By Grace Ann Brew
Fresh out of Harvard University, Colin Jost entered the realm of comedy as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” in 2005. The show promoted him to co-head writer in 2012, and soon after he graced audiences with his witty, sarcastic humor as co-anchor of Weekend Update.
On June 6 and 7 Colin will step out of 30 Rockefeller Plaza and onto our very own stage at Arlington Drafthouse to perform stand-up. We spoke with Colin about his upcoming show, his work with SNL and his advice for future comedians.
How do you feel about your upcoming performance at the Drafthouse?
I’m excited. I really love being in D.C. and [the Drafthouse] is a great space. It’s one of the most unique venues—it’s this cool theater where people are sitting in these business swivel chairs [laughs].
What can your audience expect?
Comedy, jokes, pacing, microphone use. I would expect an audience.
How does the process of writing stand-up compare to that of SNL sketches?
Well, sometimes different ideas seem like they are better suited for SNL than for stand-up. Certain ideas lend themselves to a sketch, while other ideas seem like I would rather do them in my voice or in a conversational way. For Weekend Update it’s hard to do jokes about anything, so it’s more limiting, and that eliminates some ideas that I have that are more observational or stories from my life.
You’ve been writing for SNL since 2005 and recently joined the cast members as the Weekend Update co-anchor in 2014. How did you transition from writer to performer?
I had been working on the performer side of things for many years as a stand-up. It was something I did while growing up through high school and college. I missed performing a lot even though I really loved writing, so that’s why I started getting back into performing and doing stand-up – to keep that part of my life alive. So when Seth [Meyers] was gearing up to leave, I think Lorne [Michaels] knew that I had been doing stand-up too (on the Jimmy Fallon Show, John Oliver, and Comedy Central). I think he inquired about whether that was something I was aspiring to do, and I was very excited to start thinking about that—and also terrified.
Were there every any sketches you wrote that you really wanted to air but never did?
Oh yeah, so many. The one that I always wanted to try that we filmed—Akiva Schaffer, who works with Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island, directed it—it was this thing with animals made out of your hands and you walk them along the table. You could make the middle finger look like the head of an animal. They were called Handimals. They would get into little adventures. We did a little short film about them that I really liked that I wish they would have put on the air.
A lot of SNL’s content is very political. How do you see the role of SNL in politics and the way people see current events?
Ideally you want people to be excited to look at SNL to see what our take will be on these issues. It’s a good live show that’s covering these stories up to the minute each week. Some type of story will happen on a Friday, and we’ll have a sketch about it that’s fully produced just a day later. There’s an immediacy about it that can be powerful and I think in the best examples throughout SNL history, the cast members playing political figures have been powerful. They have given SNL a lot of attention, and that has shaped the way people think about those political figures in real life. People remember things that Tina Fey said as Sarah Palin as much as they remember things that Sarah Palin said herself.
Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring writers or comedians?
My main advice is that you can never succeed alone. You can never just go off and become this hilarious person in a vacuum—it’s impossible. Even if you are very funny on your own, at some point you need to be with other funny people who you can learn from and who push you to get better and better. You need that kind of camaraderie and competition.
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington
Saturday, June 6 at 7 p.m. (sold out) and 10 p.m.; Sunday, June 7 at 7 p.m.