SNL Weekend Update: The 25 Best Characters of the Last Decade, Ranked
And here to talk about Saturday Night Live's best Weekend Update guests is... Team TVLine.
SNL's news segment has introduced us to many beloved characters throughout the years: Will Forte's Tim Calhoun, Gilda Radner's Roseanne Rosannadanna and Chris Farley's Bennett Brauer, to name a few. But what about the best characters that have appeared in the last 10 years? Which recent cast members have made their mark on SNL history?
We've taken a hard look at Seasons 38-48 and compiled a list of all the best Weekend Update guests who just might measure-up to those classic legends. Some are recurring, some are one-offs, ALL are hilarious and memorable. And to be clear, not every character on this list made their debut within the last 10 years, but all have at least made an appearance since 2013. Also, we did not include characters who appeared in regular sketches as much as (or more than) they popped up on Update.
Treat our list as an ode to the 2010 greats, like Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong, and a passing-of-the-baton to newer cast members, like Bowen Yang and Sarah Sherman. These are the characters we'll tell our kids about and the ones we'll imitate next to punch bowls at holiday parties until the end of time.
Hit the comments to share your favorite Weekend Update guest. Who else do you think belongs on this list?
No, not the real Jacqueline Bisset, just Vanessa Bayer's impression of her. This spoofing of the actress' 2014 Golden Globe win begins with Bayer in the audience. (Points for most unconventional Weekend Update introduction.) In a state of shock at appearing on Update, Bayer's Bisset can't help but caress audience members in disbelief and comb her hair backwards in last-minute preparation. Bayer deserved her own Golden Globe for that performance! (Watch the skit here.)
King Richard III's Best Friends From Growing Up
Fred Armisen and Bayer, two Weekend Update MVPs, visited the Update desk multiple times as the best friends of dictators. On one occasion, the duo sang King Richard III's praises, loudly and proudly for all to hear, before switching to hushed tones and valley-girl speech patterns to say, like, he was kind of the worst, though... right? Their genuine, quiet disbelief at their friend's behavior made this bit an all-time great.
When Cecily Strong's self-proclaimed "expert of arguing" isn't screaming outside of Michael Che's window, she's screaming opposite Michael Che at the Update desk while frantically trying to light a cigarette. She's fed up with the antics of "Donald Trunk," the wall and #Pizzagate -- and while her ramblings might be sprinkled with mispronunciations and botched turns of phrase, we can't help but wonder: Is she ever really wrong?
Of course Jason Sudeikis' Devil belongs on a list of Weekend Update greats. He takes credit for almost everything bad in the world, from the entire state of Florida to Bitcoin. But it's Sudeikis' deadpan delivery that leaves us worshipping this demon -- a far cry from his turn as Ted Lasso.
How can she say so much without saying anything that makes sense? Bayer's Dawn Lazarus is a meteorologist with the gift for buzzword gab. She spews plenty of comprehensible words that, when strung together, mean nothing at all. And just when you think it's over, she comes back for more!
Owners of Smokery Farms Meat Gift-Delivery Service
An assorted platter of raw meats? Kate McKinnon in a bolo tie? Aidy Bryant with a Southern twang? We're hooked! The concept is comedic gold: A farm that only serves stupid and bad animals to counter the viral, cute animal videos harming the meat industry. While they list the numerous negative character traits of their animals, McKinnon and Bryant can't help but break down in laughter over the stench of their platter. We only wish the Smokery Farm owners made more than their three guest appearances.
Second-hand news reporter Anthony Crispino is always just a little bit paranoid and a little bit wrong when reporting about the things he's heard. He confuses Wall Street protestors with Walgreens Protestants and thinks the acronym for the United States of America is "UFO." His sources? His pharmacist, Milk Breath Mike and his best friend, Awful Sal, to name a few. And to top it all off: Bobby Moynihan's high-pitched squealing. Incredible!
Have any Weekend Update guests been as over-the-top as Bryant and Bowen Yang's Trend Forecasters? The severe haircuts paired with the hottest takes made the duo memorable (and definitely IN). The pair was hilariously judgmental. And informative! These two probably hung out with Stefon after the show.
Kyle Mooney in his nine-season run struggled to make his mark, and starred in probably 20 too many digital shorts about one sad-sack loser or another. Bruce is thus probably his greatest contribution, a veteran New York stand-up comic who puts the "ack!" in hack. Ostensibly brought on for commentary, Bruce quickly lapses into the dusty tools of his stand-up trade, leaning way hard into set-up lines... waiting for audience feedback that never comes... and then somehow coming up with a punch line so underwhelming, it stealthily kills. All as he sits still sporting a white man's overbite.
Heidi Gardner's teen YouTuber is always twirling her hair and urging Che to stop talking about her celebrity crushes. Her lack of self-awareness, paired with her attempts at demonstrating cultural awareness, hallmark one of SNL's best impressions of Gen Z to date.
Debbie Hole and Stacey Bussy
Chloe Fineman and Gardner are hilarious as two outraged Texan mothers making an appearance on "S-N-Hell." And it's all fun and games until talk of the devil causes Debbie to catch a demon. From that moment forward, chaos ensues as Stacey attempts to exorcise said demon. The only downside of this particular segment? We'll never look at Sour Patch Kids the same way again.
We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Relative newcomer Sarah Sherman's "Sarah News" has fast become a favorite and is steadily approaching Stefon levels of anticipation. When poking fun at herself and/or her sex life with her, yes, boyfriend ("Don't let the queer haircut fool you!"), Sarah Sherman is a borderline-raunchy hoot. And when she goes hard at white bread WU co-anchor Colin Jost, framing him as the perviest of pervs, Sherman truly has us in stitches.
