Episode 1139 - Colin JostWTF with Marc Maron
- 836 views
- 13 Jul 2020
Colin Jost has 15 years of Saturday Night Live under his belt but the time in his life he feels he’s still running away from is his upbringing on Staten Island. Colin tells Marc why his Outer Borough roots loom so large in his life and how he’s linked with his SNL castmate Pete Davidson by more than just their hometown. Marc and Colin also talk about the stress of hosting the Emmys, the secret gift of Lorne Michaels, and the silver linings Colin and Scarlett Johansson are finding in quarantine.
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All right, let's do this, how are you, what the fuckers, what the fuck buddies, what the fuck? And years. How's it going? I'm Marc Maron. This is my podcast. WTF, welcome to it. I, I don't know. I guess most of you have been hanging out. Right. You've been around, been hanging out around here for you new people. Welcome. This has been going on for a while. We've been talking we've had an ongoing conversation here, Amy, and whoever's been here since, whenever some you've been here for over a decade having the ongoing conversation, that's what it is.
Everything that I do is just part of an ongoing conversation, sometimes with other people, sometimes with you, sometimes with myself. But I've noticed that with my standup or with whatever I'm doing here, it's just an ongoing conversation.
And so many people. Have been here through a lot of stuff, and I'm finding that I've been there for a lot of years stuff as well.
I always kind of knew it, but I don't know if I fully it's not appreciate, but it's there's a it's a type of empathy, I guess, where I'll get emails from people that say, you know, we went through breakups together or you were there for me and I and I and I understand that.
And I'm glad that I was there. But obviously, I wasn't there, you know, right there with you. But I was there with you in your head.
But like, if I really think about what that the sort of weight of that, the gravity of it that I've been there, like it gets me gets my heart all welled up.
How's everything with you guys? All right. Are you.
It's fucking horrendous. Come on. Who we can fucking horrendous every day is fucking horrendous now that I feel a little a smidge better where I can actually set aside time to cry about my sadness and my loss and set aside some other time to take in the news whole minded mindedly and feel that fucking weight, that fucking grief.
You just feel like you watch the fucking news sometimes and you feel like somebody is punching you in the goddamn chest. The authoritarian fist of garbage. Just writing your chest. I don't know. I'm just running, running with the first thing you want, who's on the show? Let's do that.
Colin Jost is on the show this season will be his 15th year at Saturday Night Live.
He has a new book out tomorrow, July 14th, called The Very Punchable Face.
Oh, maybe that's maybe that's where I'm hung up on it.
On the fist, in the punching, in the heart clinch like a fist.
I think if it was another time now we're two months into. When died a little over two months ago. And, you know, I feel the whole I feel the void, I feel the pain, I can see my I have to struggle not to perceive the world through the hole in my heart. That is not a great lens. I have to separate, compartmentalize. I have to, you know, deal with the spiritual realm, I have to deal with the mystical realm, I have to deal with the practical realm of was.
On any given day, you know, when you listen to the news, it's terrible. Where are you fucking mass stupid? Seriously? It's like Jesus. On any given day, it's really the challenge is compartmentalizing and realized that I've got this sadness, the deep sadness, I guess we all have that the deep sadness of like, why the fuck am I here? You know, who did this to me? Why did it why was I brought here?
Why? And then the next layer, which is my girlfriend's dad. And then the world doesn't seem to be working out, that's pretty much diplomatic. This year, the experiment is not working. This is some banana republic bullshit. Then there's the plague level. It's hard to separate this shit out and just sit there and be like it's OK on the porch right now.
But what do I do for relief, it's the relief thing I'm not prone to seek out. Healthy relief. You know, I'm just not or healthy rewards. Just not. You know, and I guess this quarantine is helping me keep shit manageable, you know, outside of the occasional ice cream, I guess I've been eating OK, but I eat a lot.
That's all right, that's OK, acting out like that's fine, you know, just shove your mouth full of stuff, just keep stuffing stuff into your face, hole to your happy and comfortable and feel sick. That's not a healthy way to do it, but it's, you know, depending on what you eat, right? I can't drink. Can't do no drugs, haven't don't want to have haven't even dipped back into the nicotine. Can't fuck. So that's I think that's one of the things that, you know, you don't hear about in the more.
In the sadness of grief. How much you miss somebody, the whole the love. What about the fuckin man? That's gone to. God damn. Now, like, you know, what am I? I'm the guy fucking just eat an ice cream and jerking off again. Full circle. I've landed back.
God damn it, and, you know, I guess if it were another time, I've never been through this, but certainly when you break up with somebody after a couple of months, you are going and I'm going to go.
I got to fuck. But this is different, this is much sadder. There's no. Revenge impetus, there's no like which one of her friends, you know, there's no it's just sad.
So even if I chose to act out sexually, which which is very difficult during a quarantine, I think, you know, really, you know, fucking in the age of AIDS was easier than this.
Because it's like you can protect yourself now, not only do you not know, but you can't you can't just. Put a coating on your entire body. You just can't do it, you can't it's like. It's better, though, it's better, right? It's better, thank God for quarantine or that, you know, after a few months I'd be like, who wants to fuck the sad man?
I am emotionally incapable of connecting because I'm so profoundly consumed in grief, but can we just, you know, touch the things we put, the things in the things?
NUPE, you're on your own, pal.
So in other words, because of the quarantine and because of, you know, a certain amount of recovery mindedness, you know, I can't I can't do much of anything that doesn't involve just me and food.
And I'm more terrified than ever of getting this fuckin disease, not doing shit. But my friend Kightlinger, she gave me a hat with a fucking windshield on it, I went to Whole Foods wearing a mask and a like a golf hat with a full windshield, like a beekeeper's outfit. Fuck it. I just ordered some more plastic shields.
I can't. Scary man. It's just fucking scary.
And you know, what I started to realize, too, is like, you know, I you know, I got my problems, but there's a lot of people dealing with a lot worse shit than me.
My friend Laurie Laurie Kilmartin lost her mom to the covid, and she's been pretty aggressively funny about it in a very dark and painful way. She check out her Twitter feed going all the way back. She basically live tweeted her mother. Dying of covid, which was heavy. It's fucking heavy, man. But, you know, I've been talking to other people.
I've been you know, I talked to my friend Sam Lipsyte every night who is, you know, a dear friend. And he's really been there for me every fucking night. And last night, I don't know, I think something's shifted to me because I was able to kind of like get out of myself, listen to him. It was great. If I felt good, I got choked up a couple of times just thinking about being a father. All these things that, you know, being the father of a kid in high school, things I never did.
I'm getting a contact emotional. I get all choked up about the struggles. Nothing tragic, just, you know, I think the common struggles of raising children in any world but the world now where they can't do anything. Oh, my God. So that was nice. I'm just I'm just I'm what I'm doing right now is I'm saying I know you guys got your fucking plate's full and my heart goes out to you. We're all trying to get through this and.
We have a president that likes to hurt us more and there's no clear leadership. The center cannot hold it does not seem what strange beast slouches towards Bethlehem to be born. Good question. Somebody answer it. All right, look, enough, enough.
Colin Jost is he's got a book coming out, A Very Punchable Face. A memoir comes out tomorrow, July 14th.
But you can preorder it now.
And we talk about some interesting there's interesting.
Pete Davidson College, Joe's connection. That is very touching. This is me and Colin coming right up.
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So wtf to make sure they know that our show sent you.
Hey, buddy, hi. OK, I get it, you read books, I understand. I'm I'm very impressed with the books. That's great. What did you actually go back to Harvard to do?
What the fuck is that again? To know to shoot this?
We're all over there. I know. They're just they're just to show there is once you buy in bulk.
Right. You have to set deck, come in and just. Can you make me look smart on my FaceTime video?
You've got a Rolling Stones poster frame, but you know. Yeah, exactly. So point being your cool.
What's going on, man? Whose house is at your point? Yeah, I'm we're back in the city for like one one day just to see if everything's OK. I collect mail and all that stuff.
Oh, so you guys have been holed up in the country or out of Montauk? We've been there. We went out just for a weekend, like when we had a break from SNL. And then that that printed out over one hundred and twenty days or whatever it's been.
So I've read a lot of the book actually, and I don't usually I read it was funny and I enjoyed it.
And I and I got I think I'm I made it a little more than two thirds through. And you do succeed in creating somewhat of a sympathetic character of yourself and a mirror.
But what happens at the end? You end up with the movie star and good job, right?
