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Top 10 SNL Weekend Update Anchors
2007-07-06 13:56
by Scott Long
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.
  1. Dennis Miller- Might be a douchebag, but is the gold standard for this job. His ascerbic style and arcane references brought a new type of intelligence to topical humor. The Daily Show was built off of the blueprint left by Miller. Plus, A. Whitney Brown was a commentator during Miller time. Makes you wonder why SNL doesn't hire some political comic to bring some intelligence to the Update today.
  2. Norm Macdonald- During his peak was the funniest anchor in SNL history. I can't think of a more polarizing figure in comedy, as you either love or hate his deadpan delivery and eclectic material. Frank Stallone and David Hasselhoff were beautiful names in Macdonald's world, while CRACKWHORE turned out to be the funniest punchline to any joke. His jokes on O.J. Simpson were enough to put him 2nd of this list. "O.J. Simpson did not spend Mothers Day with his children. When asked about it he replied, 'Duh! Because I killed their mother!"

     

     

  3. Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin- The best parody of a actual local television newscast, only if the anchors were smart. The dislike that they portrayed towards each other was brilliant, especially during their point/counterpoint segments.
  4. Bill Murray and Jane Curtin- Murray took over the gig and by 1979 was basically carrying the show, much like Eddie Murphy and Will Ferrell did later on. It was here that the true Murray personality came out for the first time on television. A who gives a shit attitude done with impeccable timing.
  5. Chevy Chase- If he would have done the show longer than 1 year, he might have moved up here, but still his goofy charm really cemented the Weekend Update segment as a permanent part of the show. While he played like he was stupid, what Chase said was much smarter than what it appeared like on the surface.
  6. Kevin Nealon- His sarcastic tone can be hard to get into sometime, but the Updates were generally good when he was doing them, partially because of great guest segments by Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, and Chris Rock.
  7. Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers- I think Meyers has brought a much needed realism to the show, as under Tina Fey SNL was often too high concept for my liking. When Poehler finishes up, her Best of Saturday Night Live DVD will be the top compliation by any female cast member during the show's history.
  8. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler- Fey has that sexy librarian charm that makes all the boys who like Suicidegirls go crazy. She and Poehler were very good together, but as a man I will admit I need a little male perspective in my politcal comedy. The segments seemed too Liberal in their targets.
  9. Charles Rocket- The show was terrible during the season of 1980-1981, but I can remember thinking Rocket was good. He ended up saying Fuck during one sketch, which got him booted from the show. His post-SNL career was spotty, but was very good playing Bruce Willis' brother on Moonlighting.
  10. Colin Quinn- New York comic friend's of mine were raving about Quinn since the mid-90's, telling me how great of a stand-up he was. I've never quite understood why they were such big fans, but I do think Quinn is a smart, funny guy. He was pretty bad as a SNL anchor, as he seems to have a hard time stringing a few sentences together without stammering. I think Quinn is at his best when he is a guest on a radio show, not hosting a show. If Greg Giraldo would have been hosting Tough Crowd on Comedy Central, it might still be on. Speaking of Giraldo, he would be a great host for Weekend Update.

Those Not Ranked

I really don't remember the tenures of Brian Doyle-Murray or Brad Hall, but I do know they never annoyed me. Of everyone on this list, the only person that has ever sat in the SNL anchor chair who came off like the job was intellectually above them was Jimmy Fallon. When you are most worried about getting teenage girls to make your advertisers happy, Fallon seems like an inspired choice. Considering the storied history of the segment, I think the show should strive for more than this, though. I think the current team of Meyers and Poehler are the best the Weekend Update segment has been during the past 10 years.

Comments
2007-07-06 15:14:51
1.   Bluebleeder87
my top 3

1)Tina Fey - great timing great jokes very smart, very hot.

2)Norm McDonald - for the reasons you stated

3)Dennis Miller - i'm to young to remember him but i'v seen re-peats of him & he seems pretty funny as the anchor man of SNL.

2007-07-06 15:30:32
2.   confucius
You pretty much nailed it with this list. I might swap Miller and Macdonald, though. Jimmy Fallon is having a rough week on The Juice Blog.
2007-07-06 15:47:26
3.   trainwreck
Norm MacDonald is my favorite and I do not even have a number 2.
2007-07-06 18:03:06
4.   joejoejoe
Norm Macdonald is my favorite by a mile. When you say he is polarizing do you mean among fans or among fellow comics? I know he was kind of apart from the cast in his time on the show. I like Norm's Burt Reynolds on Jeopardy too. It was so bad it was good.

