The Evolution of SNL's Weekend Update
Ron Seifried | On 28, Feb 2014
A successful franchise within a franchise is very rare. Saturday Night Live is in the middle of its 39th season, and only one recurring skit has continued almost unchanged since its premiere: Weekend Update. The news piece usually appears after the first musical performance, delivering satire from either one or two anchors. Over the years, anchors stayed on for a short period or over the course of several years.
In all, there have been 32 anchors, including the upcoming premiere of Colin Jost on March 1.
Season 1-2 (1975–1976)
Introduction: “I’m Chevy Chase and you’re not.”
Regular contributors: Garrett Morris as the hearing impaired interpreter; Gilda Radner as Emily Litella
Infamous quotes: “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead”
Sign-off: “That’s the news. Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.”
Chase and writer Herb Sargent created Weekend Update, which premiered on the very first episode on October 11, 1975. When Update segments began, Chase would be on the phone lost in conversation with his girlfriend discussing a intimate moment they had together when he realized they were on-air.
Season 2 (1976–1977)
Although Chase began the season behind the anchor desk, he missed a couple of episodes due to an injury on set and was replaced by Curtain. By mid-November, Chase left SNL to make movies, and Curtain was the sole anchor for the remainder of the season. Buck Henry co-hosted Update on the prime-time Mardi Gras special.
Season 3 (1977–1978)
Jane Curtin & Dan Aykroyd
Seasons 4–5 (1978–1980)
Jane Curtin & Bill Murray
Introduction: “Here now the news.”
Regular contributors: John Belushi as the frenzied commentator ending with “But Noooooo….”; Garrett Morris as Chico Escuela; Gilda Radner as Emily Litella and Roseanne Roseannadanna; Don Novella as Father Guido Sarducci
Infamous quotes: “Jane, you ignorant slut”; “Dan, you pompous ass”
Regular bits: “Point/Counterpoint”
Sign-off : “That’s the news. Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow.
Season 6 (1980–1981)
Sign-off: “Good night and watch out.”
The ill-fated sixth season, and the first without the original cast and Producer Lorne Michaels, “Weekend Update” went through several changes, including rebranded “Saturday Night NewsLine” and “SNL NewsBreak.” Charles Rocket handled most of the season, but he was fired along most of the cast before the season finale, leaving host Chevy Chase to close out the year. Several co-hosts appeared alongside Rocket, including Gail Matthius, Jonathan Lear and Bill Murray.
Season 7 (1981–1982)
Brian Doyle-Murray & Mary Gross
Sign-off: “Goodnight, and good news.”
Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill’s brother) handled most of the reporting, but was joined by Mary Gross and Christine Ebersole for a few episodes. Murray was the only writer carried over from the first five seasons and one of the only writer/performers to work for all three Executive Producers: Lorne Michaels, Jean Doumanian and Dick Ebersol.
Season 8 (1982–1983)
Regular contributors: Joe Piscopo as the Sports reporter; Tim Kazurinsky as science editor Dr. Jack Badofsky
Season 9 (1983–1984)
Brad Hall stayed behind the anchor desk for half the season, before being replaced by a series of hosts, including Don Rickles, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal (as Fernando), Edwin Newman, Michael Douglas, George McGovern and cast member Joe Piscopo.
Season 10 (1984–1985)
Despite the abundance of talent in Season 10, the formula continued from the second half of Season 9 with a series of hosts sitting behind the desk. Cast member Christopher Guest was the anchor for over 4 months.
Guest anchors included Billy Crystal (as Fernando), Bob Uecker, Jesse Jackson, Edwin Newman, George Carlin and Ed Asner
Seasons 11–16 (1985–1991)
Introduction: “Good evening, and what can I tell ya?”
Sign-off: “Guess what, folks? That’s the news, and I am outta here!”
Season 11 saw the return of series creator Lorne Michaels after a 5 year exile, and it also started a formula that continues to this day: a regular news anchor.
Seasons 17–19 (1991–1994)
Regular contributors: Adam Sandler as Operaman and Cajun Man; Chris Farley as Bennett Brauer.
Regular bits: At times, Nealon would switch over to “Mr. Subliminal.”
Sign-off: “I’m Kevin Nealon, and that’s news to me”.
