First Ever Black Comedian To Co-Anchor SNL’s ‘Weekend Update’

michael-cheRemember last season when Saturday Night Live got all that blowback from adding a slew of all white (almost all male) cast members? And then they added Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones to silence the racism criticism? Well the powers behind the show have doubled down on diversity, casting former SNL writer (and now former The Daily Show correspondent) Michael Che as a new anchor on “Weekend Update”. This could be promising.

SNL‘s “building year” last season was a failure. It shows in the ratings and in the subsequent firings of newbies Noël Wells, John Milhiser, and Brooks Wheelan.  Clearly the “white is right” strategy was unsuccessful last season, and this is another sign that Lorne Michaels and his crew are painfully aware of the show’s shortcomings. But is the show moving in the right direction?

It seems so. ‘Weekend Update’  is the centerpiece of SNL and it was abysmal last year. Cecily Strong was not funny. And when they added Colin Jost to buoy her performance, it was as if she just got worse. Che’s comedic timing and straight-faced delivery seems tailor-made for the “Weekend Update” desk. He is seasoned in front of the camera. And his presence also gives the writers more room and angles for their material. I wouldn’t say that Jost did an exemplary job last season, but this upcoming duo might be able to bring the magic like Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers used to.

This also marks the first time an African American cast member has won that coveted spot. However, Che’s brand of comedy is so potent because he doesn’t rest on his race to make you laugh. Che is funny. Not funny for a black crowd. Not funny in a cooning kind of way (like Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah). Just universally funny. That was what Kristin Wiig brought to the table. That’s what Amy Poehler brought to the table. That’s what all of the show’s recent stand-outs had working for them. And his universal appeal is what will make him a success.

Check out a bit of his stand-up comedy below.

In the face of all the diversity they fostered last season, they trotted out the “Black Jeopardy” coondoggle and let Leslie Jones embarrass herself with jokes about how desirable she would have been during slave days. And while they have pretty sizable black representation both in front of and behind the camera, many forget that true diversity requires different groups to be represented. Where are the Asian writers and cast members? Latino comedians perhaps?

We’ve made it no secret here at Water Cooler Convos that we’ve stopped watching SNL. The show has not been targeted at minority viewers for awhile. But Michael Che’s casting might just be enough to make me watch again. Maybe.

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.

2 Responses

  1. Toni says:

    I don’t think there has been a season of SNL since 1988 that I haven’t watched. Now, that does not mean that I enjoyed them all yet since I did watch last season, I’ve gotta stand up for Cecily Strong! She wasn’t fantastic but she was likeable. And honestly, better than Joust. As for Che, I’m so excited! You are right, he is hilarious and it’s exciting to finally get a black comedian behind the update desk. But…two things. 1, he does not lean on race for his comedy but it is a central part of it. And that is OK! I’ve been a fan of Che’s for years and I would never call his comedy non-racial. 2nd, I’m not sure that “seasoned” is the proper term to describe his presence. “Comfortable” for sure, but seasoned brings to mind years and years of experience and I think it’s important to point out that in comedy years, Che is a newbie! He’s only been performing from the age of 26 and he’s just now 31.

  2. Dusty Ayres says:

    Speaking as a black man, is it too much to wonder if black people are putting way too much on SNL to get black people or other people of color on the show, especially if they’re not talented enough, or are just there (like Tim Meadows obviously was?)