On Saturday Night Live, the cast member who anchors Weekend Update has always had a special role to fill on the show. Guaranteed a showcase, they are the one constant in an otherwise ever changing group of sketches.
The originator of the role, Chevy Chase, left after one season to find stardom in movies, setting an example that would be followed going forward: Weekend Update anchors moving on to bigger and better things. You may have heard of Chase's immediate successors — Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd, and Bill Murray — all of whom (along with Chase) continue working regularly in film and television 30-plus years later. But how about everyone else who's held the desk?
THE LOST YEARS
When first Jean Doumanian and then Dick Ebersol took over as executive producer after Lorne Michaels exited the show following the 1979 - '80 season, the segment went through a number of changes, including sometimes being called Newsbreak and Saturday Night News. The most prominent host during the early '80s was Brad Hall — known to most, now, as Julia Louis-Dreyfus' husband — who anchored from 1982 - '84. Many of the other anchors during that time — Charles Rocket, Christine Ebersole, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Mary Gross — did the segment for just a year (or less). Most members of this group have faded into the background, although Rocket, who famously dropped an F-bomb during a SNL sketch, made regular appearances on television and movies (Moonlighting, Dances with Wolves) until his death in 2005. Doyle-Murray (Bill's older brother) and Guest were established character actors before joining the show and didn't miss a beat after leaving. Doyle-Murray has been in everything from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation to ABC's The Middle, usually playing some variation of a blowhard. Guest most famously played the six-fingered Count Rugen in The Princess Bride and earned additional praise for directing ensemble comedies like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show.
THE GOLDEN AGE
Since Michaels took back the reins of SNL in 1985, the format of Weekend Update has remained largely unchanged and the comics that have sat behind the desk have become some of the biggest names in entertainment. But, who's having the best post-SNL career? Starting with the mid '80s, we rank them from worst to best below:
Kevin Nealon (1991 - '94) and Colin Quinn (1998 - 2000)
Most non-hardcore SNL fans would have difficulty remembering anything about either Nealon's or Quinn's stint on Update, so maybe it's not surprising that they've had the least success since leaving the show (although they've still done significantly better than most of the Ebersol folk). Quinn was a stand-up comic before the show and just returned to doing more of the same when he left. He did host a show on Comedy Central for a while, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn. Nealon's biggest success came playing hapless accountant Doug Wilson on Showtime's Weeds. Each is friends with fellow SNL alum Adam Sandler, so Nealon and Quinn also show up occasionally doing cameos in Sandler's films. Lately, we've seen Quinn show up on episodes of Girls as a boss and friend of Alex Karpovsky's character Ray.
Norm Macdonald (1994 - '97)
Like Quinn, Macdonald came to SNL with an established background in stand-up. He had the good fortune to be behind the desk during the O.J. Simpson arrest and trial, which provided endless fodder for the comedian… and possibly led to his dismissal after running afoul of NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer, a friend of Simpson. Macdonald had his own sitcom on ABC for three years (Norm), and keeps a steady schedule of stand-up dates. Besides doing voice-over and commercial work, he's also a frequent guest of Conan O'Brien and, like Quinn and Nealon, has a habit of showing up in movies that Sandler produces.
Seth Meyers (2006 - '14)
Meyers sat behind the Weekend Update desk longer than anyone, and is the only anchor that worked both solo and with a partner. He has only been gone a few months, so it's hard to grade him, but he's off to a rousing start as the host of NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers, maintaining his 30 Rock residence and boss Michaels. We're rooting for you, Seth.
Dennis Miller (1985 - '91)
Miller was the one responsible for returning Update back to something closer to Chase's original version. Unlike most of the others, Miller's sole role on the show was hosting the fake news segment, very rarely taking part in any of the show's sketches. Miller also might be the most controversial of the former anchors. After leaving SNL, he hosted Dennis Miller Live on HBO from 1994 - 2002, winning five Emmys. He also did a disastrous two-season stint as a commentator on ABC's Monday Night Football. After 2001, Miller's political views became increasingly conservative, leading to him to a gig at Fox News with a regular spot on Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor. Since 2007, Miller has also hosted a syndicated radio show. Oddly, when Miller is on vacation his frequent fill-in both on radio and with O'Reilly is Macdonald.
Amy Poehler (2004 - '08)
One of the founders of the influential improv group Upright Citizens Brigade, Poehler joined with Tina Fey to form the first all-female team on Weekend Update, and the two have been joined together ever since. Poehler was such a powerful presence on the show that she managed to make an appearance on the segment by frequent target Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin come off as charming instead of forced. Since SNL, Poehler has starred in the movie Baby Mama and has done the voices for more animated characters than we can count. She also just completed her sixth season starring in NBC's Parks and Recreation. Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2011 and, oh yeah, and she has a little awards show hosting gig that she does with Fey.
Jimmy Fallon (2000 - '04)
Fallon teamed with Fey to turn Update back into a buzz-worthy segment, with the two of them trading quips at which Fallon would frequently crack up. He tried his hand at movies after leaving the show, starring in Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Taxi with Queen Latifah. It was when he returned to television, however, that he really hit his stride. Starting with taking over for O'Brien on Late Night, Fallon has steadily grown into one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry as a late night talk show host. In February, he took over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, moving it back to New York from Los Angeles and earning accolades for his mix of goofy humor, music, and social media interaction.