Gilda Radner as Emily Litella was my favorite running segment on Weekend Update.

2007-07-06 18:11:31
5.   Suffering Bruin
With all due respect, Kevin Nealon is ranked way, way too high. Yeah, I know, everybody's got opinions but he had a helluva time just reading the prompter. Great guy and all but he was badly miscast and suffered terribly in comparison to Miller.

These are fun topics, by the by.

2007-07-06 20:15:54
6.   jgpyke
Watching that Seinfeld doc, "Comedian," gave me a new respect for Colin Quinn and helped me understand why so many in the biz speak well of him. It seems there couldn't be a nicer guy. And that goes a long way in this world, IMO.
2007-07-06 20:41:09
7.   Schteeve
I'd flip Norm and Miller as well, but without Miller there might not have been a Norm.

Miller was like a rockstar for a short time, with the hair, and the insouciance, and the literal sign off. He was a bad ass.

Norm in my opinion was the ballsiest of any of them. And ballsy goes a long way with me.

2007-07-06 20:45:23
8.   Schteeve
These topics are great, much more entertaining than discussing the Yankees inability to find a back up catcher.

One final thought regarding pop culture and Dennis Miller.

I've often thought that there should be a coffe table book called "Shoulda Died Young"

and it would just be pictures of people in their hey day and then in their later years. Like...Axl Rose would be on page 1 and 2. You get the idea.

The book would be devoted to people whose artistic greatness was in large part thanks to their freshness, or youthful audacity. Audacity doesn't generally age well.

Sometimes I think Miller belongs on the Shoulda Died Young list. But I enjoyed him on MNF so, maybe not.

2007-07-06 21:28:42
9.   confucius
8 I think you've got a great idea. Although, Dennis Miller has become so entrenched in Politics I think people forget how funny he use to be. So he should still be in that book despite his MNF mixed reviews.
2007-07-06 22:08:19
10.   bartap74
I move Tina Fey way up the list, for the reasons listed above, and because I'm probably a little too liberal for your tastes.

As for the best female cast member on SNL, I've still gotta go with Gilda Radner.

2007-07-06 22:59:20
11.   Cliff Corcoran
I'd invert the order of 6, 7, and 8. I might even rank Fey-Fallon above Nealon at #8 (I just happen to be a huge Tina Fey fan--30 Rock is just brilliant). Otherwise, works for me.

Best bit by the current Poehler-Myers duo is their "Really" segment (as in, "So Michael Vick, you decided to hide your weed, which is not allowed on a plane, inside your water bottle, which is also not allowed on a plane. Really.")

2007-07-07 03:06:59
12.   overkill94
I'll admit to not having seen all of the permutations you list here, but I don't see how I could have anyone else #1 besides Norm MacDonald. His deadpan humor can raise a crappy movie like Dirty Work into enjoyable territory, so using that talent to read the news is a match made in heaven.

I'd put Fallon and Fey higher as well, but I have already witnessed your Fallon hatred in the other thread about him. I'm not sure what your obsession is with the teeny-bopper thing - it never even crossed my mind while watching him, whether it's what the producers were trying to do or not.

2007-07-07 03:09:08
13.   overkill94
11 I'm not sure if David Spade ripped it off for his Showbiz Show or not, but he does a similar bit while doing his news segments.

For example, one snippet went "Avril Lavigne now has the #1 album on the charts in Japan. Really, Japan? Really?" In either case, it's a funny bit.

2007-07-07 08:21:22
14.   Scott Long
Spade's show is really funny. Don't know where the origins of the bit comes from.

I wrote that Macdonald at his peak was the best. I give Miller the overall nod, as he was the one who made Update so special, plus did it for a longer time. Norm was more hit or miss. His best though, was better than I've seen anyone else.

Fallon is an air-head. I have no problem with someone doing entertainment news that way, but to make jokes about politicians that you know were written all by other writers doesn't work for me. Kind of like some of the cable news readers that you know are just bimbos reading a teleprompter. Like them or not, anyone hosting a cable news show has to have a decent grasp of the world or they would completely fall flat.

Name me another former SNL alum who had multiple chances in movies and didn't score with any one of their starring roles? I might be wrong, but I can't think of anyone who fits Fallon's type.

One thing I will give credit to Fey and Fallon for. When they were doing the news, 9/11 happened, which took away some of the stuff they could do for awhile. With this put in the mix, I might place them 8 or 9.

2007-07-07 11:54:44
15.   overkill94
14 It seems to me that recent SNL alums have had a hard time achieving success in movies. Even with has talent, Chris Farley had a pretty sub-par movie career. Rob Schneider? Dana Carvey? Chris Rock even?