There's no the ending is more of, you know, probably ending more in existential crisis than anything else, but. Oh, probably. But but yeah, no, that's it's more there's sort of weirder episodes toward the end.
But actually the biggest laugh I got. What do you think. The biggest laugh in your book.
Oh my God.
I don't even I don't remember what for all the talk about writing and being funny, you can tell me you don't know what the biggest laugh I know.
Um, I'm fascinated to know what you like when you when you wrote the book and you're like, that's a good joke. That's going to stay.
You know, I have a different one.
I heard different things are different. People like friends when they read it, what they what line they like. So I'm curious.
Well, it's for me because, like, you know, I like, you know, things that are directly related to experience for some reason, but that be where the cops come in to Chicago. You know, they break in with the full riot gear and you say, I became a scared high school student again and throw my beer on the floor, even though it's perfectly legal for a thirty year old man to drink a beer in a private home, I laughed twice at.
Oh, thank you. The idea the I know that exact reacting quickly.
I know I'm not holding a beer beer when you're thirty, when you're thirty and you go back to your your full highschool anxiety. That's a great thing to do. Oh yeah.
I've been, you know, you know, in a car and you know, you see a cop coming up on you like be cool. Like what am I, 56? What am I doing. Be cool. Like cops.
I'm I'm I have anxiety about those things where when I'm going in a store and there's like a security guard at the store, I almost go of leaving with my, like, yelling that I'm not shoplifting. Yeah. I'm still worried about conflict that they'll say, are you like that? I'll be mistakenly, you know, oh God, that's great.
I have never been one of those situations where the buzzer goes off in no way.
Even though you were you did something and then you suddenly you're like, I swear, I bought it, you know, have you ever stolen things and gotten away with it?
But I don't think I've ever stolen it. I remember that incident as a kid stealing a a dog's leash from a neighbor's house and like, wow, feeling it and you're going to get down a sewer drain. And that's like what a really haunting memory in my mind. I was like, why did I do that? I don't know what it what caused me to do that. And that's still like.
Have you figured it out now? I don't. I haven't.
Do you know the neighbor or the dog or and I don't remember which neighbor which I just remember doing it and then I remember feeling like so horrible about myself, like why would I do that.
You didn't kill the dog. It was my son. I watched the good son the other day and.
Oh, right. You're not a monster.
It's hard for me to believe that you come from Staten Island for some reason.
I don't I don't know a lot about it other than I lived in New York for a decade or however long I lived there a couple of fifteen years. And I you know, I always knew it was over there and I always knew that there's no reason to go there, really. And I. I knew about the dump. Yes. And I knew about the mob. And I knew about like it was just this weird kind of dark place that that I knew.
Eddie Pepcid. Tone came from there, but other than that, I would never like I was surprised to find out, even though I know you mentioned it on the show, that you come from there. So it seems to me that you must have gone through some effort to iRace as much of that as possible from from your from how people perceive you like a conscious effort. Yes, for sure.
There was a lot of there was a lot of running away from it. I mean, physically commuting in for high school and also wanting to probably still be on the move a little bit and also adapting, you know, always wanting to, I don't know, change where I am or change what what's going on, you know.
Yeah, but how like do you have family members that are, you know, deep Staten Island, they talk the talk.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I when I had trouble speaking for a long time in my life and then I when I did learn, I actually very thick Staten Island accent like super.
Yeah. What was that you learned how when did you learn how to talk. And now there's no there's no medical explanation for that. You just like and you don't have a ton of brothers. Right. You only have one brother.
I have one younger brother. So there was no reason for you not to talk.
You just didn't know there wasn't. No. And I think it was getting to the point of probably some real fear on the part of my family, which is why I went to like a hospital speech therapist. But yeah, I don't know if there was a medical reason. They have not told me yet. My parents would be the parents that would not would bury something that would be that would be traumatic. They would they would rather keep it to themselves and not and not burden me with it in some way.
Oh, really? Still, I've tried. I can't always get a straight answer out of them. Really.
So even now you're a grown person that's worked through some stuff. You've written a book and they're still going to go, yeah, go to the grave with the secrets of why they have talked.
They may have buried them for themselves, so.
Right. That's the thing you realize later in life, like they may not have parents sometimes don't tell you things because they've buried it themselves and don't figure out how to do it.
Well, I mean, it was sort of interesting to me that, like, no one could figure out the name of the hot speech therapist.
I know everyone was just like it was this beautiful blonde woman. And I was like, man, first name, last name, Nathan.
And you really couldn't track her down? No.
And I kept asking and that's what made me almost more suspicious of my mom, that there was some other darker thing I didn't know. I was like, wait, you don't remember this woman who saved your son's life? Yeah. To speak, you give him you give her a lot of credit. I do.
I mean, I, I still give her a lot of credit, like every day. I'm very grateful.
Did you try to go to the hospital and ask or do some research in the records?
Again, I was too trusting of my mom that I was like, can can what does the hospital excuse like? The hospital doesn't have that. Oh, right. I just thought, oh, I guess they don't, but maybe they don't. I don't know, maybe they don't have that kind of thing.
I think I think it would be nice to reach out to her, but I guess I don't know. Usually people can find you if they want to find you to say like, hey, I'm here.
I remember like when I started SNL, I was talking to Amy Poehler about it and she was like, you got to find this woman. Yeah. This is going to be she would be so grateful to get to talk to you. Yeah. Now, you know, and I was like, I have to. And then I really tried to figure out and truly my parents said, there's we don't have any medical records of you before the age of 12.
That's which is also a very evasive statement, don't you think?
But is it your mother, a doctor? Yes. Uh huh.
OK, so I wouldn't trust that information, but it was in Staten Island.
So my doctor growing up was just like an uncle that. I know. I know. Yeah. I grew up with that Uncle Lou, you know. Yeah.
He saw your mom. There were other doctors in the family and everything was sort of a social call. It was never a real visit.
I mean, I kind of just trusted that, a, he was a doctor and B, that he was an uncle.
Your your your parents seem to have signed off on it. So you went along with it.
You don't really know any other way. Oh, yeah.
Those those stories can be, you know, bad or good.
I'm glad it was OK, but did you like when you so you did your mom have a practice growing up.
Yes, she has a family medicine practice that she's had this whole time. So, you know, she she had a family medicine practice. My dad was a teacher at Staten Island Tech High School on Staten Island. Mm hmm. So between the two of them, like so many people on Staten Island, either had my dad as a teacher or my mom as a doctor, like there. When you go out to dinner on Staten Island, it's crazy how many more people know them than me.
Yeah, right. Well, people walk up to me and they're like, remember me? You're right, that kind of thing.
It's like when you're a comedian, if someone says, remember me? I saw you show in Missouri fifteen years ago. Yeah. Yeah. And sometimes you're like. Oh, yeah, you audience member know it's the same for her, she's like, how can you remember? Well, it depends who they are. Oh yeah, the guy who ruined the show. I remember that.
Yeah, right. Yeah. Someone's like, remember I yelled that thing at you and. Yeah. Yeah. Oh right. I remember you. Yeah.
You're the guy who threw the thing. Yeah. OK, great. But that's so funny.
So she, she probably did remembers. I saw them as kids and they just kind of remember like that.
They totally, they had, she had a lot of cooptation but that's probably why you don't have records because she probably did most of the doctoring.
Yeah. Yeah I guess so. Yeah. I'm again that's my that's my assumption. But as you're asking me now, today I started having a lot of more suspicious conspiracy theories.
You know, maybe you're not even their kid. I thought we'd go deep. I wouldn't go. Didn't think we're going to go this deep. This quickly. Wow.
Maybe that's what's being hidden. They found you maybe one of her patients was like, I don't want this one. And sure, your mother agreed to raise it as her own.
Yeah. More of a penguin kind of bright and then raised maybe maybe the speech therapist was more of a circus performer that raised me. Yeah, I realize. Yeah.
You were the boy that didn't talk. You were a traveling act for a little while.
But I don't like it is odd to me, though, that you're able to like if you wanted to, could you speak Staten Island?
Do you speak it when you go back.
Certain phrases like even saying like Staten Island is like it's hard to say that. No, I've never heard anyone even in not from Staten Island stuff called like Staten Island, where you said this is right. It's really funny. Like even like Verrazano Bridge, they just now, like this year, corrected the spelling. They had misspelled the name of the explorer that they name the bridge after. And it just got just got me just for like, oh, maybe we should spell his name correct.
