When Saturday Night Live announced that Colin Jost would replace the departing Seth Meyers as Cecily Strong’s co-anchor of Weekend Update, the news was met with a giant, “Huh?” It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with Jost — along with Meyer he was one of SNL’s head writers and he’s a funny follow on Twitter — but the show already has 16 other cast members. Did anyone not already performing on the show really need to be brought in?
In short, no. While some cast members like Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer already have Weekend Update roles with recurring characters, there are plenty of others that deserved a shot at joining Strong behind the desk. These five would’ve made more sense than moving Jost over from the writer’s room.
There’s never been a minority cast member that has anchored Update. Pharaoah’s Shaquille O’Neal impression has been put to good use during Update appearances, but it is also entirely expendable. Having Pharoah do his take of African-American broadcasters like Bryant Gumbel or Lester Holt set against Strong’s Midwesterner would’ve provided a completely new dynamic for a segment that’s been around for nearly 40 years.
Wheelan comes from a background in stand-up comedy and so far the SNL writers haven’t shown that they know what to do with him. Dennis Miller, Norm MacDonald and Colin Quinn were all stand-up comedians that didn’t look right anywhere on the show but behind the Update desk, so there would’ve been precedent. The one time that Wheelan has looked comfortable this year was on Update doing a routine instead of a character.
Bennett has already shown that he can milk comedy out of a serious persona — it’s the basis of his well known AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” Ads. Putting Bennett with Strong might have allowed for the kind of disdainful byplay that Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin used in the 1970s to keep the Update segment popular (and from disappearing) after Chevy Chase left. A little tension on Update isn’t a bad thing.
Other than hiring Zamata, the show hasn’t done anything with its lone African-American female. Pairing Strong and Zamata together would’ve been even more groundbreaking for the show than if Pharoah had been given a shot. We haven’t seen Zamata interact with the other cast members enough yet to know about chemistry, but the dual female anchors could’ve become Tina & Amy 2.0.
Mooney’s main contribution to the show since joining the cast has been doing digital shorts with his fellow Good Neighbor alum Bennett. The shorts have typically been more odd than the standard SNL fare which seems to come directly from Mooney. Strong has shown that she’s adept at doing the straight Update news jokes, but having Mooney’s looniness around to counter that might have been fun.