The Iceberg That Sank the Titanic
Stop asking the Iceberg about the Titanic! He has an album to promote! Yang, adorned in a snowy hat, sparkly blazer and teal-frosted lips, told the misunderstood Iceberg's story of trying to make it as a singer after that unfortunate run-in with the infamous cruise ship. Yang's Iceberg demonstrated the humor in personifying a regular-shmegular, not-quite-popular (but popular-adjacent) thing. It was a hit!
Garth and Kat
Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig recurred as this forever-unprepared singing duo, who would improvise holiday songs on the spot (much to host Seth Meyers' irritation). Watching Wiig and Armisen attempt to stay on the same page as they invented lyrics was reliably hysterical, and it was a treat to see Armisen -- who didn't break character quite as often as some of his SNL castmates -- dissolve into laughter during their appearances.
Weary Mother in Her Darkest Hour
The only good thing to come out of Elon Musk's controversial Season 46 hosting stint was the debut of Ego Nwodim's Pauline, an overwhelmed parent just back from Disneyland, mourning her days as a young, "sexual thing" who used to score free appetizers -- as in multiple appetizers -- from gentlemen suitors. "I was somebody," she stressed to Che. "Now I'm dragging babies from Jungle Cruise to Sleeping Beauty's castle." And speaking of Sleeping Beauty... "Why is that hussy so tired?" Pauline pondered. "She don't have kids!"
Rachel From Friends
While Jimmy Fallon and Andy Samberg's respective turns as Jerry Seinfeld and Nicholas Cage might be featured in more "Best of..." retrospectives, no one did a better job capturing the essence of the person they were parodying than Vanessa Bayer did when she appeared as an mid-'90s version of Jennifer Aniston, in character as Friends' Rachel Green. It's less a full-blown impression than it is a parody of a few very specific vocal flourishes, but the way Bayer manages to replicate those flourishes is truly mind-blowing.
"Get in the Cage With Nicolas Cage" was a recurring bit in which Andy Samberg in a slick blazer and unflattering hairpiece channeled the intense movie star while interviewing visiting thesps (guest hosts) about Their Craft. Reliably, Cage would demand to know how he wasn't in his guest's latest film, seeing as one of the few things he requires of a script is "that it exists." Of course, the apex of this recurring segment came when Cage himself was... his own guest?... during Season 37, and the real deal got to describe Samberg's version as "an exaggerated screaming psychopath who doesn't really exist."
The kerchief-wearing truth-teller played by Kate McKinnon didn't mince words about how tough life was in Mother Russia. But the bleaker her heavily accented retelling, the funnier the bit -- such as when she told Meyers about her ideal living situation in her impoverished village. "Bear with me," she said. "I am," he replied. "No," she corrected, "in my dream house, I have a bear with me."
Angel, Every Boxer's Girlfriend
Angel still hasn't gotten around to delivering her Good News Report -- but in her defense, she's been a bit distracted. Tommy's fighting again, and she's taking the kids to her sistah's! If Heidi Gardner's commitment to the bit wasn't impressive enough, consider that she made it to the Update desk with this character in her fourth-ever episode as a featured player -- and it'll likely be the character she's remembered for long after her time on SNL is up.
Played to snarky perfection by Taran Killam, this 19th-century newspaper critic offered his unfiltered opinions on everything from Grammy nominees, to presidential speeches, to his own overexposure on SNL. ("Run stuff into the ground much?" he asked Meyers, after making two Update appearances in just three weeks.) Jebidiah's brutal honesty was riotous on its own, but Killam's tremendous line readings -- punctuated by angry tosses of his notecards -- elevated the character to one of the all-time greats.
Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy
Everything about Bayer's turn as an awkward 13-year-old boy was sillily endearing, from his New York Yankees yarmulke to his inability to deviate from his prepared remarks. And those opposite-of-sick burns delivered about his family with the proudest of grins? Mazel tov, Jacob!
Though other Weekend Update guests appear heavily intoxicated (see also: Drunk Girl, Jeanine Pirro), Moynihan's Drunk Uncle is the only one to deliver a perfect blend of irate affront, lamentation for the good ol' days and head-scratching non-sequiturs. Plus: That zip-up jacket over the sweater over the collared shirt? Style ICON.
The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party
Had Strong's stint as a WU co-anchor continued beyond Season 39, we would have missed out on return visits from her greatest recurring character of all: Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party. From her first appearance opposite former anchor Seth Meyers in Season 38 -- where she griped about everything from holiday commercialism ("There are homeless people out there who can't even pay their mortgages") to gender inequality ("We need bipartisan ships!") -- we just knew Strong was destined to become of the GOATs.
Goober the Clown
Strong's Goober only made one appearance, back in November 2021, but it was an especially memorable one. Aided by goofy clown tricks to help make her appearance "more palatable," Strong (as Goober) opened up about her experience getting an abortion ahead of her 23rd birthday. As Strong noted to our sister site Variety, "it's hard to find comedy" in a subject so sensitive. But Goober not only made us laugh; she spoke succinctly and passionately about the value of safe and legal abortion access, somehow bringing humor to the segment while never compromising the gravity of its subject matter. In her 10 years as an SNL cast member, this may have been Strong's best work.
Much like the Manhattan nightclubs he advertised in his segments, city correspondent Stefon had everything: Bill Hader in a ridiculous (but now-iconic) asymmetrical wig; increasingly absurd names and descriptions for New York City's freakiest bars; and, best of all, Hader's recurring case of the giggles -- usually hidden by his hands -- as he read whatever outlandish phrases awaited him on SNL's cue cards. Former SNL scribe John Mulaney, who wrote the Stefon bits, had a habit of surprising Hader with new material that he wouldn't see until cameras were rolling, resulting in some of Weekend Update's most authentically hilarious moments ever.