Monday, March 25th, 2013

9 Potential Weekend Update Hosts If Seth Meyers Leaves for 'Late Night'

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.

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  • Ian

    John Mulaney

    • http://www.facebook.com/chrishudson918 Chris Hudson

      No he should replace Fallon on Late Night.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jasonfarr Jason Farr

        Mulaney would be great in either, but the article poses the question as Meyers being on Late Night and the Update desk being vacant. In which case I vote Mulaney, too. It's actually why I scrolled down to comment.

      • BabyBillionaire

        I wish they'd leave Jimmy Fallon alone. All NBC wants is Jay Leno to be gone, but NBC is always dragging someone else in it. Last time it was Conan O'Brien. Jimmy Fallon has a wonderful show of his own and doesn't need to make any changes!

    • http://twitter.com/bradfordevans Bradford Evans

      I mention Mulaney in the intro. He has a sitcom pilot with NBC he created and is starring in along with Martin Short and Elliott Gould. If the network wants to pick it up, I doubt he'd take the Update job over it.

      • Mike

        Why not? I would.

      • http://twitter.com/Bhess Bhess

        Network TV comedies aren't long for this world. It just seems the networks just want reality shows filling up primetime. Cable and streaming services is where good comedy shows are going to have to go. I see 30 Rock lasting as long as it did on network TV as a minor to medium miracle.
        So yes Update looks better than a network sitcom especially when you see them still trying to shove "Whitney" down our throats. I'd rather see Mulaney go to a medium where he can do a good sitcom and present his take on the world. Update is a good fit for him. Mulaney is a talented funny guy and I would just hate to see him forcing it on a ill-conceived sitcom.

  • greystokememphis

    Alec Baldwin.

  • Kevin R.

    Jerrod Carmichael

  • http://www.facebook.com/parmahn Par Mahn

    Jeselnik is supposedly totally after this.

  • HardAsIs

    Jeselnik, as stated, would be great, but he is almost in the Norm MacDonald category. As in, I'm dark, I write my jokes, I don't give a shit if you laugh. I would bet strongly against an outsider, as there is plenty of talent to draw from in house. My vote is for Bayer, or Bayer/Killam. She plays straight incredibly well. Though I would miss the jewish boy that nobody else liked…

  • http://twitter.com/Im_Sean_G Sean Gallagher

    Jeselnik already writes his jokes in the Update style. He would be a good fit, but they won't be able to get him from CC. I don't know of Michael Che or Jae Pharaoh's standup, so I'm gonna check them out on YouTube now…

  • Billy

    Mike O'Brien would be pretty great. Also… very bummed Hannibal's pilot wasn't taken any further. That sounded promising.

    • fakeusername25

      Hannibal is hilarious but his delivery is too sleepy. He doesn't have a huge personality.

  • http://twitter.com/dethbird dethbird

    On this list, I'd vote for Taran Killam & Vanessa Bayer

  • Don Reed

    #2 the guy with the anteater face, Or the ex-Pope. he's now got a lot of time on his hands. Same for Bloomberg, he can buy Funny. Class Act Marion Berry still around, somewhere? Roseann Barr, now there's a fresh talent. Or P.J. O'rourke, just in from writing excrutiating prefaces to books. Anybody but me. I'm busy. Leave me alone. I mean it.

  • Jim

    Have to disagree with one thing: Poehler is great in general but I never liked her on Update. She punched every joke with a satisfied little smirk that just destroyed the straight-man role the anchor is supposed to play.

    • carson1

      I'm amazed to see there is someone else in the world that actually agrees with me about Amy Poehler as a WU anchor. Her two seasons with Tina Fey were especially bad and people really seem to gloss over that fact.

    • Leila

      I see what you mean, but are we going to ignore Meyers' aura of smugness? I haven't been able to stand him as anchor in years.

      • http://www.facebook.com/parmahn Par Mahn

        Update went severely downhill after Amy left.

  • Adelaidey

    Why not Nasim Pedrad?

    • fakeusername25

      No f-cking idea why she's even on SNL. She wasn't even the funniest Kardashian. I thought Abby Elliott was way more talented.

  • George

    Just bring back Norm

  • Future weekend update host

    Bring back Chevy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.martrich Benten Martrich

    dear snl, seth is my favorite anchor yet, mcdonald, nealon, miller, fallon, and chase were all fantastic in that order. there couldn't have been a more perfect anchor for the OJ era than norm it was perfect and i believe meyers is perfect for now and probably the next 5 to ten years but if he leaves it's got to go to O'brien he would be ABSOLUTELY PERFECT for it. and please no adie bryant or tarran killam and bayer that would just be awful. my first three choices would be Obrien, pharoah, and kumail in that order. but in my opinion anybody but Obrien would be a wasted opportunity for someone who you just know has that anchor skill set.

  • vicki

    what about Fred Armisen or Jason Sudeikis? why are they not even in the running? or Keenan? what's up with that?