History will be made on tonight’s “Saturday Night Live” 40th season premiere: Weekend Update will be anchored by two guys — Colin Jost and Michael Che — for the first time ever. That particular milestone comes a full decade after two women anchored the show, a pairing we now learn almost didn’t happen.
It was 2004, and Update was coming off several years with the popular duo of Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon. Now Fallon was leaving “SNL” (for a wobbly film career and eventual “Tonight Show” stardom), and one thought at 30 Rock was: Maybe Fey should do the news by herself.
After all, solo anchors had handled Update throughout most of the show’s run, from the original Chevy Chase to Fallon and Fey’s immediate predecessors, Colin Quinn and Norm Macdonald.
In the new book “Live From New York,” an update of a comprehensive “SNL” oral history first published in 2002, “SNL” executive producer Lorne Michaels recalls that while he liked the idea of pairing Fey with her longtime friend (and former Chicago improv teammate) Amy Poehler, he wanted Fey to know he also was comfortable with her tackling the news alone. “I just said, “It’s easier with another person, but if you want to do it yourself, do it yourself.’ ”
He waited to hear Fey’s thoughts. She was torn.
“I remember having the feeling like, ‘Oh, if I was really a performer at heart, I would be seizing the opportunity to do it alone,’ ” Fey says in the book. “And a part of me was like, ‘I know I’m supposed to want to do it alone.’ I think we did some screen tests, and I did one alone, and i was thinking, ‘I don’t like it. I feel weird.’ I don’t really work single.”
With less than a week before the new season began, Fey made her decision during a train ride home from Washington, D.C. She called Michaels and got his blessing.
“And then I called Amy, saying, “I want you to do this with me,’ ” she says. “Again, it’s all really spousal, it’s like a marriage proposal. Like, ‘I would like you to please be my comedy partner.’ ”
The two women would share the desk for two successful years, until Fey left in 2006 and Seth Meyers became Poehler’s new Update spouse.