Seth Meyers gets the plum job of "Weekend Update" anchor next to Amy Poehler in a newly streamlined Saturday Night Live this season, the show's creator and executive producer, Lorne Michaels, said on Thursday.
Meyers, entering his fifth season on the late-night institution, must replace the popular Tina Fey on the fake-news anchor desk. Like Fey, Meyers will also be one of the show's head writers.
Four cast members auditioned for the gig, but Michaels said Meyers' writing ability and his chemistry with Poehler made the difference. Meyers has acted with Poehler in a recurrent sketch about "The Needlers," a bickering couple who should be divorced.
Also like Fey, Meyers will primarily appear only on "Weekend Update" each week.
The repertory comedy will have 11 cast members this season, down from 16. Fey has gone on to make the new NBC prime-time comedy 30 Rock, bringing fellow cast member Rachel Dratch with her. Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz, who both joined SNL in 1997, and three-year cast member Finesse Mitchell, will not be returning.
The stripped-down cast was driven, in part, by the need to cut costs, Michaels told The Associated Press. Given a choice by NBC executives of making fewer shows or having fewer people, he said he chose the latter.
"The show, like a garden that gets overgrown, at a certain point needed to be pruned," he said. "We've done it at six or seven points in the past. You get a bulge in the budget."
The cast of essentially 10 players is "a great size because everyone gets enough playing time," he said.
By adding six cast members in the past two years, SNL went through one of its periodic transformations. But it has been able to do it smoothly, without jolting changes that confuse viewers, Michaels said. Returning cast member Darrell Hammond, for instance, has been there for a decade.
"The show has succeeded and prospered to some degree on its ability to reinvent itself," Michaels said, "and this was a time for everything to be re-examined."
One of SNL's biggest moments last season was the rap parody "Lazy Sunday," with cast members Andy Samberg and Parnell talking about cupcakes and "The Chronicles of Narnia." The video short became a big hit when distributed online in the days after its appearance.
Other returning cast members include Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Jason Sudeikis, Kenan Thompson and Kristin Wiig.
SNL opens its season on Sept. 30, with comic Dane Cook as guest host and the Killers as musical act.