But like, when you were growing up, like. So your younger brother, what's he doing? He's in show business, right? He he he's been working on that show and practical joker since it started with all those guys who are all from Staten Island. They all went to this school, Coleman Senior Farrell High School on Staten Island. And my brother went there. My brother's younger, but he went there and then they started doing stuff together.
And then that show that show happened, like I picture that to be more of a Staten Island undertaking. It's very sad. I mean, it's like born and bred in Staten Island. Right.
So, like, I can't like I don't it seems like you've done everything to to erase it.
I just I'm glad you own up to it in the book, but it still seems like you're some sort of weird, magical elf person that, you know, that was just passing through Staten Island, you know, for some, many thanks.
Yeah. That's a funny either or magical person or native Staten Island.
Well, it's like the like it's like it all ties into the idea that you're not really your parents child and that somehow you thought that you were found.
And now look at you.
You didn't talk for forty four years till you're four years old because you innately knew like I don't these people I can't let on who I really am. And then all of a sudden you learn how to talk and then you go to Harvard and you know, you're engaged to Scarlett Johansson.
There's no there's nothing Staten Island about that story.
Yeah, no, this is this suddenly this found child period is really adding up all the time.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's on you to save to fix everything. You're the you're the golden one. Are you up for it?
I mean, I know the story about the stand up and everything that's cute and everything, but but you know this. You have big responsibilities that just point in history.
Yeah, I, I just watched the Eddie Murphy go and child, which I hadn't seen since probably I was whatever. Yeah. I was like eight or something and that is what a trippy, weird fun movie that is. It's like such a surreal thing.
I haven't watched it. I haven't watched it. I forgot there's just like full dragon person in it and shadow figure it all. Oh really. I forgot how much how spiritual it got.
Oh man. I should, I definitely have to watch it now.
So when does he, how does it work. Like so you how did you get out.
Just education. Like that's, that's how I got, I got out because I got into this high school. This is like free Catholic high school in the city. Yeah. Like unit in and that was the only way I got out like it was always going to be. I had to like education was the way it's a way out I think for me.
And it was a Catholic school, you see. How Catholic were you brought up. I always say now I was raised Catholic the way I think a lot of Catholics say, like I was raised Catholic. You say like I was raised by wolves. Yeah, yeah. Right, right. I, I don't you know, my mom still goes to Mass every Sunday. I went to Mass every Sunday through through the beginning of college. But it was always more like it was never it was weirdly never super religious for me.
Always reflection and taking that time to kind of think about, I don't know, almost intention or think about people in your life or things you're grateful for, things you want you want to figure out.
There's something calming about the the hymns and chants and weirdness of the Catholic Church.
Yeah. Yeah. And it's and it's really repressed, which which I liked. It made sense to me, you know, it was not no one's in your business. You're not forced to sing. Most people are just kind of half singing or not paying attention to you. You can do your own journey at a Catholic mass.
It seems like many Catholics have done their own journey. Yeah, there's a few that follow the exact rules of the prescribed journey.
Yeah, yeah. And the thing I always the thing I remember learning was the idea of conscience. And I always like the pure version of conscience is if you have fully examined something in your in your heart and your mind and you really believe this is the right thing to do, then you can go against what the tenets of your faith are, cause you've really taken the time to think about that. And I always thought that was such a great loophole in a good way for a religion to say, like, if you really are looking at yourself and this religion, you don't believe in something, trust your conscience.
And I that's not a big played up thing in Catholicism. I think it's more modern and recent, but I do think that's a great concept.
But yeah, it is. Is there a catch to it? That is the next step and then go apologize. No. Yeah.
I mean, there's a I don't know if there's a catch like but you might go to hell. I don't know if that's a catch which seems like a pretty big one. Yeah.
I think it's like you can't they can't force you to hell if you really were pure and your conscience.
So you don't know when that was added to like that. Like it seems like a way to sort of move the religion forward.
It's relatively progressive idea. I think so.
I bet it was emphasized more in the last thirty years than when it was all in Latin. Right.
But like your parents, I mean, your mom is a doctor. She couldn't have been that nuts with the with the Catholic thing.
Oh, she was very I mean, she was pro-choice always. She was gay marriage was. Yeah. I mean, she was she was a pioneering woman who worked in the fire department when there were no women in the fire department. So she didn't give a shit about a lot of social things. What she liked about it was, I think the the community of it and the again, like they're trying to reflecting and trying to be a better person of it.
So when you went to the Catholic school, that's when you kind of were able I don't think people really understand the the difference. You know, between Staten Island, you know, and the rest of the world, so for you to sort of go to school in the city, that's like a big fuckin deal. It was a completely different world like Staten Island is not far from New York geographically, but as you know and right is like light years different.
I mean, it's like you go out on the island there, like New York. What you know, it's crazy.
It's like Southern being in like southern New Jersey or something. It's a it feels like a very different strain. And even among suburbs, it's weird. It's not like other suburbs either.
No, there's a darkness there, too, is when you live on an island that was the largest landfill in the world.
Yeah. Like this is in a modern era when we were competing against, like, landfills in China. Yeah. And we're feeling this one up faster. Yeah, that's a that's like a different world.
So it's still it's not active anymore. Right. You know, they closed it, I don't know, ten years ago or so. Now it's just a mountain. It's now a mountain. And then every time you go home, there's some new theory about what they're going to do with it.
Like one was we might have buffalos conmen wander the hills, you know, going great, where is it?
Who's who's bringing them in? Did they want to come?
I don't think they want to wander the toxic mountain. Not just that, but like there's all the weird Dutch shit like this isn't you kind of gave a brief history in the book of Staten Island to kind of justify your foundation as a true Staten Island person. Like, you know, your family's been there since it was like, you know what? There was just a few families and farms or something, right?
Yeah. My my like my Irish ancestors on Staten Island from the eighteen sixties and seventies are buried like under a golf course. Yeah. Hole of a golf course.
And you guys all knew that. Yeah.
I didn't actually know that till later on and I was like, oh shit. I should have paid my respects I guess.
I don't know what the golf course. Yeah. Yeah. No I don't know how you do that.
They just plowed over the fucking graveyard or was that where they buried in a trench because of disease.
This is way before people thought maybe we shouldn't plow over a graveyard. I mean, OK, they're like move the stones and they didn't expect the poltergeist graveyard.
So you're just are you all Irish now?
You're Irish, German, German and Irish. Were the Germans come from.
My grandfather was an immigrant who came in nineteen. He came as a kid with his parents who spoke only German. They came I think in nineteen nineteen twenty seven.
And I don't my, my uncle said they may there maybe they may have been German and maybe half like Jewish. German he wasn't sure. And try to figure out their, their heritage.
But you get on that show that I did finding your roots call Henry Gates.
Yeah. Yeah he Scarlet did and said it was like it was nuts like she found out, you know. Yeah. Right now her grandfather was in a hall, you know, in concentration camps and it survived all this craze. And she found all the crazy stuff that it was the real deal.
Was that already on her episode?
Yeah, I think I think a couple of years ago, I know I haven't actually watched it. She was she told me about it.
But is she forbidding you to watch it there? Things she doesn't. No, no, no. I don't think there was anything too too dark this came out. I know.
So you're going to school with the Catholic High School, and. That's right. But this is like like this is where you start learning about what? Books, writing. Yeah.
Things, books, writing and like critical thinking. You know, like questioning things was was it.
But really the biggest thing was it was like finding your people kind of. Yeah. I found all these other really funny, nerdy, aspirational kids who almost none of them were from Manhattan. They were like three kids in our school that were from Manhattan, even though it was in the city. Yeah, almost everyone came from Queens, Brooklyn, Jersey, Pennsylvania, upstate New York. Like people traveled. We had long distance to get there because it was free and it was a good education, but it was all these kids that wanted to stay and no one wanted to go home.
Like, why would you go home to Staten Island when you could be, you know, fourteen and just like have freedom in the city? Yeah. So it was it was finding it was finding, like, my people who loved it. It was it was finding kids that even today I still am on text chains with and try to go to dinner with whenever I can and joke about things with. And I was like the beginning of of really of comedy for me, like seeing just the way you joke around with friends.
It was like that first group of friends, right.
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Because you didn't before you did you have, did you have an equivalent of was it comedians when you started doing comedy or was there a group of friends before that.
I had a couple of funny friends and I definitely had a. A little group of people that I hung out with in high school, I don't know, when I started to realize the comedy thing, I knew I knew that I was sort of a smartass and I knew that it got me through life. But unlike you, I didn't seem to learn any great lessons in high school or from or from temple.
