For the past five years, TV audiences have gotten to know comedian Colin Jost as co-anchor of Saturday Night Live’s long-running “Weekend Update” segment, alongside Michael Che. The duo has been so popular that they’ve hosted standalone versions of “Weekend Update” and will even host the Emmys this fall.
It’s been a lot of hard work to reach that level of success for Jost. In 2005, he joined SNL fresh out of college at 22 years old and rose to be one of the show’s head writers. When Jost goes out on tour, however, he gets a chance to focus on that journey and the more personal side of himself. “You can learn more about me personally rather than anything political,” he says of his stand-up sets. “I don’t do much about politics.”
Prior to his performance on Sunday, June 24, at Turner Hall Ballroom, we talked to Jost about comedy and life.
Are you planning to include any Milwaukee or Wisconsin jokes?
I sure hope so. I’ve actually only been to Wisconsin once before. I’ll do some additional research to make sure I have the proper take on the state. I occasionally hear a story of a badger attack, but I don’t know if they really happen in Wisconsin.
The Packers are owned by the town, right? You buy a share in the team?
Yeah. Were you planning to use that idea somewhere?
Me and Michael Che were talking about maybe doing that for a bar in New York, where everyone who comes to SNL and joins the cast [is forced] into buying shares of the bar. I don’t know if that’s going to work. We had that idea while we were at a bar yesterday. So, who knows?
Besides the show, are there any places you’re hoping to check out?
There are sections of downtown Milwaukee that have been revitalized in different ways. That was an area I was reading about last year that I wanted to check out, the new shops and stores and restaurants. I’m open to recommendations of weird museums. I’ve got to find some golf courses around there too as I want to play a little golf.
One of your early jobs was lifeguarding in New York. What’s of your most vivid memories of that time?
Oh my God, I really loved lifeguarding. But I was also interning at Merrill Lynch at their asset management position. So, I was commuting between being a lifeguard on Staten Island to Merrill Lynch in mid-town Manhattan in the summer. When I was lifeguarding, I was sitting in the stand and I was reading financial books about financial models and how people invest their money. Which first of all, as a lifeguard, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to be reading while you’re on duty. But I don’t think any other lifeguard at the school was reading financial books while they were lifeguarding. It turns out I wasn’t particularly good as a lifeguard or financial manager. So, neither of those skills have translated to my comedy.
How do you “get in the zone” for a show or for SNL?
Just huff a ton of glue and amp myself up. And banging my chest like Matthew McConaughey in Wolf of Wall Street. And just hear that crowd and run out there like a maniac.
You’ve been with Weekend Update for five years. Has it gotten easier or harder finding the jokes?
It’s gotten easier as a performer. It’s been more fun for me, for sure, over the past few years. It’s more exciting now because you’re not terrified all the time. It’s still very hard each week. To make it sharp and make all the jokes work, it’s hard.
The news is changing so much now and so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. A lot of times things you write that you really like on Monday or Tuesday — by the time you get to Thursday or Friday those jokes no longer seem relevant. So, you have to scrap them and come up with new ideas. I find that we lose a lot of material that we like from Monday and Tuesday because it doesn’t seem fresh by the end of the week or other late-night shows have picked it over. You have to carve out your own niche each week against the other programs.
What’s one of the most interesting or unusual pieces of advice you’ve gotten from a celebrity?
Leonardo DiCaprio told me to start playing Pickleball. Because it’s the fasting growing sport in America.