By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 17, 2023 |
By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 17, 2023 |
This is not going to be a popular sentiment here considering how hard we criticized Colin Jost and Michael Che throughout the Trump years, what with their Trump/Hillary false equivalencies, Michael Che’s whistling controversy, Che’s trans jokes, some of Jost’s problematic content and his so-so memoir, but maybe they are finally the right “Weekend Update” anchors for this era.
What has happened over the last four or five years (and in particular, the last two) is that Jost and Che have gotten very good at their jobs, which makes sense: They’re not only the longest-running duo in “Update” history but the first and second longest running individual anchors on “Update.” It’s possible that after 8 or 9 seasons, I just succumbed, but what’s more likely is that their comedy has improved. They have figured out that Colin Jost is both the comic foil and the villain of “Update” and Jost — to his credit — has played right into it. Instead of trying to win us over despite his privilege, he’s realized that the best way to our hearts is to allow Che or one of the “Update” characters — and by extension, the audience — to beat up on him. He’s in on the joke, but his clear discomfort is also half the fun.
Michael Che, meanwhile, has evolved into this generation’s Norm MacDonald, a guy that tries to get a rise out of the audience. In the earlier years, he overstepped and pissed off a lot of people. In recent years, he’s found the line between offensive and in hilariously bad taste. It has admittedly helped, too, that since Trump left office, the “Update” audience is not as out for blood, and less eager to punish a comedian for a joke that goes against the liberal grain.
A comedian has to earn that benefit of the doubt, however, and Che has done so in recent years. I started to come around on Che because of his HBO series That Damn Michael Che, where Che seemed to be working through his own identity as a comic. He does not want to be a “woke” comic, but he does not want to be an anti-woke comic, either. He said as much on Marc Maron’s podcast. The Internet has tried to cancel him a few times, but instead of becoming a reactionary, Che listened and adjusted. He came onto the scene looking up to Dave Chappelle, but in the intervening years, he’s become friends with the likes of Jerrod Carmichael, and I think he’s trying to find a space in between (but leaning more toward Carmichael), which is what happens when you’re surrounded every day in the office by a diverse group of people instead of sycophantic yes men.
Che doesn’t punch down anymore. He’s discovered, for instance, that it’s less contentious and easier to make fun of Caitlyn Jenner not as a trans person but as the rich white woman she is. The maturation and humility he showed in his Netflix special Shame the Devil has come through on “Update,” where his favorite targets are rich white women and Colin Jost.
That combo of Jost and Che has proven to be especially potent over the last couple of seasons, and the joke swaps started to endear them to an audience that once, rightfully, felt more hostile. They still make fun of liberals and Joe Biden — as they should — but they imply that Joe Biden’s gaffes and policy decisions do not reflect the same danger to democracy that Donald Trump and the conservative right do. By providing space as co-head writers for Cecily Strong to comment on abortion rights during “Update,” or Bown Yang to roast Ron DeSantis as Gay Jafar during “Update,” or Molly Kearney to heartfully reach out to trans kids, they also reap benefits by association.
There are only a few episodes remaining this season, and no one knows if Jost and Che will return for the 2023-24 year. After as many seasons as they have been doing it, it may finally be time for a change. But then again, as this phenomenally good young cast continues to grow, I wouldn’t mind having them around to continue to anchor the show for another year. Even during otherwise mediocre to bad episodes, like this week’s hosted by Ana de Armas, it’s nice that we can at least rely on “Update” to deliver, knowing that Che will drop at least one hilarious groaner and Jost will be the butt of at least one joke every week.