Power Ranking the Best SNL Weekend Update Anchors
With nearly 50 years under its belt, Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update is The Original Fake News and still going strong. At least 22 comedians have taken their turn behind the desk, and some of them were actually good at it. Here is ComedyNerd’s fake power ranking of the best to ever hold down the job.
The Honorable Mentions: Cecily Strong, Gail Matthius, Horatio Sanz
None of these cast members (a) ever anchored solo or (b) firmly had a set gig for even a full season. (Strong co-anchored with both Seth Meyer and Colin Jost in 2013-14, but the franchise was clearly in flux the full year before Cecily went back to full-time sketch work.) Thanks for stopping by.
The SNL NewsBreak Crew
Oy, what a mess from Season 7. Let’s see -- it’s Bill’s older brother Brian Doyle-Murray embarrassing himself with Mary Gross for a few months, then Murray solo, then another month with Gross, then teaming up with Christine Ebersole for the season’s remaining shows. When you try everything, it’s because nothing works.
Oh, and they renamed it SNL NewsBreak because “Weekend Update” had been such a bust.
We like Colin Quinn as a funny guy generally and as a stand-up comic specifically, but he was utterly miscast as a news anchor. His guy-next-to-you-on-the-barstool appeal fails him when he can’t read a teleprompter without multiple muck-ups. It’s like he really did have a few pints of Guinness before bumbling behind the desk.
Even Quinn agrees: “I would self-destruct, as you can see if you watch it.”
Like Colin Quinn, the usually reliable Nealon just couldn’t seem to read a joke off the prompter without stumbling through the punchline.
It’s one sentence, but he still manages to mangle it. And yet, he always pulled off the verbal gymnastics of Mr. Subliminal without a hitch. Some guys are just better in character.
Hilarious character actor Guest plays it so straight it's sleepy. If this was the only thing you ever saw him do, you’d never remember you saw him do it. Boring.
Brad Hall earns a spot over Guest by virtue of actually seeming enthusiastic about the gig, but there’s not a lot else to recommend the man who anchored the renamed-for-no-reason Saturday Night News.
Of course, if Hall had it his way, things could have been different. “My brilliant idea was that I should’ve been a real news guy. I should’ve gone out and covered real news stories from the SNL perspective. That’s what I wanted to do. But they were much more keen on doing “President Reagan had his hand stuck to his head today” and show a picture.”
After a burnt-out Lorne Michaels took his original cast and went home in 1980, a new group had the thankless task of replacing the Not Ready for Primetime Players.
The newcomers were mostly devoid of charm, but Charles Rocket stood out for his fratty good looks and Chase-like confidence. As an actual former news anchor, he took to the Update desk easily, providing the flailing show a few moments of cocksure laughter. On his last show, he famously dropped an F-bomb on live television, leading to a firing that was probably coming anyway (most of the rest of the cast was let go at the same time).
Colin Jost and Michael Che
OK, comments section, here’s where you get to heat up.
Jost and Che are a big jump from the Charles Rockets and Brad Halls of the world, but still a notch below the other luminaries on this list. The smartest thing about the pairing is actually acknowledging the pair’s racial dynamic (especially on a show that, historically, was slow to diversify its cast ) and using it to poke fun at Colin Jost’s unbearable whiteness of being.
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (and briefly, Horatio Sanz when Tina was on maternity leave)
Tremendously fun and borderline historic for having two funny ladies anchor the news -- but truth be told, both Fey and Poehler did better Update work with other partners. We should probably move them up a couple of notches for being the Best Golden Globes Hosts Ever.
Plus, Poehler and Fey have been “friends long enough now that she is technically my wife,” says Amy. “Though she’s yet to agree to take my hand in marriage, I think common law now proves that we are technically comedy wives.”
Meyers was so good at the job that Lorne Michaels is basically letting him do it forever at Late Night with Seth Meyers.
What can I tell ya? Miller breathed life back into the Weekend Update franchise after five seasons of it nearly being left for dead. His hip-guy hairdo and smartass sensibility were welcome additions to a show that had gone without a star behind the desk for half a decade.
But truth was, Miller could rush the joke delivery when the laughs weren’t at the ready, babe, and he relied too heavily on erudite references instead of actual punchlines. We’ll give him bonus points for being so easy to imitate, cha-cha.
Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers
Poehler and Meyers #5? Really?
After Tina Fey left, Lorne Michaels knew that “Amy believed in Seth and wanted Seth and was very clear about it. She thought she had a chemistry with Seth, and obviously she did. And they arrived together. Their first show, both of them, was 9/11. So welcome to Saturday Night Live.”
Jane Curtin (with Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray)
How do you replace Chevy Chase, the guy who pretty much invented Weekend Update?
If you’re Jane Curtin, you adopt a chip-on-your-shoulder persona, mirroring the 1970s female journalists who needed to prove they could play with the big boys. It was a brilliant bit of character work in addition to serving as a vehicle to deliver topical jokes. And for Curtin, Update came with the added bonus of not having to compete for sketch minutes.
“Update was my anchor,” says Jane. “Everything else was gravy.” Somehow, she was the perfect counterweight to both Aykroyd’s buttoned-up newshawk and Murray’s stoned party-anchor.
Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey
Fallon and Fey were the only Weekend Update anchors with … can we actually say this? … sexual tension.
Lorne Michaels knew something was up. "The old Hollywood thing was that she gave him sex and he gave her class … the rhythm and timing of that is just a chemistry thing: either it works or it doesn't. We saw the beginnings of that working."
With apologies to Lorne, it appears to us that Tina gave Jimmy both sex and class. And Jimmy gave Tina the gift of cracking up at his own jokes. Either way. Chemistry. They had it. And damn it, it worked.
Chevy Chase, then and now, was a total a-hole to his fellow cast members and the public at large. But if we’re carving a Weekend Update Mount Rushmore, Chase’s smug mug has to be up there. What have become the tropes of Weekend Update -- the smart-ass sign-off, the goofy guests at the desk, the news graphic over the shoulder while the anchor cracks wise -- are all still in place today.
“On ‘Weekend Update,’ I was being a newscaster; I was being Roger Grimsby, actually,” remembers Chase. “You know, it came out of that: ‘Good evening, I’m Roger Grimsby, and here now the news.’ One of the strangest pieces of syntax I’ve ever heard in my life: “And here now the news.” But I knew I should say something. And on the fourth show, it just came out: ‘Good evening. I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not.’ And that was it.”
If a guy basically invents a show segment and it lasts 50 years, give him his props.
More than any other Weekend Update anchor, Norm flew solo. Not nearly so many visiting cast members doing character bits or throwaways to pretaped video segments -- just Norm staring down the camera and telling jokes.
And not just any jokes. There were the ones he clearly did for his own amusement, whether they got a laugh or not. Fore example, you could count on a Frank Stallone punchline almost every week. And it wasn’t all that funny -- until Norm repeated it for about the 15th time.
And then there were the jokes he was expressly forbidden to tell, like the ones about O.J. Simpson, best pal of NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer.
Norm was relentless, displaying a gleam-in-his-eye fearlessness that lands him on top of our list. He was also consistently hilarious, landing punchline after punchline that made his Update one for the ages.
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