Long before Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert dominated late-night television with their comedic current events programs, Saturday Night Live offered the Weekend Update to lampoon major news stories. Dating back to the show’s initial season in 1975 (though the segment went under multiple different names from 1980-1985), the Weekend Update is the show’s longest-running segment, making fun of everything from skyrocketing oil and gas prices in the 1970s to…well, skyrocketing oil and gas prices this decade (I guess some things never change). It has also offered a multitude of famous comedians the opportunity to showcase their talents. Many of them went on to successful careers outside the show, which becomes the focus of this article.
Lorne Michaels, the creator of Saturday Night Live, has long been heralded as one of comedy’s most important figures, both because of the show itself and the ways in which its former stars have shaped contemporary comedy. This list, therefore, stands as one of the many testaments to his legacy. It could not exist, however, if the people on this list had not gone on to do some incredible work outside of the show’s confines. From talk shows to television roles to movie stardom, these ten former Weekend Update anchors have left, or are leaving, an indelible mark upon pop culture. No matter what era of Saturday Night Live you prefer (this list includes SNL members from all five decades of the show), or what style of comedy gets you laughing the most, there is likely at least one member of this list who has helped to create something that has made you laugh.
10. Seth Meyers
While Seth Meyers has had small parts in several movies, such as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, New Year’s Eve and Journey to the Center of the Earth, as well as guest appearances on shows like Spin City, The Mindy Project and The Office. However, his greatest talent is as a host. Over eight seasons from 2006-2014, Meyers hosted Weekend Update 154 times, more than anyone else in the show’s history, and served as the show’s head writer.
During his stint on SNL, Meyers branched out to also host the ESPY awards in 2010 and 2011, as well as the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. After making his final appearance on SNL on February 1st, 2014, Meyers made the transition to hosting full-time and debuted his new show, Late Night With Seth Meyers, on February 24th, 2014. While he is also set to host the 2014 Emmy Awards, it is his nascent talk show which will determine his legacy.
9. Kevin Nealon
After a recommendation from Dana Carvey, Michaels hired Nealon for SNL in 1986, where he would continue to perform until exiting the show in 1995. Nealon served as Weekend Update Anchor for three seasons, from 1991-1994, and has since enjoyed a varied and stable career. He starred as one of the main characters on the TV show Weeds from 2005-2012, and voiced the main character of the short-lived animated show Glenn Martin DDS from 2009-2011. His film career has included several appearances in projects starring Adam Sandler or developed by his production company Happy Madison, such as Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Little Nicky, Eight Crazy Nights, Grandma’s Boy and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan. Nealon has also guest starred on many successful shows, including The Larry Sanders Show, 3rd Rock from the Sun and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and wrote a book entitled Yes, You’re Pregnant, But What About Me? about his various experiences during his wife’s pregnancy.
8. Dennis Miller
After serving as Weekend Update anchor from 1985-1991, the longest run of any anchor for the segment before 2000, Miller has gone on to have one of the most diverse careers of any SNL alumni. Miller has developed several famous stand-up comedy routines and hosted several television and radio shows, most notably Dennis Miller Live on HBO from 1994-2002, which won five Emmy Awards, and his current radio show The Dennis Miller Show, which averages well over two million listeners.
Miller was also one of the color commentators on Monday Night Football for two years, and has served as a main contributor on multiple political shows. Known for his dark brand of humor and his libertarian views, Miller can be unpopular with some audiences, but is well loved by many for his various work and has been influential upon subsequent generations.
7. Jane Curtin
Another of SNL’s original cast, and a host of Weekend Update from 1976-1980, Curtin excelled at playing the straight woman to balance out the cast’s more eccentric members, like John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray. After departing from SNL in 1980, Curtin focused on developing a career in television, rather than embarking upon a film career, and the decision paid off. As Allie Lowell on the sitcom Kate and Allie (1984-1989), Curtin won two Emmys for Best Leading Actress in a Comedy. She also later starred as Dr. Mary Albright on 3rd Rock from the Sun from 1996-2001, alongside John Lithgow and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. While she has made some more recent film appearances, such as the role of Paul Rudd‘s mom in the 2009 movie I Love You, Man and the mother of Melissa McCarthy‘s character in the 2013 action-comedy The Heat, her reputation will be defined by her exceptional television performances.
6. Dan Aykroyd
While Aykroyd‘s career has lacked the consistency of others on this list, it is hard to deny the brilliance of his two most iconic films: The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters. In both movies, Aykroyd is often overshadowed by his co-stars (the late great John Belushi and Bill Murray), but it is important to acknowledge that Aykroyd also wrote both movies as well. The two projects have become cultural touchstones, and his importance in creating them alone makes him one of Saturday Night Live’s most successful alumni.
