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I Read Colin Jost's Memoir, 'A Very Punchable Face'

By Dustin Rowles | Books | July 24, 2020 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | July 24, 2020 |


colin-jost-review-punchable-face.jpg

SNL’s “Weekend Update” anchor Colin Jost tweets so infrequently that when he mocked me on Twitter last year, it remained at the top of his Twitter feed for months (it has since been deleted). He did not mock me maliciously, because Colin Jost is not a malicious person. He was merely sticking up for his friend and co-anchor, Michael Che, who stuck up for him when Steven Hyden asked over on Uproxx, “Why Does Everyone Still Hate Colin Jost?

Although I have been very critical of Jost over the years, I do not hate Colin Jost. He is hardly worthy of hatred. As I wrote in 2016, I simply believe that Jost and Che are the wrong anchors for this era of Saturday Night Live. Jost would have been fine if unexceptional during the Bush Administration, or even the first six years of the Obama administration. However, after Trump won in 2016, the last person we wanted to see on the “Update” desk was a smarmy white guy smart enough to realize the false equivalency in joking with equal force about Hillary’s emails and Trump’s Access Hollywood tape. Yes, yes: We know, Colin. No one thought that Trump would actually win. That is exactly why he won.

I will, however, give Jost credit for turning himself into a comedic foil over the last two years, as he’s frequently become the white-guy butt of both his own and Che’s jokes. In comedy, you cannot punch down, and when you are Colin Jost, there are not very many people to punch above you, so Jost has wisely discovered the comedic value of punching himself.

Ultimately, however, Jost’s memoir, A Very Punchable Face, doesn’t much change our perception of him. Granted, he did not speak for the first four years of his life until a speech therapist helped him find his voice, but beyond that, Jost has had led a very privileged life: Wonderful upper-middle class parents and a great support network on Staten Island. He got lucky to be accepted into a prestigious Catholic high school in Manhattan, which led him to Harvard, The Lampoon, and eventually Saturday Night Live, where he met his future wife, Scarlett Johansson, one of the most famous and beautiful women in Hollywood. Adversity for Jost has mostly amounted to a few amusing injuries, an awkward hang with Jimmy Buffet, and a weird habit of shitting his pants. Best I can tell from his memoir, the worst thing that has ever happened to Jost were reviews of his “Update” appearances during his first few years (he’d mostly grown skin thick enough to handle the barrage of criticism by the time he and Che hosted their much-maligned Emmy telecast, although I don’t hold that against them. there are only a small handful of people good at hosting awards shows, and most of them don’t want to do it anymore).

Being fortunate in his life does not make Jost a bad guy, although it is very easy to resent his success, as hard won as it might have been for him. To his credit, he understands that, and also to his credit, he makes fun of himself so much in A Very Punchable Face that he completely robs any potential reviewers of that joy. Describing himself as Mayonnaise Yeti made me laugh. A lot.

It was, however, one of the rare instances in which I did laugh, in addition to the story about Charles Barkley hearing Nirvana for the first time, and the time that some European teens pelted Jost with tomatoes while he was walking around Paris with Scarjo. That was funny. Most of Jost’s stories from his childhood are not, nor really are that many about his hangs with SNL friends (cool, Jost! You went to the Netherlands with Seth Meyers and surfing with Jimmy Buffet and his family. Thanks for sharing).

I will say this, however: It’s a quick and easy read, and once he gets out of Staten Island and onto SNL, it’s not boring, either, at least for those of us who love SNL lore. Moreover, while I still believe that he is the wrong “Update” anchor for this era, when Jost began listing off the skits he has written on SNL over the years, I legit gained a newfound respect for him. In his 15 years on SNL, he’s written some of the show’s best skits, including that Dead Poets Society short, as well as Diner Lobster and its two sequels. I was honestly blown away by his list of contributions, which is to say: A large percentage of the skits that you love that you unconsciously attribute to someone else, Colin Jost probably had a hand in them.

One of the downsides to A Very Punchable Face, however, is that Jost is still on SNL, and so he doesn’t talk shit about anyone, except himself and a few Google employees. I’m not sure that Jost is the shit-talking type, anyway, although I very much do look forward to Michael Che’s eventual memoir for that very reason.

Conclusion: If you are an obsessive fan of SNL, A Very Punchable Face is a must read. If you are a fan of Colin Jost specifically, that is very strange, but it’s also a must read for you. If you don’t care about Colin Jost or the inner workings of SNL, there is absolutely nothing here for you. Colin Jost is mostly interesting by virtue of his association with SNL and more interesting people, except when European teens pelt him with tomatoes while he’s strolling the streets of Paris with Black Widow.




Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.



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