SNL’s Che and Jost are back for more Trump jokes

The Denver Post - - FEATURES - By Ge­off Edgers

NEW YORK» The “Week­end Up­date: Sum­mer Edi­tion” pub­lic­ity tour is barely started when Michael Che, in a Detroit Tigers cap and “Un­de­feated” sweat­shirt, starts grum­bling about Don­ald Trump. It’s not that he’s a bad pres­i­dent, though the “Satur­day Night Live” co­me­dian will later de­scribe POTUS 45 as “a psy­chopath.” It’s that Trump, as a comic premise, has be­come too easy.

Che reads through a tease he and Colin Jost, his part­ner on “SNL’s” fake news, were handed to de­liver be­fore a com­mer­cial break a few min­utes be­fore they ap­pear with Whoopi Gold­berg, Joy Be­har and Sara Haines on “The View.”

Jost: “Hey guys, Colin Jost and Michael Che here to tell the ladies about our spe­cial, and we’d like to thank the man who made it pos­si­ble.”

Che: “You mean, Lorne Michaels?”

Jost: “No I was think­ing of Don­ald Trump.”

Che mum­bles through the script. He speaks clearly when he’s done.

“Noth­ing frus­trates me more than it feels like we’re the Don­ald Trump show.”

Jost, sit­ting across the room, waits a beat.

“What frus­trates me,” he cheer­fully re­sponds, “is that they as­sume ladies watch ‘The View.’ ”

It’s been al­most three years since Jost, 35, the Har­vard kid who skipped from grad­u­a­tion to the “SNL” writer’s room, and Che, 34, a late-bloom­ing standup who is the com­edy in­sti­tu­tion’s first black an­chor, suc­ceeded Seth Mey­ers. The tran­si­tion was bumpy. Mey­ers, with eight years be­hind the desk, was “SNL’s” longestrun­ning newsjoker and good enough to in­herit NBC’s “Late Night” slot from Jimmy Fal­lon. Crit­ics at­tacked Che for flub­bing lines and Jost for his school­boy smirk. But “SNL” boss Michaels stuck with them and it’s paid off.

Start­ing Thurs­day, Che and Jost will host the first of three prime-time “Week­end Up­date” spe­cials meant to cap­i­tal­ize on “SNL’s” post-Trump rat­ings boost while the show is on sum­mer hia­tus. The duo that de­liv­ers these sum­mer up­dates is vastly dif­fer­ent from the awk­ward pair who pre­miered in Septem­ber 2014.

Some of the change is struc­tural. They’ve aban­doned Mey­ers’ re­lent­less pace for a looser, more con­ver­sa­tional ap­proach. That al­lows them to re­act to each other and the stu­dio au­di­ence. Some of the change is about ex­pe­ri­ence. They’re more com­fort­able af­ter 63 episodes be­hind the desk. Mey­ers, who says he watches “SNL” ev­ery week, said he has no­ticed the change.

“They re­ally broke out of what had been the style of what ‘Up­date’ was,” says Mey­ers. “Cer­tainly, this last year there was no part of it that felt like a shadow of what we were do­ing be­fore I left.”

Jost fol­lowed a well-trav­eled road to 30 Rock, spend­ing “90 hours a week” at the Har­vard Lam­poon, writ­ing a spec script for “Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment” as a se­nior and ap­ply­ing to not only “SNL” but also the shows of Co­nan O’Brien and David Let­ter­man. He started at “SNL” in 2005 at just 22 and even­tu­ally be­came co-head writer. Less con­ven­tion­ally, Jost has main­tained a steady stand-up ca­reer, which is where he met Michael Che.

Che did not spend his col­lege years punch­ing up his ré­sumé. In fact, he didn’t go to col­lege. He at­tended LaGuardia High School, which is near Lin­coln Cen­ter and spe­cial­izes in the arts. Che fo­cused on learn­ing how to paint. Af­ter that, he worked a se­ries of me­nial jobs (bar­back, go­pher at a Toy­ota deal­er­ship) and scraped by. He didn’t even step onto a stage un­til his mid-20s.

“It was al­ways a fan­tasy but I never did pub­lic speech or pub­lic per­for­mance,” says Che. “There’s a big ego hit of, ‘I’m go­ing to get on stage and per­form and be bad at it un­til I get de­cent.’ That in it­self is ter­ri­fy­ing.”

But one night in 2009, he saw a club on Mac­Dou­gal Street had an open mic night. Che threw down $5 for his spot, got good and drunk on E& J Brandy and took the stage.

“And I did it like ev­ery day,” he says.

In 2013, Jost brought Che in as a guest writer, usu­ally just a two-week gig, but he im­me­di­ately made an im­pres­sion on Mey­ers, who was then co-head writer.

“Che kind of came in com­fort­able,” says Mey­ers. “That was the first thing I was taken with. He was just a con­fi­dent guy.”

Jost has been at “SNL” so long, it’s point­less to list the sketches he’s con­trib­uted to. But his comic sen­si­bil­ity is not hard to pin down. He loves the un­ex­pected, quirky and off­beat. He trusts his im­pulses.

Con­sider the fi­nale of “SNL’s” 2016 sea­son when Mikey Day, a writer and per­former, sug­gested a take-off on the 1997 film “Dead Poets So­ci­ety.” There’s a point where cast mem­ber Pete David­son hops onto his desk to make a short speech.

“And my mind was like im­me­di­ately, it’d be re­ally funny if he stood up and his head went into a fan,” Jost says.

It was a sim­ple idea but did not come cheap. “Farewell Mr. Bunting” fea­tured a 2½-minute build be­fore the fan worked its magic, spark­ing an un­for­get­table, comic blood­bath.

The big break­through may have come last July, when Che and Jost were brought in to do seg­ments on MSNBC af­ter the speeches at the Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tions. In the broad­casts, they’re still wear­ing ties and sit­ting be­hind a desk but when you watch those pre­sen­ta­tions, Che and Jost are com­fort­able slip­ping into off-the-cuff re­marks.

“It was very by the seat of our pants,” says McNi­cholas. “It was like they were telling jokes to one an­other. It had a real loose­ness to it but also it al­lowed us to treat the cur­rent events and the news sto­ries.”

Mary Ellen Matthews, NBC

Colin Jost and Michael Che on the set of “Week­end Up­date.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.