Michael Che’s rapid ascent through late night comedy has taken a strange and outstanding turn as it was announced that the comic, who had vacated the Saturday Night Live writer’s room for an on-camera position as a correspondent for The Daily Show at the end of April, was returning to NBC’s sketch comedy stalwart to take over one of the chairs behind the Weekend Update desk.
As you read the headline on this article your mind may have naturally gone to a place of, “Aw, buck up Colin Jost, you’ve got great hair and a quick wit – things will pick up for you.” But it’s actually not a “last in, first out” situation for the co-head writer and relative Update newbie. Cecily Strong is the one that will step aside to make way for Che’s hire, but it seems as though she’s kind of okay with it. It also seems like the current combination wasn’t working, at least according to Lorne Michaels.
In a report by The New York Times, Michaels is quoted as saying that the Strong/Jost combination “struggled to find an identity last season […] because what had come before had been pretty brilliant.” It’s unclear if Michaels was referring to both Seth Meyers’ solo run at the desk and his half-season team-up with Strong, or only Meyers’ presence.
Initially, we were a little cool to Jost’s arrival as Meyers’ replacement, partially because we wanted to see Strong put her own solo mark on the segment, but by season’s end, Jost and Strong seemed as if they were working well together. I’m prepared to concede that Lorne Michaels might know more than me about these things, though.
The truth is, Jost and Strong were a solid but probably unspectacular pair and Michaels apparently tested quite a few combinations (I hope one was Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney and that it was incredibly strange and eventually YouTube-able) to top that result, and he was high on the chemistry that Che and Jost had in the writer’s room last year and in their ability to replicate that at the Update desk.
After working with Che and observing his work as a stand-up and on The Daily Show, Michaels also likely recognizes that he brings an explosive wit to the table and the capacity to spark buzz like he did in his very brief time on The Daily Show.
Che is also a historic choice in that he is the first African American to host Weekend Update in this, Saturday Night Live‘s 40th season. Che and Jost are also the first dual male anchor team in the show’s long history – hark, another barrier broken.
As for Strong, she apparently wanted a chance to be in more sketches (and that’s a win for fans of the show), so that pacifies the anger over her exit as much as the fact that she will now be free to once again bring some of her original characters to Update on occasion.
With that said, in that Chelsea Handler is on an extended sabbatical from late night, Strong was set to be the most prominent woman in late night television thanks to her seat at the Update desk. After the game of musical chairs that we’ve just experienced with several late night hosts changing networks and a couple of new (male) faces joining the game, it might be hard to see an opportunity to correct that disparity anytime in the near future.
Currently, it’s not known if Che will also contribute to Saturday Night Live as a full-time writer again or if he will do more than appear in Weekend Update.
We also still don’t know about Saturday Night Live‘s full cast for this season, but theories about this being a season of “addition by subtraction” following the loss of Nasim Pedrad and the firings of John Milhiser, Noël Wells and Brooks Wheelan appear to be as worthless as Michael Che’s Daily Show security pass thanks to a revelation by Michaels that he would “probably” add “one or two” more people to the cast. Look at how he plays with the lives of young comedians, so non-committal, they’re like bits of string.
In celebration of Saturday Night Live‘s 40th, Michaels also revealed that NBC would air one episode from each year of the show’s historic run at 10pm on Saturday nights instead of airing a repeat of the most recent episode. But these episodes will be edited down from 90 minutes to 60 (musical performances included).
Which is a shame because, while it’s become commonplace to remember Saturday Night Live‘s finest moments thanks to sanitized reruns and “Best of” specials, there’s a lot that can be learned and loved from seeing some of the sketches that failed to hit the mark. I suppose we’ll just have to settle for the “Classic” episode that airs later this year from the moribund 6th season.
Saturday Night Live returns to NBC for its 40th season on Saturday, September 27th @11:35pm.
Source: NY Times