Even on Super Tuesday, Colin Jost doesn’t seem to think the American public is doomed.
“I have faith in the American people to make their own good decisions,” says the “Weekend Update” anchor. “And I still think there’s going to be at least one more big curveball. I don’t know who it’s going to help, but I think there will be something in the world or in America that’s a big enough effect that it can throw people one way or another. It might end up helping Hillary, or it might be something Donald Trump can seize.”
The longtime “Saturday Night Live” writer hit a goldmine with the show’s 41st season; with fellow anchor/writer Michael Che behind the news desk, the staff has the gift that keeps on giving with the 2016 elections around the corner.
“It’s fun during elections years, and really the year before, because people care [about news] so much more. You can do sketches on ‘Weekend Update’ about very specific aspects and people will know references because they’re following [the election],” he explains.
Jost says the decisions for how to keep the jokes told in “Weekend Update” totally fair and balanced are determined by Lorne Michaels — a mentality that’s filtered into all aspects beyond the news desk and into the “SNL” creator’s upcoming biography by former employee Susan Morrison.
“At the end of the day, Lorne isn’t going to want something unless it’s funny and fair,” says the 33-year-old comedian. “There will be a joke about George W. Bush, and he’ll be like, ‘Why do we need this? Do we really need to hit him right now? Why is he the focus?’ He wants a sense of hitting both sides and fairness and realizing that these politicians, while politicians, are still human.”
But are they? “Well most of them,” Jost snickers.
Jost’s tenure at “Weekend Update” has been one of ups-and-downs, with him vowing to “get better” and acknowledging his critics during a July interview with the Daily Beast. Later that year, he quietly stepped down as head writer, a position he had held since season 38, telling Terry Gross during a November episode of “Fresh Air” that the role didn’t “really free your brain as a performer.”
As a performer, Jost continues to find his groove with Che on “Weekend Update,” earning fans of his chemistry with his co-anchor as well as an ongoing flirtation with Leslie Jones that puts Stefon and Seth Meyers to shame. Jost is re-stretching his legs in stand-up, with a round of shows hitting Laugh Boston and Austin’s Moontower Comedy Fest.
“If i’m performing at a comedy club, It’s a little bit looser because there’s not an exact camera rhythm to it,” he says, explaining the difference between his delivery on “Weekend Update” versus a live comedy show. “It’s different when you have the full stage to use, and you can tell longer jokes or stories [on “Weekend Update”], unless you’re really killing it, it’s hard to take up.”
He knows his fans will expect some news-pegged and political comedy in his act, but he says that comes naturally to his style anyway. Jost joined the “Saturday Night Live” team at the ripe age of 22 and frequently contributed to The New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs column. Prior to that he was the president of the Harvard Lampoon and spent his college and post-college summers as a writer and later a night editor at his hometown newspaper, the Staten Island Advance.
“I broke the ‘Spotlight’ case, that was all me,” he jokes.
Jost thinks his news background, and particularly his time at Harvard, have shaped the way he approaches comedy.
“Even when I was working in news, I just always wanted to write comedy versions of the articles I was writing,” he says. These days, Jost’s printed work currently comes in the form of cocktail napkins called Mocktails, hand-sketched puns and comics (see: Rude “jerk chicken”) that he sells on his site and at shows.
But back to that election. Jost still has faith — “At the end of the day, I think people are going to make good decisions” — but he knows he’s got a job to do.
“God bless America,” he says. “Let’s hope this all shakes out in a fun, yet productive way.”
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