Weekend Update has always been one of my favorite parts of Saturday Night Live. When I first started regularly watching SNL the news segment was called “SNL Newsbreak” and was hosted by Brian Doyle-Murray and Mary Gross. This was the era of Rich Hall’s “sniglets” and Tim Kazurinsky’s “Dr. Badofsky.” A lot of puns in those days, but I loved, loved it.
Later “Not Necessarily the News” appeared on HBO but, even though I would not have been able verbalize the concept, I was not a huge fan of their take on the news.
The advent of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” have been dreams come true to me. Political and topical satire are what prompted me to move to Chicago. Heck, “Whirled News Tonight”, a show I created, at ten years is Chicago’s longest running improvised satire. (heck, it’s run non-stop for a decade which may make it Chicago’s longest continuously running improv show.)
Which is all a long way to go to get to this: Dear SNL, it’s been 38 years. Let’s have a minority Weekend Update host.*
Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Charles Rocket, Gail Matthius, Brian Doyle-Murray, Mary Gross, Christine Ebersole, Brad Hall, Christopher Guest, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon, Norm Macdonald, Colin Quinn, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers.
All talented in their own way. Along with the Tiny & Amy years, I particularly enjoyed Norm Macdonald’s acerbic, “I-actually-don’t-care-if-you’re-laughing” attitude (and with hindsight, now knowing about the behind the scenes political machinations, it’s even more entertaining.)
Even though it’s great that Chicago alum, Seth Meyers is the new host of Late Night, a bolder choice of a woman or a minority would have been amazing. Even though minority representation in the sketches (Maya Rudolph, no matter where she is or how pregnant she is, seems to be the ONLY person you think can play women of color) seems mired in the seventies. As a passionate devotee of comedy, as a “superfan” of SNL, it hurts to see white cast members have to play African-American celebrities or to put on “yellow face.” Hell, instead of having an Asian person play a Korean dictator, Amy Poehler played Kim Jong Il.
I’m not suggesting affirmative action for the WU desk. I’m suggesting a wider net. I’m suggesting looking beyond the usual LA/NY/Chicago haunts. Having an anchor who isn’t a white, middle-class comedian might open up the segment; make it smarter and more relevant. But then, that isn’t your job. Your job is to appeal to your demographic and sell more stuff. So let’s look at a networks biggest revenue generator; the morning shows. Every single one of the morning shows are integrated. “CBS This Morning,” “Good Morning, America”, “Today.” All three have African-American, Asian, Hispanic hosts. Sometimes, they even let Al Roker host the entire show. So clearly, America is ready. Are you, SNL?
When Weekend Update first appeared, it was a direct satire on the evening news, but that style of evening news is gone. The Internet and the Daily Show have replaced it. The Caucasian patrician face doling out dry facts is gone. It’s a tired idea. There’s no co-host stepping in now. It’s a new start. Lets try something revolutionary, something new. From its beginning SNL was meant to be an agent of comedic change. Here’s a chance to take a chance. I really hope that the Weekend updates.
“Sometimes the wheel turns slowly, but it turns.” – Lorne Michaels
*- Horatio Sanz did take over for Tina Fey for a few shows while she was on maternity leave but the segment was still called “Weekend Update with Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.” Close. No cigar.