Like I knew that Jewish kids seemed to jerk off more than other kids and talk about it, which was, you know, funny. You know, there was a lot of talk about jerking off for some reason. So I always thought that Jews were funnier because they talked about jerking off. And I turn out to be correct. I turns out to be true. I know. I know.
Why do you Ng'andu Harvard guys have tried to bully in to the comedy racket. But don't forget, you know, we invented it.
I don't I don't pretend for a second week. I think I think Catholic kids probably got the same amount but never told anyone like it. Like, it's such a not sin by some some sort of very similar but different thing between Jews and Catholics where there is so much anxiety. Yeah. And Catholics put it all into their like internalize it and pretend like it's not there. And then it comes out in huge bright flashes or they never heard it and part whereas I feel like my friends are Jewish, are able to talk about their anxiety, which is then they seem like anxious people, but they are actually healthier people because they're communicating about what they're in.
And that turns out to be, you know, if you can find a job doing that, then you've really you've really succeeded.
Well, I think the Jew anxiety is there's like there's always this inner pressure of not being good enough in a way in a in the way of like, you know, in a practical sense, like, you know, could you be doing more? Why didn't you get in a car? Why aren't you a doctor? Whereas I think it seems that Catholics have a similar thing where they're not good enough.
But it's a moral thing like, you know, you're dirty, right? You can't, don't you? You know what I mean? What have you done? Yeah. How are you going to get forgiven for this?
Yeah, everything feels like you're looking back at it like a dead body.
Like what happened, how did this happen? And the like. And I'm like this the cycle of like drinking and being like, let's just stop. And then the next morning, like feeling like you need to delete numbers. Yeah.
You seem to have had a good go of it. Yeah. Yeah. Some it seems like he had quite a few those experiences. Yeah.
All the cycle is like fun and release because again it's all related to not getting out your feelings right in the first place and then after that and then you're letting them go.
And there seems to be a point where somehow I don't know, I just I and I know I'm not going to judge, you know, your Harvard experience against, you know, anyone else's Harvard experience that I've talked to. You know, the other Harvard Claypole Koenen.
It was really fascinating when you guys were talking because I heard it was such a there were so many things and insecurities he was talking about about being there that I really empathize with and thought like, oh, yeah, I also felt like I was didn't belong there and was not good enough.
Well, how did it unfold that you got in there? How does that you know, what was your what was your like? I mean, I'm not hung up on it and I certainly don't resent it. It's like an impressive place. But the more people I talk to about it, there is something that gets demystified. But nonetheless, you know, it is Harvard and you knew that as well.
So what would you just applied or how did that work?
Yeah, I applied early and, you know, it was non-binding, like when you apply it was when I when I was applying there, it was non binding. So I applied there because it was it was like the only school that I was curious about that didn't say like, if you got in, you had to go because I didn't really know where I wanted to go. I and I would have been truly so happy at any of the colleges I was applying to.
I and I had no I did not in any way think that I would get into Harvard. I also didn't think I would get into a lot of other schools either. Like, I thought I would get into some good school. And I really now, having gone there, the absolute truth is that the top hundred schools in the country could be the same level school or also maybe better for people then than Harvard. And it's and some schools are definitely harder when you're there and some schools are have a more academic, you know.
And I was just lucky that I got in there. You know, I really feel grateful that I got in there. But I also, at the same time, don't think it's anything different than other places. It just feels like it is for for.
Well, I think that in the sense of like I imagine it happens the same with other schools, that there are these kind of clicks and clubs and sort of networks of people that go there that seem to kind of, you know, take care of their brothers and sisters who went there as well, you know, not just in comedy, but in whatever.
I imagine it's the same with medicine or any discipline of people who went to Harvard.
They're going to be like, oh, you're Harvard. Yeah, well, yeah, come on in. You know, I'm sure that happens.
Yes. Oh, and it's seeing that sometimes is the worst part of it, because you see people be like chummy in that way. And that's. Like, my high school was so the opposite of that, it was all kids that were really like really kids that were humble and grateful to have a good education and again, would have been happy. Sure. Lots of places. So the idea that suddenly people that were at Harvard, like I went to Harvard and you hear people bring it up in conversation early on in conversations, and you're like, oh, God, so why?
Like, who cares? And it just it's such a gross that that part of it.
I had a hard time. I have a hard time deciphering between, you know, it seems like I don't I don't know.
However, I romanticized Harvard about, you know, about in terms of getting a well-rounded liberal arts education that would somehow provide it seems like you were had the brain to kind of glean, you know, moral and life lessons from, you know, early Catholicism or from high school or from whatever.
But it seems that at some point, Harvard became a place where hyper ambitious young people could sort of facilitate their their ability to network post college.
Some people I think there's lots of people that live there.
And, ah, I almost want to say traumatized by it because they don't know they don't know what the fuck to do with your life.
And they have Harvard people. I went to Harvard.
Yeah, I remember I remember when I had a really funny joke in like a graduation speech that like for the rest of your life, whenever you do something really dumb, people will be like you went to Harvard.
And I think it's that people think that about their lives. I really am I doing am I doing enough? Am I people some people are really.
What did you study when you went there? Why did you feel out of place? I think because there was a lot of, I would say academic, intellectual showboating, you know, people wanting you to think they were really smart. And that is just a strange instinct. You know what saved me, you know, not saved in the sense of just saved on a moral level, finding a purpose in life level was the Lampoon magazine, because I went there and it was all these kids that were not that they were not showboating in a weird way.
They were they were almost showboating in a nerdy comedy way, like it was like walking into a room, like a room at the cellar where you're really intimidated. But you can also look around and tell everyone they are really smart.
Right. Well, I mean, I appreciated that that part of the book about the Lampoon because it seemed like, you know, not unlike, you know, my experience with the Comedy Store or some other thing where you just you have a respect and a sort of a fascination and you're humbled by the history of the place.
You know, that like, you know, it's a magical place and you respect the magic of it, you know, just in the way you talk about the building and and who was there and what it meant and all that.
I still feel that way with like the the Comedy Cellar in New York and the store the Comedy Store in L.A. I always felt so intimidated there because. Right. You know, it's just intimidate. It's an intimidating place as an outsider. And, you know, but when you're there, you can just tell there's like something special about that building and about the comedians who are there and.
Sure, sure. But the Lampoon goes way back. Yeah. It's Superway back before, like, comedy was even funny, basically. Yeah. Yeah. Just it used to be like a magazine, but there was one kind of funny cartoon or something.
I don't know why, you know, they gave me an honorary whatever they do. Oh yeah. Right, right. Yeah. And you know, I just felt bad because I went there and I was sort of excited to see the whole thing. And then I get there. I'm like, oh my gosh, a bunch of kids and and, you know, I don't drink and I don't, you know, do anything too crazy. So I think they were disappointed that I didn't kind of play along with whatever little rituals that needed to happen when they gave me the the little metal.
And I feel like I disappointed them or I let them down. And I was sort of surprised that the whole undertaking. But but I was happy to be part of it.
It's a it's a cool like the building there is is such a weird, trippy place. You know, it's a and I think it goes through cycles up and goes through cycles where sometimes it's really nerdy, writerly fun, like a funny place to be. And other times it gets kind of weird. Sometimes I think there's phases where it gets drugs once you go back and someone was like, you want to do nitrous and just hand it. You know, we had a floor full of nitrous canisters and I was like, this is not what I remember or.
Well, yeah, that yeah. At any point in time, all it takes is one devil to pollute the legacy of a structure for a little while.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, like it's occupied by like a bad force and that then you know, pollutes the rest of the young people in it and they move from generation.
Yeah sure. But, but it seemed like that experience really kind of taught you the. And gave you the focus to to pursue what it is that you wanted to do. Yeah. And you got used to creative output with a lot of rejection. You got used to submitting pieces and most of them not getting in to the magazine, like older editors of the paper telling you like this is this is shit like you got got to be better and then feeling slow progress over time and and realizing that each each small failure like that is not the end of the world.
And you got to get better and not be bitter about it too and realize, oh, I'm doing something wrong.
You might disagree with their opinion, but over time you realize I got to get better at this or else I'm not going to I'm not going to publicly see why I say I think that that maybe is the key to your success, because like you say, those things that you're saying and, you know, before you even finish, my thought is like, well, fuck those guys.
So. Yeah, so that that's that's where I go, I don't say like, I'll keep trying, I'm like, who the fuck are you? And then I drop out of school and I try to do something else.