He was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Driving Miss Daisy (1989). Other important projects include his starring role in Trading Places (1983) alongside Eddie Murphy, and appearances in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Canadian Bacon (1994), Tommy Boy (1995), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) and Behind the Candelabra (2013). Some will argue his efforts to create Blues Brothers 2000 and attempts at a third Ghostbusters movie have sullied his reputation, but his earlier work has stood the test of time and will continue to do so for decades more to come.
5. Amy Poehler
Starting her career with Chicago’s influential Upright Citizens’ Brigade improv group, Poehler joined SNL in 2001 and became only the third person, after Eddie Murphy and Harry Shearer, to be promoted to full cast member in their first season on the show. She served as Weekend Update anchor from 2004 until her departure from the show in 2008, and received Emmy nominations for her last two years of work on the show. During her time on SNL, she also held two recurring sitcom roles, the first as an RA on Judd Apatow‘s one-season wonder Undeclared from 2001-2002 (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it) and the second as the wife of Gob Bluth (played by her now ex-husband Will Arnett) on Arrested Development.
After leaving SNL, Poehler co-created, executive produced, wrote and voiced the lead character for the animated show The Mighty B! from 2008-2011, which received six Annie Awards nominations and four Daytime Emmy nominations, winning one. In 2009, Poehler similarly became an executive producer, writer and star on Parks and Recreation. She has won the 2012 Critics’ Choice Award and 2014 Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, and has received four consecutive nominations for the Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy series, as well as nominations from the Emmys and Writer’s Guild of America for her writing on the show. She has also re-joined her former Weekend Anchor host Tina Fey to host the Golden Globes in 2013 and 2014.
4. Jimmy Fallon
The nicest and best liked of television’s current late-night hosts, Fallon‘s earnestness, goofiness and enthusiasm have endeared him to audiences for years. After hosting Weekend Update from 2000-2004, Fallon took over Late Night from Conan O’Brien in 2009 and then moved on to succeed Jay Leno as The Tonight Show host in February 2014. Fallon has greatly expanded his audience through the popularity of his segments on Youtube, such as his lip sync battles, and has enjoyed a successful musical partnership with Questlove and his band The Roots on his shows. With his popularity seemingly still rising, Fallon may soon stand alongside Leno, Letterman and even Johnny Carson as one of the greatest late-night hosts of all time, if he isn’t already.
3. Chevy Chase
The original Weekend Update anchor from 1975-1976, Chase won Emmys for Best Writer and Best Supporting Actor in a Variety or Music series in 1976. Leaving the show after one year, in typical Chevy Chase fashion, Chase started a film career and went on to star in classics like Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Fletch, Three Amigos and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Chase also hosted the Oscars in 1987 and 1988, and had his own short-lived talk show, The Chevy Chase Show, in 1993.
After appearing in three episodes of Chuck’s second season as the villainous Ted Roark, Chase became a series regular on the TV sitcom Community as the rich, bumbling and sometimes offensive Pierce Hawthorne, introducing him to a new generation. Chase left the show during its fourth season, in typical Chevy Chase fashion, upset with how his character had been written and dissatisfied with acting in sitcoms.
2. Tina Fey
A strong candidate as the funniest and most influential woman in comedy today, Tina Fey served as Weekend Update anchor for six seasons from 2000-2006 and won an Emmy for Best Writing in 2002 before departing the show to create her hit sitcom 30 Rock. Running from 2006-2013, the show won the Best Comedy Emmy in three consecutive years from 2007-2009 and was nominated another four straight years from 2010-2013. As the star of the show, alongside Alec Baldwin, and one of the show’s writers, Fey won Emmys for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2008 and Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series in 2008 and 2013, and Best Actress in a TV Comedy awards from the Golden Globes in 2007 and 2008, as well as from the Screen Actors Guild from 2007-2009 and 2012.
Fey is also famous for her impersonations of Sarah Palin in a recurring guest role on SNL in 2008, teaming up with Poehler, who provided a Hilary Clinton impersonation. Fey furthermore wrote and appeared in Mean Girls, and appeared in movies like Baby Mama (with Poehler again), Date Night, Admission and Muppets Most Wanted. Fey and Poehler have also hosted the past two Golden Globe Awards to critical acclaim.
1. Bill Murray
Cast on SNL to replace the departing Chevy Chase, Murray appeared on SNL from 1977-1980, winning an Emmy for Best Writing in 1977. From 1979 to 1993, Murray went on to star in some of the greatest comedy films ever: Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, Tootsie, Ghostbusters, Scrooged, What About Bob? and Groundhog Day. In 1998, his performance in Rushmore won him several awards for Best Supporting Actor and started a fruitful professional relationship with director Wes Anderson. Murray has appeared in all six movies Anderson has since directed. His performance in Lost in Translation also won him a Golden Globe for Best Actor and an Oscar nomination, proving his dramatic abilities. His other recent acting credits range from a hysterical surprise cameo in Zombieland to more dramatic or low-key roles in Broken Flowers, Get Low and The Monuments Men.