The NY Post reported last week that Seth Meyers is producer Lorne Michaels’s top pick to take over NBC’s long-running 12:35am talk show Late Night after current host Jimmy Fallon takes over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, which is expected to happen next year, but who will get Meyers’s Weekend Update job if this happens?
The Weekend Update hosting job is one of the most coveted in all of comedy, made all the more apparent by Anthony Jeselnik publicly saying he “would throw everything away to be the Weekend Update anchor,” despite having his own Comedy Central show. There are a variety of reasons Jeselnik didn’t make this list of potential Seth Meyers successors (mainly that his delivery and persona are too dark for the job and that Comedy Central probably wouldn’t let him go), but it’s understandable why he’d want to anchor Update so badly. The last three people to leave the Update desk — Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jimmy Fallon — all saw their fame increase after taking over Weekend Update, resulting in each of them being given their own NBC series. Seth Meyers, Weekend Update’s longest-serving host ever with seven seasons, is poised to join them too, if this Post story turns out to be true.
With Meyers’s exit unconfirmed at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a clear frontrunner for his seat behind the Weekend Update desk. SNL writer/producer John Mulaney, who was given two chances to do commentary pieces as himself on Update in 2010, would have easily been the top contender a couple years ago - or six months ago even. Not so much now that the Lorne Michaels-produced NBC pilot he wrote and is starring in landed Martin Short and Elliott Gould as cast members, making it a top contender for a spot on NBC’s barren fall schedule. Lorne Michaels has typically hired from within when selecting Weekend Update anchors, choosing cast members – or in the instance of Tina Fey, a writer – as anchors rather than picking outsiders. With the current cast lacking in stand-up/straight man types who normally anchor Update and full of performers who have beloved Update characters they’d have to say goodbye to if they got the position, nobody jumps out as an obvious choice – although Amy Poehler probably didn’t seem like the right fit for the segment back in 2004 but turned out great. Let’s take a look at some possible new Weekend Update hosts:
1. Jay Pharoah
Ever since Dennis Miller took the reins of the segment in the 1980s, Weekend Update has more often than not featured a stand-up comedian as a host. As the only stand-up in the show’s cast besides current Update host Seth Meyers, Jay Pharoah has an advantage over everyone else in that he’s already experienced at directly addressing audiences at himself and rattling off set-up/punchline-style jokes. If Pharoah did land the Update position, he’d have a lot on his plate since he’d be the first cast member to serve as both Weekend Update anchor and play the president since Dan Aykroyd did it in 1978.
2. Michael Patrick O’Brien
After spending three years writing for SNL, Tina Fey became one of the most successful Weekend Update anchors and cast members ever when she was made a featured player to co-host the segment in 2000. As far as the current crop of SNL writers goes, Michael Patrick O’Brien has the most on-camera experience and would be a strong pick for the Update desk. O’Brien has been writing for the show since 2009 and has been used as an actor on SNL in small (usually non-speaking) parts, and he’s also hosted the popular web series 7 Minutes in Heaven, where he’s shown he definitely has the charisma and quick-wittedness a good Weekend Update host needs.
3. Aidy Bryant
With a lot of SNL’s cast having been around for more than seven seasons (Armisen, Hader, Meyers, Sudeikis, Thompson), which is when SNL contracts run up and people usually leave, the producers would probably give Update to somebody newer to the show. Aidy Bryant joined the show’s cast in the fall and has so far been underused, but she’s demonstrated she’s a solid reactor and straight man, which are great things to have in her toolbelt for a job that would see her dealing with a lot of wacky weirdo Update guests.
4. Hannibal Buress
A popular stand-up comedian and one with ties to Lorne Michaels’s Broadway Video empire, Hannibal Buress spent the 2009-10 season writing for SNL and the following year writing for 30 Rock. Buress’s deadpan demeanor is perfect for straight-manning absurd Update guests. The only issue here is whether SNL producers would bring in a former staffer rather than promoting from within ranks. The ABC pilot Hannibal Buress wrote and was set to star in as a small-town cop didn’t get greenlit, so he’s free to take the Update job - if he doesn’t get cast in a big TV pilot, that is.
5. Colin Jost
Colin Jost has been writing for SNL since 2005 and was promoted to co-head writer (alongside Seth Meyers) at the start of the current season. He’s also been touring as a stand-up with Meyers lately and done stand-up on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, so he’s in the fold and a definite contender for this job.
6. Kumail Nanjiani
The biggest longshot on this list because he has never been as a full-time staffer on SNL, stand-up Kumail Nanjiani did, however, serve as a guest writer last season after producers liked his audition to be a cast member. He’s also acted in Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s Lorne Michaels-produced series Portlandia, so he definitely has his foot in the door. He may just be too bust to take the job, though, with a regular role on TNT’s Franklin & Bash and a whopping three pilots in development: a Craig Robinson/Greg Daniels pilot for NBC, Mike Judge’s HBO pilot Silicon Valley, and one for Comedy Central based on his and Jonah Ray’s popular LA stand-up show The Meltdown.
7. Michael Che
A fast-rising New York-based stand-up, Michael Che spent two weeks as a guest writer for SNL earlier this month. He even managed to get a sketch on the air - the She’s Got a Dick romantic comedy trailer from the Timberlake episode - which is something new writers for the show often spend an entire season trying to do. Michael Che landing the Weekend Update job would certainly cap off an absurdly impressive year in the comedian’s life that has seen him win the New York’s Funniest Stand-Up Competition, make his Letterman debut, be the subject of a New York Times profile, become a regular on VH1’s Best Week Ever, and rank first amongst NYC comedians in a survey we at Splitsider conducted with stand-up bookers and hosts last month.
8/9. Taran Killam & Vanessa Bayer
For the better part of the past decade, Weekend Update has been anchored by cast member duos, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if SNL went with two hosts instead of one when Seth Meyers eventually steps down. As far as Update pairings are concerned, Taran Killam and Vanessa Bayer would be an excellent pick. They joined the cast together at the start of the 2010 season, have demonstrated great chemistry together onscreen, and have become two of the strongest newer cast members. The only issue is they wouldn’t be able to do anymore desk pieces if they were Weekend Update anchors.