I also feel a visceral initial thought. Those guys all day, I always feel it. But then again, probably the Catholic in me internalizes it. And it's like, oh, I did something wrong. Like, what's wrong with me? Why did I why am I not better? Why do they like me?
You know, that's so interesting because, you know, it's so interesting that like as a Catholic, you know, even when you have good parents, your inner voice is going to call you a fucking asshole like you.
It's like you're you're you can't win being a Catholic because it sounds like your parents were lovely people, but and they they brought you up in the right way in your brain works fine.
But because of the fucking because of the fucking church, you've got the I suck thing. And it didn't come from emotional negligence.
It came from organized religion that, you know, like I'm a faulty vessel who doesn't deserve anything. And your parents were good people.
That's also a good book title, a faulty vessel who doesn't deserve anything. That's what it's going to be. I'm going to make it that. And when I say, what do you mean? That's the New Testament. That is the New Testament. The Old Testament was more like, fuck, those guys are going to go, oh, yeah, there you go.
Now, we've isolated the difference. Yeah, but what did you study? I studied I studied mostly Russian and Russian literature, like I went again.
What the fuck? Where did that come from? What was the fascination there?
It went. You know, I started I went I went thinking I was going to major in economics. That's what I like put down that I was going to major in. Why? Because I thought I because I'm from Staten Island.
So I'm like, I got. Where do you go? You go, Oh, you want out of money? I go back and.
Yeah, right, I do. And then I just again realized that was not going to be my my my strength or calling. And I think to go back to your original question of like, why did I get in. I think when I look back it's probably because of my writing on some level, like the writing I did for my news for like I wrote all the time. So I bet things like that, whether it was writing plays or newspaper stuff and even like college essay.
Yeah, it probably was something they saw in it that they liked as much as I can tell a reason. Oh, that's right.
You're like a big you were a product of the debate team.
Yes, I was a speech and debate person. And that was in high school. That was that was in high school.
Yes. I did that like traveled on. But the way a sports team travels, but with none of the athleticism every single week, we were in a different either school in New York or City for like a national tournament. So you you travel around and put on a tie and do speech and debate.
But that got you some stage chops. Yeah.
You got again. Yeah. That got you got over sort of the initial stage fright.
I don't know how you I'm used to you. Are you nervous now when you go on stage. No, but it took thirty years. Yeah. I'm still nervous basically before anything.
I'm not nervous when I do like a theater who you know of me like they're all here to see me but like to go on at the fucking cellar or at the store. Not so much a store anymore but the cellar, you know, fuck that place. That place drives me crazy.
Well some of the most some of my worst sets I think, and also the most anxious sets are ones where you're just on a bill like for a charity event or a you know, and you want to be there and do it and then you can't do those where they're eating dinner. Oh, my God. And no one's there to see you. They're like most people don't even maybe know who you are. And I'm like, oh, God. And then you feel like you just can't be you know, you're like the worst version of yourself.
You can't get over you can't get over it. Those kind of shows. No. You know. Yeah, I mean, but, you know, that's one of those things where it seems like the the more mature comics just suck it up and be like, yeah, it's going to suck, but it's for a good cause and don't like if you're like me, you're just sort of like I just want to connect with the people. And then you realize like, oh, there's no way to to do that here.
Yeah, I don't I was at the fucking Emmys. You guys host it and I'm like, oh my God, how are they doing this?
It was the when we first came out, it was kind of like, you know, I can't even fucking I'm getting hit or something where you're a little stunned.
You're like a little the first of all, you never see it. There's no rehearsal. You just come out into this, whatever. Three thousand feet. It's huge theater. Maybe it's five thousand people. Right in that theater. You come out, you've never seen that many people anywhere ever, basically.
Yeah. And like, I just was watching, I was sitting there and I, I'd never been to the Emmys. I think I saw you that night. Yeah. Yeah. Briefly. And, you know, I just want you to stand out there and I'm like, they look so tiny.
How are they going to do this and if you're locked into whatever you got to do and there's no warm up no, no like ice breaker, you're just going right into a joke you thought of three weeks ago.
And you're like, God, I hope this sort of holds up the one thing I could never quite figure out in my mind, which is, I guess one of the reasons why I am where I am, is that, like, do you know you just of like, we just got to play the camera. This isn't for the people here. This is for this is for the show to look good.
That's a really hard thing to do. That's a really hard thing to you have to have that in your mind a little bit. But it's such a hard thing to follow through with when you're still in front of all those people. You as a comedian, if you don't feel laughter in the room, it's really hard to say. But it's going to translate well to television. Right. Going to have to always believe that it should be both theoretically. You.
Right, right. Right.
And the the hardest part about that was choosing what to do without ever you know, you've never played that room. You've never done we've never done that event before. Yeah. Using your like figuring out what can get in the show. And then there's so little that you get that you get to do or that is comedy in the show. Like it's almost always just passing out these endless awards, presentational, presentational. So it's really hard to I mean, if I if we could have done it again, we would have prioritized certain things way more than we did, because when you're doing it the first time, it almost feels selfish to do that.
It's dumb because we're hosting it. But we were hosting. But there were other people from SNL involved. There were other people that we were obviously are being showcased from different networks as to that there's a whole other system. So it felt kind of selfish to say, no, we got to do this or we got having never done it before. Right. I'm not a person that pretends I know how things work if I've never done them. I mean, I barely think I know how things work when I've done them hundreds of times.
And how and what was the reception of that? Just glorious, glorious. You know, I would say the reception was not great, you know?
Yeah, you know, I just definitely talked to my therapist about managing failure.
So, you know, but you're it was it was I don't know.
The weird thing is when we did it, going through it, there were there were moments that felt fun and there were moments that felt like survival fun. When you're getting through it and you're not like puking into the audience and you're not you know, you're saying the words like things like that when you've never done a thing before, feel like small victories.
I just I felt like, you know, I mean, I was completely, you know, empathetic as a comic sitting there watching you guys because I met you guys when I was up there at SNL, you know, to interview Lorne, you and she said hi to me.
And, you know, I think that's where we really met. Yeah, right.
Yeah, I remember that because I remember how big a also for you, such as not having listened to your show from the beginning. Like I know that. Right. Right, right. Lauren, so I saw you and I also didn't want to be doing your face because I knew based on everything that you were going into a pretty huge moment for you. Kind of like trying to send you Zen vibes of. Yeah, God, I hope this is a very good yeah.
And then horrible moment. Yeah. And then he svengalis me.
He just charmed me and you know, she really indulged me and I walked out thinking like, that guy's probably the best guy I've ever met, you know, it's very, very good.
One of his great skills. It's really.
I just walked out of my I, I didn't even really want to show. I just want them so happy. He's just a guy that works in an office. Oh boy. He really fucking did it.
He also is amazing at instilling confidence in people before like they hoster before they. That's another, it's related to what you're talking about. But he, I've seen him really put people at ease and give them confidence. And it seems like it's coming from such a deep well of confidence from him. Yeah. And after he'll turn to me and be like, oh God.
Like I hope this doesn't look like he'll really he'll be like I've had to do.
He's like I've had to have this talk with someone like the host almost every week for four, three, five years. Yeah. Yeah.
You can't believe everyone, almost everyone who does it for the first time goes through this rollercoaster of so excited to host certain ideas they love. By the end of the week, every idea they loved, they start to question. Right. And then it's sort of him telling them again on the idea of the show the night before the show. Right.
And and he and he can do that because he's seen it be pulled off and he's seen people that were so nervous as hosts, you know, do brilliantly at it. Right. You know, he has to it's amazing how often he still has to do that.
Well, he has to get them. Yeah. It's important for them to listen to him. I thought, like, I remember when I did Letterman. And Eddie Brill, who used to do warm up and, you know, and he was the segment producer of the standups, you know, for one of my appearances, and he told me literally he wanted me to rewrite this joke that I had gotten very used to doing a certain way, you know, to change it for the audience.
And I'm like, dude, you're out of your fucking mind. How am I even going to?
And he was like, dude, it's going to work. And I'm like, you don't know. He's like, I do know. And then, like, I did what he told me to do and it worked fine.
But like, I have to assume that most hosts, when they're in a panic, you know, you just got to listen to Lorne, right? Yeah.
I mean, I think there's some there's probably a balance, you know. I mean, it's not like he's always right, but it's actually frustrating how often he is right. You know, like, I find it with my you know, I'm like I think it should be this way.
And he'll he'll usually say, like, all right, well, think about it and then I'll think about it for a little bit. I'm like, God damn it, he's right, you know, or I'll try it. And the other person, you know, oh, I always like no, they're right. Is Kenan like if I'm writing a sketch, the kids and I remember earlier today day, he'd be like, I'm not sure about this.