Sandler, Myers, and Ferrell have all had a ton of success, but it seems that a lot of the others have had to settle for smaller roles in their buddies' movies.

2007-07-07 14:32:59
16.   gophersw
I realize that Farley's movies weren't masterpieces, but sub-par movie career? Tommy Boy is on a very short list of movies that, if I'm flipping through channels and see it is on, I know that I'm going to be sitting and watching it the rest of the way. Black Sheep and Beverly Hills Ninja? Hilarious. Farley would still be making the exact same types of movies if he were alive today, and he'd still find some way to make them funny despite every film having the same basic 'fat slob slacker gets in zany capers' premise.

And I have to agree, Norm Macdonald was by far my favorite anchor. What the hell has happened to him, what does he do these days?

2007-07-07 15:57:55
17.   kylepetterson
16 He mows my lawn. Does a half-assed job.
2007-07-07 16:42:05
18.   Scott Long
Tommy Boy would be on my 50 best comedy list.

Dana Carvey was the co-star of Wayne's World. He was one of the greatest performers on SNL.

Deuce Bigalow and The Animal are pretty funny movies, granted that they appeal to my 12 year old mind. Rob Schneider understands his strengths.

Chris Rock didn't get his movie starring roles from SNL. He earned the opportunity from being one of the greatest standups of all-time. I've never really liked him in movies, as it's hard for him to be anyone but himself, in my eyes.

2007-07-07 16:43:16
19.   Scott Long
From what I know about Norm, he has enough money to concentrate on his passion in life. Gambling.
2007-07-08 00:33:34
20.   das411
Scott, I totally agree with your top 3 here, but the two-women pair ranked above both Colin Quinn AND The Horatio Sanz Experience??

16 - Don't forget Farley's cameos as two (I think?) different characters in both Wayne's World movies.

and why exactly do people find Amy Poehler funny again? Could someone...please explain? ;)

2007-07-08 05:32:43
21.   overkill94
18 You guys are focusing on their minimal success while omitting their many misses.

Chris Farley - Tommy Boy is awesome, one of my favorite comedies of all time and Black Sheep is okay, but Almost Heroes and Beverly Hills Ninja were terrible.

Dana Carvey - Wayne's World is also awesome, but you can't really count that one since it was based on an SNL sketch. Clean Slate, Master of Disguise, and Trapped in Paradise? Ugh.

Rob Schneider - Deuce Bigalow is one of my guilty pleasures, but The Hot Chick? The Animal? The Benchwarmers? The 2nd Deuce Bigalow movie?

Jimmy Fallon - I didn't realize it, but he's only had a starring role in two movies. Two. Fever Pitch, which I love, and The Taxi (which I happen to be watching right now since it's the only TV program in English in Italy right) which is probably terrible. A 50% success rate is pretty amazing if you ask me. Any way you slice it though, 2 movies isn't nearly enough to start passing judgement on someone's movie career though.

2007-07-08 13:03:25
22.   gophersw
I suppose I just think Farley so funny that I could probably watch a video about him beating up my grandmother and find it hard to suppress a chuckle.

I don't think anything Schneider has done outside of cameo roles as been very good.

I watched Taxi b/c it was free on our provider for awhile, and it was painfully bad. I'll have to see Fever Pitch all the way through -- I have only seen about 45 minutes of it, but that isn't enough to judge.

2007-07-09 06:55:50
23.   JasonO
Long, Quinn is way higher than 10, and I disagree that Giraldo would have been a better host of Tough Crowd. btw, how in the hell is Quinn not a cast member on Denis Leary's funny show Rescue Me?

Also, your next top 10 should be funniest moments in SNL history...and #1 better be Jackie Rogers Jr.'s 100K celebrity jackpot wad with Guest's delivery of the Chocolate Babies line to Crystal as Sammy Davis Jr...possibly the funniest skit in the history of American TV.

2007-07-09 08:05:35
24.   Mike J
I thought Fallon was funny in a small role in Almost Famous. You can't really knock his movie career too much, though. Like 21 said, he's only really starred in two movies and one of them was OK. I just think that your blind hatred, Scott, for the pretty boy comic is skewing your judgement.

But I guess when you boil it down, the main impetus for both of these posts was the rumor that he might take over for Conan in a few years. That, my friend, we agree would be a horrible move.

2007-07-09 11:27:13
25.   JoeyP
I think Norm McDonald is really underrated as a comic actor. I thought his show "Norm" was hilarious, but it only lasted a couple seasons.

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