Weekend Update has been my favorite part of SNL for awhile. I absolutely loved Tina Fey and Amy Poehler back in the day. It took me a little while to warm up to Colin Jost and Michael Che, but now I enjoy their banter and political jokes. I’m also a fan of memoirs written by comedians. They are usually smart, interesting writers who are funny and surprisingly insightful. So, when I saw A Very Punchable Face (2020) by Colin Jost, I thought it would be entertaining. Even better, I got the audiobook read by Colin Jost, so I could drive to work as he told me jokes and interesting things about his life. It was a good sign that everyone I told what I was reading laughed at the title.
And this was the perfect audiobook. Jost is funny and easy to follow. He has a self-deprecating style that downplays his pretty remarkable accomplishments, and he seemed pretty honest and open about his feelings. The book begins with the fact that he did not start talking until he was four years old. Then he discussed his awkward adolescence and lack of athleticism (although he was a pretty good swimmer–more self deprecation). He grew up in Staten Island, surrounded by an extended family of generations of firefighters, but traveled two hours each way into Manhattan to go to one of the best high schools in the country. He moved on to Harvard where he felt pretty lost until he found the Harvard Lampoon and his primary focus in college.
For a short time after college, he did the common post-graduate living at home thing until he and some friends forced themselves to move on. Jost went into a lot of detail on how he applied and eventually got the job at SNL. He talked of the long hours and constant work that he loved there. And he discussed how he took on Weekend Update and thought himself a failure when the reviews came in. He talked about how he worked hard to improve and with help from a number of people, he did. Jost also has a section about Trump hosting SNL, but the focus was explaining why SNL had Trump on as host–not expecting him to win the election and tear the country apart.
In fact, although it was entertaining, there was very little dirt in this book. Jost didn’t have much to say about Trump or any other hosts of SNL (probably understandable, but it would have been interesting). The only person he called by name as being difficult was Russell Crowe–so he must have been pretty annoying and not planning on coming back on the show. There is also very little information on his relationship with Scarlett Johansson. Again, it would have been interesting to hear when they realized they liked each other, etc., but it probably bodes well for their relationship that they are keeping it to themselves.
One chapter that was unexpected and surprisingly moving was Jost’s recollection of September 11th and its aftermath. His mother was a doctor that worked for the FDNY. She would go to any big fires in the city to help care for the firefighters on scene. When the plane hit the first building, she drove immediately to the scene, almost dying twice–in the collapse of each building. Jost discussed in detail some of the firefighters that helped save his mom that day as well as some that died–including Scott Davidson, Pete Davidson’s father. I didn’t know Jost had such a connection with the FDNY or such a personal story. I was feeling pretty emotional that day, but I cried through most of the chapter.
I’d recommend this book. It was fun listening, and it might even be worth reading in hard cover because there were apparently a number of good pictures I missed out on.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.