Review of A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir by Colin Jost
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
Colin Jost retraces his journey toward and through his fifteen seasons at Saturday Night Live and offers insights that I found absorbing.
I do like a thoughtful memoir if I can get it, and in A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir, Colin Jost offers interesting reflections about his life, how he's lived it so far, and what he wants from it. (I also like behind-the-scenes peeks, and Jost supplies some of these in his non-gossipy way.)
Jost begins A Very Punchable Face with a story that is really his mother's (to be fair, it's gripping--she was the chief medical officer for the New York City Fire Department and was in New York City during 9/11), which made me worry that he wouldn't have enough experiences of his own to share. But his mother's story helped Jost set the scene for his own origins and his strong Staten Island roots.
He retraces his journey toward and through his fifteen seasons at Saturday Night Live, from early tryouts, through his position as head writer, and his tough start and ultimate success as Weekend Update co-anchor. He talks through some of the workings of the show, which I found absorbing. (I didn't know a SNL sketch writer is automatically the sketch's producer, for example, a dynamic whose implications Jost explores somewhat, and he also shares other logistical and specific processes I found interesting.) He shares his adoration of and admiration for his coworkers, dishes a little bit about hosts and some high and low moments with them, and I loved his fake, ferocious rivalry with SNL's Aidy Bryant.
Jost is driven and is an appealingly hard worker with a real dedication to the business of creating funny, thoughtful comedy. I didn't realize he had long been a stand-up comedian--and that he pursued this aggressively even during busy SNL seasons; for a long time he left the SNL office multiple times a week to put on late-night stand-up sets.
There are a surprising number of scatologically focused tales, which I was not a huge fan of, although I do appreciate the spirit of letting it all hang out and offering up zany escapades for a reader. (Side note: let's maybe get Jost to a gastroenterologist for a checkup.)
I'm not sure I ended up knowing Jost much better through reading his book--for all of his shared tales, he remains a little closed off, which is probably healthy and wise for a celebrity. But he offers up entertaining stand-up, show business, and personal anecdotes.
I enjoyed listening to Jost read the audiobook (and enjoyed his many compelling pitches for buying the book in order to see the incriminating or otherwise captivating photos he described to listeners).
What did you think?
Memoirs have been hitting the spot for me during Pandemic Times even more than usual.
I mentioned this book in the Greedy Reading List Three Wackily Different Books I'm Reading Right Now, 9/12/20 Edition.