The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Seth Meyers’ show tonight at the Singletary Center for the Arts got me thinking about Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment, which he now anchors, and how it’s evolved over the years.
When I started watching SNL in the early 1980s, both new episodes and in reruns from the 1970s, the Weekend Update segment was an essential part of the older episodes with anchors like Chevy Chase (I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not), Dan Aykroyd, and Jane Curtin (Jane, you ignorant slut!). Then you had the guests like Gilda Radner’s Roseanne Roseannadanna and Emily Litella (who made “nevermind” a catchphrase years before Nirvana) and Garrett Morris’ interpretation for the hearing impaired (OUR TOP STORY TONIGHT!).
I am trying to remember something from the early 1980s Weekend Updates, but nothing leaps to mind except for the fact that the first post-original cast anchor was Charles Rocket, who’s known for breaking the F-bomb barrier on SNL in 1981. But the Weekend Update segment wandered for years between different anchors, hosts, and names — some hits, many misses — until one man showed up in 1985 and made it essential viewing again: Dennis Miller.
The Weekend Update gig was perfect for Miller, who is witty and well-informed, to crack wise about the news, particularly figures like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker whose televangelical kingdom was crumbling during his reign, the longest of any Weekend Update solo anchor to date. He also had a regular cast of guest characters to play off of, hosting in the era that gave us regulars like Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, and develop signatures including the “That’s the news and I am outta here” sign off he did with a flourish of scribbling. I still think of that moment many times when Jon Stewart bows into The Daily Show with his own take on the scribble.
Miller made the Weekend Update segment matter again, and it pretty much has since his departure in 1991. He was succeeded by anchors such as Norm Macdonald and Kevin Nealon and in the 21st Century a golden series of tandems — Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey, Fey and Amy Poehler, and Poehler and Meyers. Meyers now has the anchor chair to himself, though recent alums make frequent guest appearances including Poehler this weekend.
But that we continue to care about this segment is most attributable to Miller, a guy who re-established the segment and redefined “news anchor hair.”
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich