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The Weekend's Best
It's an open secret that Weekend Update is the best part of Saturday Night Live — and, on some nights, the only good part. Yet not all of the segment's anchors are created equal. With SNL's Weekend Update: Summer Edition debuting this week, here's a look back at the best (and worst) comics who've helmed the hallowed fake-news desk.
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13. Colin Quinn (1998-2000)
Colin Quinn is a good comedian and talented storyteller, but his stint as Weekend Update anchor was an unpleasant viewing experience. Even when he said something funny, he gave off the desperation of a stand-up comic tanking at an open-mic night. He always seemed to be drowning, and no one wants to watch a man drown.
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12. Cecily Strong and Colin Jost (and Seth Meyers) (2013/2014)
Cecily Strong’s anchor duties straddled two eras, the old Seth Meyers one and the current Colin Jost one. Neither combination was particularly memorable, and the fact that Strong was behind the desk full-time meant that her roster of amazing Weekend Update characters had to disappear, hurting the segment all around.
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11. Charles Rocket (1980-1981)
Rocket’s short tenure began after Lorne Michaels and the original cast left the show and ended when he said the F-word live on air. In between those two events, Rocket proved to be a capable but indistinct presence behind the desk. He also happened to be the last anchor of Weekend Update proper until Michaels’ return in 1985; SNL rebranded the segment under various other names in the meantime.
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10. Colin Jost and Michael Che (2014-present)
It’s tempting to say that it’s too early to accurately rate the current anchor duo… but it has been a full three years, and, frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would put Jost-Che in their top five. Jost comes off as Seth Meyers Lite; Che has good monologues but subpar punchline delivery. Their stock could rise if they manage to find a better rhythm, but at this point, it’s quite an if.
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9. Kevin Nealon (1991-1994)
It’s almost hard to separate Nealon’s time in the chair from the many goofy Adam Sandler characters that visited the segment, from Opera Man to Adam Sandler But With a Guitar. But being able to build strong rapports with visitors is a major part of the job, and Nealon proved to be great at it (if not at reading his lines).
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8. Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey (2000-2004)
You know the quibbles with Jimmy Fallon: He laughed too much, he’s juvenile, a bit fratty. But pair him with Fey, and you’ve got a decent high-low balance that could veer from satirical wit one minute to a silly performance piece the next.
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7. Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers (2006-2008)
Though it only lasted two seasons, the Poehler-Meyers pairing felt much longer. That’s a testament to how much the duo brought to the show, even if they were more or less just a bridge between the Fey and Meyers eras. But they certainly didn’t squander their time together: “Really!?! With Seth and Amy” ranks as one of Weekend Update’s top recurring bits.
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6. Seth Meyers (2008-2013)
After a long line of duos, Weekend Update returned to the solo-anchor format with one of the few people who could pull it off without breaking a sweat. Meyers was both affable and sharp, making his voracious appetite for media and politics (and general stupidity) infectious. Plus, he boasted wonderful relationships with his guests — like his husband Stefon.
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5. Jane Curtin (plus Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray) (1976-1980)
Curtin was the show’s second anchor, and one of its strongest — whether she was solo (as she was her first year) or when she was paired with Dan Aykroyd or Bill Murray (as she was for a year or two each). Especially great were the “Point/Counterpoint” bits that produced the classic Aykroyd catchphrase “Jane, you ignorant slut.” Aykroyd often soaked up the spotlight, but Curtin wins for being Weekend Update’s effortlessly wry focal point.
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4. Dennis Miller (1985-1991)
As the first person to anchor the segment after Lorne Michaels’ return to the show, Miller absolutely killed. Passionate and prone to fiery screeds, he was something of a new breed for Weekend Update — a whip-smart opinionated guy who cared more than he needed to, and was better for it. Miller became such an institution that other cast members would show up to impersonate him. Impressionists aside, though, he was one of a kind.
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3. Chevy Chase (1975-1976)
He was the first, the founder, the one all who came afterward would be compared to. And while his tenure only lasted a year, he provided the blueprint for not only Weekend Update but, arguably, the many satirical news programs on the air today. After all these years, he’s still Chevy Chase, and you’re still not.
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2. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (2004-2006)
Looking back now, it’s insane that we were allowed to see these two together on our TVs every week. Not only were they the finest of the segment’s many pairings, but they had the kind of chemistry that managed to give even the most womp-womp punchlines a little bit of pop. We may never have it that good again.
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1. Norm Macdonald (1994-1997)
He was the Weekend Update anchor’s Weekend Update anchor. Dry, idiosyncratic, and often openly at odds with the live studio audience, Macdonald’s bitter brand of humor made him a legend inside and outside 30 Rock. That status was cemented when he was fired from the position at the behest of an NBC executive for his refusal to hold back on O.J. Simpson jokes. We’re glad he didn’t change a thing.