tina Fey’s replacement alongside Amy Poehler. When it was Poehler’s time to leave the show, Meyers became the first solo anchor since Colin Quinn.
He would serve as solo anchor for five years. At the end of his run he gained the distinction of being behind the desk for a total of eight years — the longest of any cast member.
Fun Fact: Meyers won an Emmy in 2011 for helping write the musical opening to an episode hosted by Justin Timberlake.
Cecily Strong (2013-2014)
Following his departure, Strong was teamed up with Colin Jost for the remainder of the season, but the rookie co-anchors failed to find their footing. This September Lorne Michaels announced he was taking Strong off of desk duty and replacing her with former SNL writer and Daily Show correspondent Michael Che.
Fun Fact: Strong is not sad (see below…playa).
I don’t see this as me leaving update, just as me being on update in a looser, goofier way that is a lot more fun for me and in a way I think I’m better at. And now I get to do features with the very funny and wonderful Michael Che! No point in being angry or sad for me for something I’m genuinely happy about! Unless you are just a person who enjoys being angry or sad. Then I guess play on, playa.
Colin Jost (2014-?)
Jost certainly has the pedigree to become a huge comedic star: he was the president of Harvard’s National Lampoon, has served as a writer on SNL since 2005, and has already been nominated for 7 Emmys despite barely being just north of 30-years old.
When the 40th season starts, we’ll get a chance to see if Jost can mature into another breakout SNL star.
Fun Fact: He dated Rashida Jones and you didn’t.