A Very Punchable Face is a memoir of sorts from comedian/writer Colin Jost, the current co-anchor on Weekend Update and co-lead writer for Saturday Night Live. Jost presents a series of essays that takes the reader through various points in his life from his early years through to his current position both behind and in front of the camera on Saturday nights.
Jost rarely lets his past self’s behavior slide in the opening chapters. Stories of his years growing up on Staten Island, recurring incidents where he would require stitches and his journey into Harvard were essays filled with laughs from beginning to end. One heartbreaking chapter details his Mother’s position as Chief Medical Officer for the New York Fire Department and her near-death experiences on 9/11. Very powerful stuff inside a book that also speaks of drinking, debauchery and soiling oneself.
I found the most interesting bits to be about the behind-the-scenes structure of SNL and how a machine like that operates. He discusses the hectic Monday-Saturday schedule that involves pitching to the host, writing, re-writing, re-re-writing and planning out the show. We’re talking eighty hour work weeks where the staff will sometimes sleep at the offices at 30 Rock rather than making the trek home after a long night.
Speaking of SNL, one of the first things I was surprised to learn was that Jost has been a part of the crew since 2005. I wasn’t aware he was even involved with the show until they put him in front of the camera in mid-2014 as a part of the Weekend Update team with Cecily Strong. Apparently he was not a fan-favorite, to put it lightly. I had no problem with him from the beginning but I agree with Jost that it likely took him a while to become comfortable in the role. He and co-anchor Michael Che have been mainstays for a few years now and their chemistry continues to make the Update segment the best part of the show each week.
I haven’t read a book in quite a while where I laughed as often as I did with this one. Jost is especially charming in his ability to undercut both his career accomplishments as well as the awkwardness of his youth that gives him a very relatable, earnest quality that should endear him to anyone who picks up this book.
A Very Punchable Face is due for release on April 14, 2020 from Crown.