How Vanessa Bayer Became The Best Part Of Weekend Update On ‘SNL’

Editor-at-Large
02.26.16 20 Comments

The Weekend Update desk at Saturday Night Live has undergone a bunch of changes over the past few years. Seth Meyers left and was replaced by the team of Colin Jost and Cecily Strong, and then Cecily Strong was replaced by Michael Che. And even beyond the shuffling hosts, which would be enough on its own, the show also lost Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, and Fred Armisen, who took with them what feels like a dozen recurring Update characters, most notably — now and forever — Hader’s breathy lunatic city guide, Stefon. The desk was in turmoil. The desk needed a steadying presence. The desk needed a grown woman pretending to be a young Disney star who was responsible for reading news copy about Bill Cosby and El Chapo.

Enter Vanessa Bayer.

Bayer has been a reliably funny member of the cast for a while now. To give you an idea of how long, consider this: Her first big breakout character was a sweet, innocent Miley Cyrus who was constantly being embarrassed by her dad on her fictional talk show. Time waits for no one. The character was more or less retired once Cyrus went full-on crop-haired rebel, and Bayer moved on, too. There were a lot of moms and pearl-clutching suburbanites in the years that followed (and one enterprising adult film star), but where she’s really made her mark is with memorable Update characters. Take, for example, the aforementioned child star news reader, Laura Parsons.

What a delightful little piece of business that is, from her upbeat theater kid delivery of disturbing lines to the way she pronounces “news” in her song. (“… it’s all about… nuuuuhhhhhhhhsssss.”) And the best part is that this isn’t even her best little kid character on Weekend Update, because she also plays a young Jewish boy named Jacob who is perpetually being Bar Mitzvahed.

Here’s the thing: How do you not break there? Between staring into the camera after the intentionally awful jokes and the thing where she basically just ignores Seth, I have no idea how she holds it together. Especially because the sketch basically hinges on her being very, very serious about it all. Oh God. Oh, it must be so tempting to laugh. Just one of those little bursts that sneaks out through your nose and clenched tench. Kind of a muffled snort. Her holding it together during these will never not impress me.

Point being: Bill Hader is an absolute pro and he couldn’t make it through a single Stefon segment without turning into a giggling mess. But Vanessa Bayer nails these every time. Vanessa Bayer is a rock.

So, the real shame here is that either Vanessa Bayer came around 20 years too late or Friends came around 20 years too early, because it is an absolute injustice that we live in 2016 and there’s no good excuse to roll this impression out three or four times a season. It is so, so good. It might be the best non-political SNL celebrity impression since Hader’s Al Pacino. Part of me hopes they just say screw it and make, like, “The Rachel from Friends Talk Show” a recurring sketch, passage of time damned.

But…

Another part of me hopes we never see this impression again, and it just appears once out of the blue and then disappears forever. Like one of those flowers that blooms in stunning, magical colors for only 10 to 15 seconds before wilting away and dying forever. (This might not be a real thing. I might have seen it in a movie. Either way, the point stands.) It might almost be better that way, just knowing she has it in her pocket and never uses it. Remember the one episode of Parks and Recreation where Amy Poehler came out of nowhere and dropped a spot-on Megan Mullally impression, and we’ve never heard her do it again? Like that. Or like the possibly fake flower. Either one.

Daisy Rose: Romantic Comedy Expert, on the other hand, we must see again. I demand it. The people demand it. Switch her to the other side of the desk and have her do the meet-cute with Colin Jost. Or give her a pre-taped, Digital Short-type sketch with a heartthrob male host. (Hamm! As Don Draper!) Or the musical guest. Or Lorne Michaels. I do not care. All I know is that Daisy Rose has not been on SNL since October 2014, and that simply will not do.

Someone start a petition.

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