Although Colin Jost has worked at “Saturday Night Live” for nearly 15 years, it wasn’t until March that he was able to watch his show the same way its audience does: from home on a Saturday night being surprised by the jokes.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, “SNL” finished its 45th season with three episodes assembled from footage that cast members recorded remotely. Jost, a longtime “SNL” head writer and an anchor of its “Weekend Update” desk, said it was fun to watch his colleagues’ creations with no hint ahead of time of what they would be.
“It was really heartening to see people make things, to have no idea what they would be and then have them really make you laugh,” he said.
Jost, 38, has been in a retrospective mode lately, having been working on a recently published memoir. He knows many viewers believe he has coasted on his annoyingly clean-cut looks that, despite his underlying earnestness, can give him an air of insincerity.
He writes in his memoir, “Some of you think you know me, but you’re actually just thinking of the villain from an ’80s movie who tries to steal the hero’s girlfriend by challenging him to a ski race.” In line with this, he titled the book “A Very Punchable Face.”
In pre-pandemic times, Jost’s memoir might have come across as a victory lap for an author contemplating new horizons. But now the book reads like his appreciation for a comedy institution.
When asked why he had written a memoir — a step rarely taken by “SNL” alums, let alone by someone still working at the show — he said that he felt he had reached “the end of what felt like a defined chapter in my life.”
Referring to his relationship with actress Scarlett Johansson, Jost said, “I’m about to get married. I now almost have a stepdaughter who I love and is a big part of my life now. I’m starting to do more and more outside of the show. It felt like the right time to look back.”
When “SNL” announced that it was switching to shows filmed in the cast members’ homes, Jost discovered he was grossly underprepared for his own weekly segment. “I had four shirts,” he said. “I had to really, consciously think: Did I wear this shirt last ‘Weekend Update’?”
He had to get a new smartphone to record his contributions because, as he explained, “I have such an old phone, I don’t know that it would have shot video at a resolution that was acceptable for human consumption.”
Jost gets a bit more introspective in his book, looking back on a childhood in which he struggled with his weight.
“My confidence throughout my life was always about being creative, feeling like I was funny or smart. I never feel confident about my physical appearance. There’s still that chubby kid inside of me.”
Jost hastened to add that, in the book and in life, “I’m not really ever looking for sympathy from anybody. If people hate me, I understand it. I also hate myself sometimes.”