Photo: BEImages/Matt Baron; REX USA/Everett Collection.
The New York Times reports that Strong asked to be relieved of her Weekend Update duties — a move Lorne Michaels, the show's executive producer, says will allow her to be in more sketches. Strong's latest Instagram seems to corroborate that story. "No point in being angry or sad for me for something I'm genuinely happy about!" she writes in the picture's caption. "Now I get to do features with the very funny and wonderful Michael Che!"
Except, we can't help but feel that something's off about this transition. It's clear that Strong was the more capable and entertaining anchor in the Jost-Strong combo. Why, then, was Jost not swapped out for someone else? Say, Vanessa Bayer, who's a proven complement to Strong?
"This is about a new era," Michaels told the Times, saying Weekend Update "struggled to find an identity last season." David Sims at The Wrap notes that Strong and Jost "always felt like echoes of Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler, but less energetic."
It's unfortunate, because in theory we should be feeling only excited feelings here. Che's promotion from the writer's room makes him the first black Weekend Update anchor — a huge achievement, and just in time for the show's 40th season. And, as NPR's Eric Deggans writes, Che's addition will diversify the show's humor. Yet, as Deggans also points out, there's something special about the Weekend Update position. It's "the one position on SNL which guarantees a performer will get screen time every week. It's also a major farm team for the upper echelons of comedy; past anchors include everyone from Chevy Chase, Jane Curtin, Dan Aykroyd and Dennis Miller to Jimmy Fallon, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Seth Meyers," he writes. It's also the only place where cast members can often play themselves, giving them the opportunity to show off a unique set of comedic chops. So, what does it mean for the female cast if none of them has the space to do just that? Theoretically, where will the next Fey or Poehler emerge from the show's ranks, if not from the iconic desk?
Many have come to accept late-night television's all-white-guy-everything approach. Women, as I have argued in the past, don't really need to be involved in the formulaic franchise that is the late-night talk show. But, if women aren't behind any desk on television, it's a real cause for concern.