And I'd be like, well, let's try it. And he'd be like, OK. And then it didn't work. And then I learned that lesson early on. I was like, Kenan knows what it's like he's talking about. And then from then on, I'm like, Yeah, we need to fix that.
It's amazing how, like, you know, the evolution of Kenan on that show. I mean, I know he's been there the longest, but he's actually gotten better and better and better. I he's so funny.
The genius of Kenan beyond his his how how many sheer hours he has logged as a as a performer. Yeah. Genius of him is that there have been so many waves, generations of writers at the show who have all wanted to write for Kenan.
Yeah, I've loved writing for Kenan. And so they've all had distinctive voices and then they've given a whole new voice to Kenan through the years because they grew up either loving him or watching him on the show and knowing he had all these skills. And so he's actually gotten to do some of the best work by 15 different writers. Right. Come through the show at different periods of his life. So he's like had all these artistic cycles that are really cool to see where he.
Right. Gets deep into into it with a with a writer for a while, you know, it's cool.
So I did find that, you know, you must have spent a good amount of time sort of like, you know, the balance in the book. I mean, yeah, you went through some shit.
But I it seems that, you know, the chapter about your mom and, you know, the 9/11 must have been a very important chapter to sort of get right for you.
Yeah, it was a very. You know, you it's such a I wanted to do justice to her and and and not you know, I didn't want it to be a melodramatic chapter or a you know, I wanted to try to tell it as plainly as possible because because I think the story of it is is very powerful. And I did want to get it right. And it was a very hard chapter to go back to and reread and edit.
Now, your mother was the medical director of The New Yorker.
She was the title was chief medical officer for the New York City Fire Department. Yeah.
She wrote for the New York City for all the New York City. And she she did that for I want to say, like twenty five years. What's that? What is that job?
That job is you're essentially in charge of the well-being of all the firefighters. So she would go to every five, every four or five alarm fire in the city. She would go to help treat people on the scene. She would work on physical exams for firefighters and help people get back to active duty when they were injured in the line of duty. And she also had I I would guess the hardest part of her job is also alerting and talking and meeting with families when someone dies in the line of duty and meeting with often with their their spouses and their children and being the one that breaks that news.
And so that's a pretty that's a pretty rough part of a job. And when 9/11 happened, you weren't home. No, I was it was the first day of college. It was my first day back in sophomore year, my first day of classes. And they were obviously then canceled. But I was I was I just left New York and gone up to Boston. Yeah, and it was just interesting to me, the way you sort of documented the thinking was that, you know, once you realized what was happening, you had to do this math around.
You knew your mother was going to go there to ground zero. Yeah. But you were sort of like, when would she have gotten there because you couldn't get hold anybody.
I was in New York when that happened, and my girlfriend at the time had gone to work downtown. And I, you know, I didn't know where she was or what happened. Yeah.
Yeah. And you couldn't get through you couldn't get through it and couldn't get through to anybody. And again, like from I think it's a New York thing in general, but especially a Staten Island thing, is you're constantly thinking about traffic and how much traffic there is and how you can get you can never get anywhere. And so I really did have faith. I really thought that there was no way she could get there, because how could you how could you get there that quickly?
And that was my my hope. But of course, that wasn't true. And and and then I hadn't I didn't I didn't talk to her for for a long time. Like, I don't know if I even spoke to her for, like, weeks because I because I didn't know where she was and how to how to contact her. I really just heard updates like later that day and then not for a while, like four days, really, from my dad.
But you knew she was OK. I knew she had survived, but I didn't know what I didn't know what had happened. And then she she was she stayed on site there for days, so.
But how did you put together where did you get these these kind of like the details of of her surviving basically the both towers collapsing.
You know, some I got from her and some I also researched because she she had to give testimony to the commission after 9/11 because she was she was really instrumental in getting funding for the fire department ongoing. And Jon Stewart was someone who was always so proactive and helpful and she's always so grateful to him because he, like, really stepped up and kept pressure up to get funding for all the for all the first responders. But she had to do like a full testimony of what happened that day, which I can't account for her having to go through that again and relive all those details.
It must must have been just must've been crazy because she literally was there before either tower fell. Right.
She was at the bottom of both towers when they reached out. Yeah, it's insane. Horrifying.
And she's trying to find her guys and pull guys out and and guys that she like, guys that she had just cleared for active duty and stuff and guys that she had known for years, who it was a miracle that they were on the job that day and and these different firefighters that that saved her life in different ways and at different moments. And it was really, you know, I I'm so it's like a miracle, you know.
How is she now? You know, she's she's good, she's good, she's you know, she's has a lot of heart in this time because she still she has she's at risk a lot because of lung stuff related. You know, obviously with Cauvin, there's yeah, there's there's lung long term lung issues. And, you know, she's still now now she's seeing a whole other uptick of people from covid that were first responders because they're affected by it so much more.
And she's been Bachchu, for a while. She was back in the hospital, like on Staten Island, just picking up shifts because there was so overloaded, you know, so kind of terrifying when, you know, she's at risk for for being pretty messed up by it. So that was but she's she's she's a very low key, unassuming, heroic person. That's really I'm constantly impressed by.
Did she know Pete's dad? Yeah. Yeah, she did. Yes. She not like they weren't friends, but she she knew him like and it's funny, like I remember her talking about Pete's dad in the years after and and and about Pete, you know, and before you had anything to do with that for SNL before. Before I think he was even doing standup or or certainly right before I knew him as a standup. But he you know, and she you know, I think she she really like even from afar, really loves Pete and really loves his mom.
And and I think she you know, she she has a real bond with with a lot of the families that are in the fire department and especially families that have lost lost people in the line of duty because she you know, she saw them often that day or. Yeah. And I don't know. I think she just she's a very empathetic person. I think she really she cares about that. And she lost so many of her really, really close friends, like.
Yeah, it truly it would be like if something happened at the Comedy Store and almost every comic you work with wasn't there. And imagine going forward, imagine going back there or going back to work and after that and. Right. It's a really crazy, crazy feeling.
But you probably more stage time.
Yeah, that's true. That is you know. That's true. I never think you see you see the bright. I'm an optimist. They're all dead. Everyone says you're an optimist. No, it's just a horrible joke.
But but I'm glad she's OK.
No, no, it's and it's crazy. It's crazy to now be on the show with Pete. Like, it's crazy to have two people from Staten Island in general, I'm sure, and connected through that.
I know. And I can't imagine when Lauren started the show, he wanted anyone from Staten Island anywhere near it. But now we do.
But I also didn't know about you that, you know, like after Harvard, that, you know, you became obsessed with standup. I just didn't I never knew you as a standup, even though you sent me a poster of a gig. We both did. I must have run out of there before you got there. Was I there?
Yeah. You were there.
Yeah, you were there because I thought it was a time in my life where I would stay for the whole show because I had time to do it, you know. But I didn't talk to you. No, no, no. We didn't meet there. I said because I know that you're going to save the poster because I thought it was first of all, that was such a fun show to do that meltdown nerd melt and melt down. Yeah, you were paid in comic books, which is already.
Yeah. And then you were sometimes there was an artist to do posters, so I didn't have any cool no one ever did a poster of any show I was a part of. So I remember saving that. It's probably been eight or ten years that saved it with me. You Kumail Joan over on there.
Yeah. Yeah it was from Mike I think my my producer said it's from 2011. Maybe. OK, yeah that sounds right.
But I didn't really realize that you really kind of were, you know, not unlike your time at the Lampoon where you just sort of force yourself to compulsively write in order to get better, that you really kind of locked in to doing standup.
But you came up, you know, in the RIFIFI zone, which was, you know, all comedy, had already taken its first turn into something more mainstream. And, you know, you know, you had Mermin down there and Bobby Teesdale and all those eighty miles were doing that. Yeah. You know, with that alternative kind of broke out from the original Lunas setting. But for some reason, you know, you were very aware of stylistically and also the requirements as a performer of both of comedy and club comedy, because you kind of were fans of the guys down the cellar as well.
And you kind of it was interesting to see you write about knowing you were going to have to figure out how to to do both.
Yeah. I mean, I remember at the time there were comics like there was one comic I remember who told me who was like an who described himself as a comic, but I don't think the alt movement was embracing him. He's like, I would never do a show above 14th Street, like I would never do one like as a principal, and I remember thinking, first of all, anyone above 14th Street want you to be doing a show. I'm not sure they do.