Seasons 20–22 (1994–1997)
Introduction: “I’m Norm Macdonald, and now the fake news”.
Infamous quotes: “..which once again proves my theory, Germans love David Hasselhoff.”
Regular bits: Punchlines involving Frank Stallone and O.J. Simpson; after reading a story, Macdonald would take out a portable tape recorder and record a “note to self” after reading a news story.
Sign-off: “And that’s the way it is”
Writer Al Franken, who was with SNL for almost 20 years, lobbied to replace Nealon, but left the show after losing the spot Macdonald. Chevy Chase said that Macdonald was “the only other guy who did funny.”
Season 23 (1997–1998)
Season 23 witnessed the most controversial story to come out of “Weekend Update,” the firing of Norm Macdonald. For most of his tenure, the murder trial of O.J. Simpson was constantly in the news. One line Macdonald delivered: “A down-and-out O.J. Simpson…has decided to go back to doing what he does best: Killing people.”
It was jokes like these that offended Simpson pal and NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer. By December 1997, Macdonald was forced out despite the efforts of Executive Producer Lorne Michaels, and was replaced by Colin Quinn.
Seasons 24–25 (1998–2000)
Sign-off: “I’m Colin Quinn, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Quinn was in a thankless position replacing fan favorite Macdonald, and he performed well. On his first episode as anchor, he opened with a monologue, saying “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 continued to deliver the unorthodox pre-desk monologue for one year.
Seasons 26–29 (2000–2004)
Jimmy Fallon & Tina Fey
Regular contributors: Chris Kattan in “Terrible Reenactments”, a bit with bad reenactments of news stories; Jeff Richards as “Drunk Girl.”
Regular bits: The start of the “update door” segment that continues to this day; celebrity cameos and assorted SNL cast members delivering commentaries.
Sign-off: Fallon threw his pencil at the camera and cheering if he managed to hit it. Fey returned to the show’s roots, reprising Chase & Curtin’s “Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow”.
Season 30 – 31 (2004–2006)
Tina Fey & Amy Poehler
Fallon departs and for the first and so far, only time, “Weekend Update” has an all-female news team. Horatio Sanz briefly filled in during Tina Fey’s pregnancy early in Season 31, even wearing a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. Fey returned in October 2005.
Seasons 32–33 (2006–2008)
Amy Poehler & Seth Meyers
Regular bits: “Really!?! with Seth and Amy”
During Season 33, Chevy Chase returned as “Senior Political Correspondent” and Tina Fey as “Special Women’s News Correspondent,” both for only one-time cameos.
Season 34 (2008–2009)
Amy Poehler & Seth Meyers
Early in Season 34, Poehler leaves the show because of her pregnancy, leaving Seth Meyers as the sole anchor for the next few seasons. Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin also appeared on “Weekend Update” when she hosted the show during the 2008 Presidential campaign and ended Update with the traditional “Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow,” since Poehler left her place to perform a “Sarah Palin rap.”
Seasons 35–38 (2009–2013)
Regular contributors: Bobby Moynihan as The Jersey Shore’s Snooki; Bill Hader as Stefon; Fred Armisen as New York Governor David Paterson; Cecily Strong as “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party.”
Regular bits: “Really!?! with Seth”
Sign-off: “For Weekend Update, I’m Seth Meyers! Good night!”
When Jimmy Fallon hosted in 2011, a few of the ex-anchors returned for a “Weekend Update Joke-Off,” including Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
It was during this period that SNL had its only semi-regular television spin-off, “Weekend Update Thursday,” a 30 minute broadcast anchored by Myers during the Presidential election cycle. Amy Poehler co-hosted a couple of these episodes.
Season 39 (2013-2014)
Seth Meyers & Cecily Strong
Colin Jost & Cecily Strong
Sign-off: “For Weekend Update, I’m Seth Meyers!” “And I’m Cecily Strong, goodnight!” with fist bump and blowing kisses to the audience.
Midway through Season 39, Seth Myers left the show to replace Jimmy Fallon as the host of “The Late Show.”
On Meyers’ final episode he was joined at the Update desk by Strong, Poehler, Bill Hader as Stefon, Andy Samberg, and Fred Armisen as Governor David Paterson.