If “Saturday Night Live’s” enduring “Weekend Update” segment is your cup of tea, then a standalone summer edition will be a welcome respite. If not, “Weekend Update: Summer Edition” is unlikely to seduce you. NBC’s special edition of the faux newscast stretches the segment and adds a commercial break, which that means more than ever its success rests not on the momentum of the evening, the charisma of the host, or the enthusiasm of the studio audience but on the talents and chemistry of anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che. Those two are still grappling with a stilted awkwardness in their “Weekend Update” personas that make them both less engaging than they would otherwise be on their own. But as “Saturday Night Live” has enjoyed a resurgence in ratings and cultural relevancy, Jost’s and Che’s growing pains have smoothed out into a predictable dynamic.
Tonight’s premiere of “Weekend Update: Summer Edition” had the advantage of a ton of Trump-related material to work with and several guest appearances: “SNL” cast member Leslie Jones, featured cast members Mikey Day and Alex Moffat, and alum Bill Hader (in a committed impression as Anthony Scaramucci). Jost’s biggest laugh — one punctuated with gasps and groans — came from a remark about how even President Franklin Roosevelt knew when to stand up. Che, meanwhile, found his sweet spot in the midst of a long analogy about how the Statue of Liberty had gotten “bougie” lately, which ended with his exclamation: “Bitch, you ain’t China!”
Still, with the news being what it is — and with so many other shows in the satirical news space — the humor didn’t quite match up to the material. During the regular season, “Weekend Update” gets a handicap precisely because it is buried in the middle of a 90-minute live sketch show with just one week to throw everything together. On its own, the premiere of the summer edition was a reminder of how sharp and hilarious the political satire game can be elsewhere.
Where “Weekend Update” can stand out is in its commitment to things that aren’t funny-ish one-liners based on headlines. That’s why Jones’ appearances as a randomly horny version of herself are always so welcome. Oddly, the best joke of the night was Moffat as Eric Trump, aah-ing over a fidget spinner, maybe because it barely had to be written at all: Moffat just stared at it, while Day (as Donald Jr.) spun it for him.
With the threat of nuclear war in the headlines, it’s nice that “Weekend Update” is around for the summer to add a little more levity to a news cycle that is full of fire and fury. And for fans of “Saturday Night Live,” “Weekend Update: Summer Edition” promises to feature contributions from a number of the show’s key cast members during the next few weeks, providing a nice holdover until the mothership returns for Season 43 in the fall.