2000 was a turning point in Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live career
There may be no better joke writer in comedy right now than Tina Fey. Saturday Night Live fans have known that for decades now after Fey’s breakout year in 2000.
Fey joined the writing staff at Saturday Night Live in 1997 and by 1999, she was the head writer. When season 26 began in Oct. 2000, Fey was moved to the cast as a featured player alongside Jerry Minor, Rachel Dratch, and Maya Rudolph.
Colin Quinn did not return for season 26, leaving a vacancy at the “Weekend Update” desk. The show selected Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon as anchors. It marked the first time since season three that two co-anchors were used when Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin ran the segment.
Fey already brought a new tone to SNL when she took over the head writer role from Adam McKay. She did the same with “Weekend Update” along with Fallon, ushering in one of the most popular eras for the segment and endearing both anchors to a wide range of SNL fans.
But a Fey-led “Weekend Update” almost didn’t happen. According to his book I Only Roast the Ones I Love, comedian Jeff Ross had met about succeeding Colin Quinn and was told he had the job. Only after some internal pressure to keep things in-house did Lorne Michaels decide to put Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon on the job.
Saturday Night Live fans are surely happy that Michaels went with Fey. She demonstrated strong chemistry with Fallon and the rest of the cast from the start and helped make “Weekend Update” an important part of the show’s coverage of the 2000 election.
Where is Tina Fey 20 years later?
Tina Fey left Saturday Night Live after the 2005-2006 season. At the time, her 117 episodes as anchor of “Weekend Update” was a show record until it was broken by Seth Meyers.
Fey didn’t go too far after leaving SNL. She created and starred in 30 Rock set in the same building as SNL. Her film credits post-SNL include Baby Mama, Date Night, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and Wine Country. Add in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a Mean Girls musical, and a few award show hosting gigs and it’s hard to pick someone with a better post-SNL career than Tina Fey.
But Fey has never really left Saturday Night Live. She hosted for the first time in 2008, made a number of memorable appearances Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and has hosted again in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2018.
Fey has also made a number of cameos and surprise appearances even when not hosting. The reaction is always the same, providing more evidence that Tina Fey is among SNL’s all-time greats.
We will continue to see Tina Fey host Saturday Night Live and show up whenever she wants. The comedian is on the shortlist of those fans hope will takeover SNL when Lorne Michaels decides to retire and for good reason.
In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked every Saturday Night Live cast member up until that point. It said that Tina Fey was the third most influential cast member of all-time, only behind John Belushi and Eddie Murphy. Given how she helped revamp “Weekend Update” and define Saturday Night Live‘s tone for the 2000s, you’re unlikely to get an argument from many fans.
What do you remember from Tina Fey’s first year as “Weekend Update” host? Where does she land on your list of all-time Saturday Night Live greats? Let us know in the comment section.