But also weird mentality to have. Like, I will go to these, you know, it's like it's like having the Idol only perform in New York, in L.A., like unless you go around and see the country and try to succeed in all kinds of rooms, like, yeah, Lorne Michaels was not a big fan of whatever was going on below 14th Street.
I had a personal experience where he said to me, is that true? You literally said, oh, it's a big moment.
And then it turned up on Seinfeld. Seinfeld said it to him on Comedians in Cars because that was what he said to me when I met with him. There was an article in the Times about the alt comedy thing at LIUNA. And I was mentioned in it. And I remember it was they was right around the time I met with Lorne for SNL, that meeting that cursed me forever, that haunted me.
So one of the things that Lorne said to me when I met with him is like, I don't know what you think you're doing down there below 14th Street, but it doesn't matter.
Yes. And I remember this quote from him. Yes, that's right.
So this guy. But he said you you said this guy was like, die hard. You know, I'm not going to ever work as a professional comic. I only do all shows below 14th Street guy.
I think it was more I think it was a dislike for comedy clubs because I think he saw comedy clubs as sort of the establishment.
I get that idea. There was there was definitely that was going on. But a lot of them were resentful that they couldn't get work at comedy clubs. And, you know, there's a lot of reasons for that. Some of them not good, but some of them just because, you know, comedy clubs are privately run by people who book comedy and make decisions about comedy. And maybe they weren't thought to be funny, but they don't want to admit that.
Yeah, but I and I also you do realize, like especially early on, the people making those decisions, you know, who the fuck are they?
They're wrong. They're wrong all the time. Yeah. Who the fuck are they for sure.
A lot of shows really on I get at the strip like at the comic strip. And that was like I had not moved into the new generation when I was there. Still DB Sweedler. Yeah. Yeah, it was a lot of and it was great comedians that were that we're still working with. But I didn't know from anything else, nowhere else.
So you started doing comedy before you got the gig at SNL.
Yeah, but I really like open mics and bar like. No, nowhere, nowhere good.
It sounds like, you know in the book you're meeting with Lauren was was pretty easy.
It was it was really scary, but it was easy in the sense that I didn't I just kind of you just asked me questions like where you it was honestly, I don't think he cared that much. I think he was more like, where are you from? Like, how you doing? Like, I like me.
He didn't care. I mean, he obviously he cared meaning.
And I think he just you know, I think I remember at some point, I think Lauren said that you don't really know even when someone starts at the show as a writer.
Yeah. Or cast member. Really, you don't like he doesn't really know them for at least a year or two. He doesn't he's aware they're they're like that's the most some people he doesn't you know, there are people that work there. I remember that Murray worked there for as a writer for like maybe work there eight years. He said he never met Lorne, like never met with him, you know, until he left. Right. Lorne obviously knew of him.
And yeah, I was at meetings all the time where he was there, but he's like I never had a one on one meeting with Lorne. And so he doesn't meet when you're just a writer getting hired as a staff writer, which is the biggest was the biggest thing in my life for him. That happens every year. So he doesn't meet ever even with every writer because. Right. That's why I was so much more there was so much more weight on the meeting with Tina and Andrew Steele, who were the head writers then, because I him at first that's that's when I was first.
And I sense they were probably the ones making the decision about hiring a first year. Yeah. Rather than Lorne digging in and reading everyone's packets. Right.
Right. So you felt that like by the time you got to Lorne, they had decided. Yeah, maybe.
Or I thought I could go either way because sometimes Lauren meets it. Lots of times one meets with people that he doesn't hire like he or he might. I know it happened to me.
So what? So you meet with Andrew and Tina. Yeah. You sense that they liked what you did, but they wanted to make sure you weren't crazy.
Yes. Yeah. And you later realized how many people are kind of crazy, like when they in those interviews, like they have people you know, people read also weird books about how to interview for jobs. And I think I mean, sometimes with strange agendas or like have a real game plan that is not at all sensitive to the situation. Right. Yeah, like come in giving lots of notes on the show or.
Things are like, wait. Well, you can have lots of people at the show have notes and concerns about it all the time, but it's a weird thing in an interview to be like, here's how your company needs to get better. Right, right, right, right. Sometimes maybe in certain industries that works, I don't know.
But some people have that. And it's just some people are I don't know. They could part a part of it's just a you're going into a very high stress, weird community there. Yeah. So I think you're trying to show that you're semmes somewhat at ease in a high pressure situation, which that is because you're about to be in a way more the next whatever the next week you're going to be in front of the host and pitching them ideas, you know, in front of Lorne and pitching ideas.
So if you can't survive an interview that it's going to be, then it's going to be hard.
How did you know you got the job? It's always it's always so unclear when people find out that the that they have the job or that they've been fired. It seems it's never clear.
Oh, my God. It's very. And I've also gone through summers of not like not knowing if I was fired and that whole like that very murky process, too. But being when I was hired. Yeah.
Lauren just sort of said, like, I'll see you around at the end of the media. But I really you know, I didn't think that meant I was I was like, oh, am I like see around New York or see around like next door, maybe try again, right.
Yeah. And then I basically they put me in like put me quarantine me in a writers off like a random writer's office. Yeah. They're like wait here while you know. And I was like, OK, sure, of course I would.
How long did you wait to see Lorne?
I think I waited like six hours or something, you know, like. Right. Very long. A long time. But again, for me it was I would have waited for six days, I mean, happily. Right. And and I met all my people who come, my friends in those days, like, I went into one office and it was like the whole Lonely Island team, you know, like Andy and Eve and and they had been hired probably three days before.
But I was already like, teach me what? How does this work? Yeah, right.
And they were so cool. Like they were like cool guys. And I was like, well, yeah, yes. And then like seeing Maya Rudolph in the hallway and I said, I'm thinking I was just watching you guys on TV and that's how I love you guys like you. And also resisting the urge to say I love you. Right. Cause you want to be play it cool, but you don't know how because you're just your figure.
So they stick in that room. And when I sitting in that room and then like maybe I'm there alone for half an hour, just kind of looking around the walls and seeing trying to process what's been happening. And then the phone and the office rang like a random writer's phone. And I instinctively thought I should I should pick it up, which is a pretty crazy move, but I don't know why I was like, this seems like it's a call that I should take.
And I answered the phone and it was two of the producers on the line and they were like, guess what? You're hired. Like, you're you're going to be here, like you're going to be a writer.
And I was like, holy shit. Whoa. And then, yeah, Mike Shoemaker was on the phone and he was like, he's one of the producers. And he was like, when can you start? And I was working at this kind of rinky dink advert animation company. And I remember well, I should probably give two weeks notice and, you know, be fair to my boss. So I was like, what about I could definitely do it.
Let me give two weeks notice. And Mike was like, how about you start tomorrow? And I was like, I will be here. Yes. Any time tomorrow. That old job, I do not care about it.
Why was I still loyal to my old employer, Catholic thing, a Catholic thing. And so I came in the next day and then had to submit to sketches the next day, like for writing commercial parodies and with and then immediately started working with all those people I had just met. And it was like. It was like going to camp, but then at the end, you have to turn in papers or something, you know, and that's it.
And then it just that it just started and it hasn't stopped and it hasn't stopped.
And that and that's been kind of my life. At times 90 hours a week now, now I try to be there physically less, but that became my full life in every way for at least 10 years. And now I'm trying to be a little more balanced as a human.
How long have you been there total? Fifteen years. That's like a long. And, you know, it's different because it got broken up because part of things was like a whole other life and learning curve and which was like what was getting when I started doing Weekend Update with Jay like that.
Right. So you were a writer for how long? I was a writer for something like 10 years. And then when did you become head writer after five years there or something like that, or somewhere between five and seven years.
And then you're still doing stand up during this time.
More and more standup like then? Not not when I was head writer. I became hard to do it the same way. But when I was a staff writer, I really miss performing. And I would go, you know, it was a. Crazy schedule, but I would go four nights a week and do stand up during SNL, so I would go like we had Sunday was our one day off and I would go and do like three shows.
And then Monday after our pitch meeting and a bunch of meetings, I would go do a set Wednesday, having been up all night writing and turning things in, I would try to do a set of like eleven o'clock or midnight. Right.
Like, I would go to work at noon Tuesday and I would leave work at at 11:00 p.m. Wednesday straight through. And then I would still want to do a set. And Thursday night I would try to sneak in a set Friday and Saturday. It was impossible, but I just I missed I needed to get better as a performer and I missed it so much. And then I would probably help. I would tour, I would go on the road.