Tina Fey (2000 - '06)
During her time on SNL, in addition to co-anchoring Update with first Fallon and then Poehler, Fey was the show's first female head writer. While still on the show, Fey wrote the hit teen comedy Mean Girls, and since leaving has starred in a group of comedies, including Baby Mama with Poehler and most recently Muppets Most Wanted. She wrote, produced, and starred in NBC's 30 Rock for seven seasons, and her book Bossypants was number one on the New York Times bestseller list for five weeks. She's won eight Emmys, most recently for her work hosting the Golden Globes with Poehler, and she was the youngest ever recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Dazzlingly smart and funny, it's hard to find many people that can match resumes with Fey.
Shelley Long of Cheers briefly hospitalized
Former Cheers star Shelley Long was released from the hospital on Friday after being treated for a minor drug interaction, The Associated Press reports. Long apparently took an extra dose of a medication prescribed for back pain for an injury that happened on the set of Cheers. "Shelley took an extra pain pill for her back, which she hurt when she fell on the set of Cheers many years ago," said Long's manager Martin Mickelson. "She had a reaction to it ... but she is now home and she is fine." Mickelson denied allegations that the actress, 55, overdosed on painkillers after the end of her 22-year marriage with stockbroker Bruce Tyson. Long, who played the neurotic Diane Chambers on the 1980's hit sitcom Cheers was reportedly hospitalized on Nov. 16.
"Camp Cupcake" inmates enjoy Stewart's company
Looks like prison inmates at the federal corrections camp in Alderson, West Virginia, are pleased to have Martha Stewart as their fellow inmate. According to the Associated Press, inmates are reportedly vying for the attention of the famous homemaker. At mealtime, inmates look forward to the opportunity to eat their meals with Stewart. Carol Gilbert, 57, who is serving time for obstructing the national defense and damaging government property, says that although the setting could be better, eating with Stewart is an enjoyable experience. ("We're not talking about a tea party," said Gilbert's attorney. "We're talking about a big cafeteria setting with terrible food.") Stewart was convicted on obstruction of justice in May and began serving a five-month prison sentence that started Oct. 8. Stewart's publicist was not immediately available for comment.
NBC Sports exec survives jet crash
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and his son survived a corporate jet crash on Sunday morning that left two people dead and his youngest son missing, the AP reports. The jet, carrying six passengers, crashed just after takeoff and burst into flames at the Montrose Regional Airport in southwest Colorado. A witness to the crash said that the cockpit of the plane was ripped off and Charles Ebersol helped his 57-year-old father escape through the front of the plane. The pilot and the flight attendant were killed, Ebersol's youngest son is missing, and three other passengers were left hospitalized in Colorado. Ebersol's wife of 23 years, actress Susan Saint James, was not on the plane. The plane, a a CL-602 Challenger that can hold up to 19 passengers, was registered to Jet Alliance of Melville, N.J., which offered condolences but gave no additional comment. Best known for his work as executive producer of Saturday Night Live in the early 1980's, Ebersol became president of NBC Sports in 1989.
Vibe magazine speaks out about awards show violence
Vibe magazine president Kenard Gibbs addressed the violence that happened at the Vibe Awards recently by stating that this will not stop the show from carrying on next year, Reuters reports. "We're doing the awards show next year," Gibbs said. "If we don't, it will be counter to all the things we have been able to do with the brand and the culture." Young Buck, of the rap group G-Unit, is allegedly responsible for stabbing a man who hit Dr. Dre during the taping of the Vibe awards on Nov. 15; he was released from police custody after making bail. After calling the altercation "sickening," Gibbs said he wonders how much of an impact recent violence at music and sporting events will affect and ultimately label black artists and athletes. "There's a common theme to all this," Gibbs added. "Young black males gone wild. Taking street mentality to resolve conflict and bringing it into entertainment and sports has gone unchecked. All of us within the culture have to look at this and develop some means of accountability." The January edition of Vibe magazine plans to examine not only the awards night incident, but also attitudes within the hip-hop culture that may take some responsibility.
Brits vote Baywatch worst U.S. TV import
California lifeguard show Baywatch topped the charts as the worst U.S. television import in a recent British survey, the AP reports. Ranked as the world's most popular program, Baywatch was aired in over 140 countries between 1989 and 2001. Broadcast magazine's poll of about 20 program buyers for Britain and cable and satellite channels praised the show for being a "series about a muscular lifeguard and his crew of pneumatic young helpers with raging hormones" but criticized the show for scripts "of mind-numbing predictability: beachgoer is saved from drowning." Second "worst" place went to The Anna Nicole Show. On their 25 best U.S. imports list were The Simpsons, Dallas, M*A*S*H and 24.
Former lead singer of Midnight Oil hospitalized
Former lead singer of the band Midnight Oil Peter Garrett was hospitalized after collapsing on the beach in Sydney following a routine morning swim. According to the AP, Garrett was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital from Maroubra beach in Sydney early Saturday morning. After undergoing tests to determine why he collapsed, the singer was released from the hospital on Saturday night. Garrett, 51, has no history or medical problems and appears to very healthy and fit. "It's good to be back on my feet again," said Garrett. The former rock star was elected in October as a lawmaker with the opposition Labor Party.
Unpaid royalties to be addressed for Pink Floyd song
A group of 23 former London schoolchildren are asking to be compensated for lending their vocal tracks to Pink Floyd's 1979 classic album Another Brick in the Wall. The teenage students are now asking for compensation for singing the anthem "We don't need no education." After deeming the lyrics "scandalous," the Islington Green School students were not allowed to appear on television, making it harder for them to have proof that their voices were those heard in the famous song. The album sold over 12 million copies and the single became a number one hit in Britain and America. The school was paid about 1,000 pounds ($1,860) and was later given a platinum record of the song, but the students were never given individual compensation for their work. If the application for royalties is considered, the music royalties society will be responsible for paying each person involved about 200 pounds. Pink Floyd will not be responsible for the money.