I would go see for people I would feature for people and any any any chance I could go and do six shows and a weekend on the road.
It was like it was fantastic and it probably sort of paid off in terms of being able to have those chops when he got the update gig.
Yeah, although you never I still didn't in any way feel ready or prepared because it's such a different animal, like it's such a it's such a specific strange setup and it felt very different for a while than stand up. Now it feels closer to that and is and it was like so helpful in trying to get it to feel more like stand up for us. And he's better at it. Like in a sense, if he can, he could do a bit now on the show that that can feel really close to what he would do on stage.
And that's something right now I feel like I'm working on because you're you're you're sort of trying to convince yourself that you can go there and do it in that way and test it.
Well, it seems like, you know, you over time, you evolve a dynamic and you evolve a sort of character as the update person. You know, like, you know, he he does like I notice when he gets more personal to the point where you're taken out of the conceit, whereas, you know, a lot of times you you are grounding the conceit a bit, right?
Yes. Yes. And that's and I think sometimes that I think sometimes that can work really well because it's you there is a grounding in the news and then it can be expanded on. And that's kind of nice give and take, I think sometimes. And we try to figure out ways of doing that, you know. Sure. You get that's it. When you start you get all this weird advice about it, you know, where people will tell it's sort of like the anchor of the show, right?
Yeah, like the thing that I always thought was interesting, Lauren, Lauren always talked about how update he always imagined that update was like a second start to the show. Right. And that it was sort of like you got through this first act of a monologue and an opening and some sketches and music. And then it was like, all right, let's reset. And I always kind of like that. It's like you're the second half. You're kind of like, all right, let's get ready for some fun, weird sketches, too, so.
Right. You're already, like halfway to that weirdness. So there's a little more freedom there, I think. And, you know, I always as a fan of update watching, like I grew up on Norm. Yeah. I also just loved jokes that had that we're not really tied to the news of the day like that. We're just those random fun. Later in the update, jokes that you remember, those were the ones I still remember forever.
I don't remember what the news story was in like nineteen ninety three except for OJ. But but I remember like one off jokes of his or like a weird fascination with Frank Stallone. And you saw him taking out a recorder and saying like note to self or jokes that we're like or so the Germans would have you believe or things like that, that if you haven't seen those updates, anyone listening is like, that's nonsense and doesn't sound like a joke at all.
But those are things I really remember.
Well, I mean, that was something I mean, I think when I think about it now that you say that, you know, those kind of, you know, callbacks and themes, you know, those were sort of established a long time ago as part of update, really. You know, Francisco Franco is still dead. Yeah. Yeah.
You know, there are definitely been, you know, character points through sort of repetition and callback that have been part of a lot of people's approach to update, you know, and I think everybody kind of makes it their own. And I guess it sort of must be hard. I mean, you must have how do you get how is it received as it has it sort of landed? Is everybody good with it now?
I, I sense certainly more so. I mean, I think it's always evolving and I don't think you ever know, you know, first of all, you're never going to please everyone. But you also we feel better, we feel more excited and doing it and you know. We feel happier doing it is less of an existential crisis of what is this and more of a challenge. Are you still the head writer? To me, me and Michael Che and can sublet, have our head writers together?
I think we've been doing this. I think we've been had writers like three or four years. And then before then before that, I did it with Seth for two years. Something like that. Yeah. And Rob Klein and Rob Klein for two years.
And now, like, now that you guys are down, I thought those to the the couple of shows you guys did on lockdown where I thought they were kind of fun in a way where I liked that they were they were really homemade feeling and.
Well, yeah, that and you can really see the vulnerability of all the performers because they don't have this weird, huge support system. You know, you just you know, it's just you guys, you know, doing it at home. I don't know if you could do a whole season like that. I got you.
You see it both ways. You see the the vulnerability. And I think and you also saw, like, some nice raw talent moments from like. Oh, that's right. They would be doing if they were posting this video on YouTube or what they would. Well, that's right.
I think it's the same thing in my eyes. Yeah. Really. Yeah, but but also it shows you the limitations of it. It shows you how much production value can really help with. Yeah.
You don't want we don't want all television to look like an audition tape. No that would be so hopefully we'll get through it at some point that changes.
So you guys are engaged, you and Scarlett. Yeah, that's right. When is that when are you going to get married? Well, that's a great question. I don't know when does she ask you that, do you ask? No, no, no.
We were we were we were we were supposed to. But we now we don't know when we really can because. Right. You know, it's a very small thing, but I don't know. I truly I don't know when we have at risk people in our families that you know. Yeah, right. Yeah, right. You can't who knows when we really want to get people together for a large gathering, you know.
But you didn't have to cancel anything. Well, there are some OK, there are some things, but it's all right know, but you guys are hanging and you're doing OK.
I mean, the you know, the the one nice part about being holed up is, you know, we in some ways are more into a married life than we would have otherwise ever been. And, you know, her daughter Rose and I have spent like tons of time together and that's great. Like, that's a thing you never can get.
Oh, yeah. You know, yeah. This is like, you know, it's like exponential, like the time you spend in lockdown or in this situation you guys are in. You know, it would have taken like the intimacy would have spread out over like three years like these for three months are equivalent to like a year and a half. Yeah. Or two years of like, you know, intimacy time.
Yeah. And it's it's that's something you and you have to appreciate. Sure. For sure. And, you know, it's that's cool. That part's good. And then of course it's like a crippling anxiety about not knowing when work will happen or what kind of work can happen.
And it's fucking on every level, like, you know, on every level what's going on or whether the, you know, the country is going to survive. Yeah. You know, the economy, the country, the. Yeah, it's like it's a lot to manage. Yeah.
It's really fundamental things you think will generally be OK or not, you know, totally unstable.
Yeah. So does Lawn call you when you go see how you're doing.
I talked to him once this summer since the show's shows ended. I think I talked to him. You know, he'll usually call like for my birthday and say happy birthday. But he'll I saw I talked to him once just to sort of he called just I think just to vaguely talk about next year, like, you know, almost rainstorm, like, can it happen? What's it going to be, you know, on a practical level for the show?
Like, what do you. Yeah, what what do you think? But but no one knows. It's like even experts now don't know, which is the scary part, you know, like you don't know. People are kind of just throwing out random theories about when when work can happen. I mean, I'm fascinated to see the NBA and what what you know, whether that works and to what extent and what the pitfalls of that are, because that'll that'll dictate so much for, I think, show biz, you know.
They need to figure out a couple of things, like an effective treatment, you know, an effective test that gets fairly quick results and then hopefully a vaccine.
But you would think some treatments and a test doesn't seem like anyone can do anything without a test that gets results and a half hour or so like everyone can do it day of and then go to work.
Yeah. I mean, but also you need the test to be pretty, pretty accurate or else. Yeah. Then you're you know, and but I now I'm always remember the beginning. Everyone kept saying you don't need masks. That's crazy. You don't actually you know, you really should have masks. And then there's things like where they say you not going to get it from your cat, you can't. Yeah. Immediately I was like, I'm going to get it from a cat.
Like, I know that, you know. Yeah.
I don't know. You've done OK in life. I don't think that it's in the cards for you to get it from a cat.
I just don't I also we don't have a cat. So it would be a real stretch if I started hanging out with strays.
I had to be out there in the garbage with the ferals. All right, buddy is good talking to you in the book.
Funny. And there's a lot of stuff we didn't talk about that's in there. And I'm I'm glad you're well.
Hey, I really I'm very honored to be on your show. I've listened from the beginning. And I've I I was actually I'm very intimidated talking to you, but I also I'm very honored to be here. I appreciate you having me on it.
Didn't get any easier throughout that. No, no, it did. It actually it was immediately easier. I was I, I was scared going. I didn't know, you know, we haven't really talked. So I, I was I'm naturally a scared person, so I was worried.
But you kind of knew what to expect, right?
I knew general things. Maybe, but I know who knows it worked out for you. They could have started off with some like, you know.
Really. Yeah. I really hate you. Some crazy aggressive I don't know I don't know anything about you and I just don't like you.
Yeah, I that's definitely occurred. You know, that thought. Definitely.
Well that wasn't the case. All right.
But I really appreciate it. Thank you. Take care of yourself, OK. That was me and Colin Jost, right? It was a good story, right? Good story. His book, A Very Punchable Face, is out tomorrow and you can order right now. And now I'm going to play some guitar that it took me like a long time to figure to get this to simple shit. Right. And then I ended it badly. But what doesn't end badly?
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