Since first airing in 2016, the Late Night With Seth Meyers segment “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” has proved to be one of the most consistently funny, timeless, and clever late-night bits on television. Instead of limiting the scope of Late Night jokes to only those a typical white-dude host can get away with, “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell” cracks open a range of new topics and perspectives for writers Jenny Hagel and Amber Ruffin to play with. It’s also just a funny bit that always ends with Meyers — having been misled into telling an offensive joke yet again — shouting out in frustration, “Black women and lesbians are LIARS!” Since December 2018, Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” has been experimenting with its own version of this type of segment in which Michael Che and Colin Jost “swap” jokes. While only two of these segments have aired so far, “Update” would get a much-needed boost if this bit were featured more often.
The concept of the bit is simple: Instead of running through the pre-written “Update” jokes as usual, Jost and Che dedicate several minutes to reading jokes they’ve written for each other, apparently with no notice beforehand for what they’re about to read. (It’s similar to what John Mulaney supposedly did when he supposedly wrote the Stefon “Update” bits with Bill Hader back in the day, supposedly adding last-minute nightclub details that Hader didn’t see until he read them live.) The jokes Che writes make Jost look like a racist asshole and play off his image as the privileged Harvard white boy who parties in the Hamptons; the jokes Jost writes don’t so much touch on the (mostly Instagram Stories–related) criticisms of Che as they make him look like a total hornball. The first segment aired during SNL’s Christmas episode in December 2018 and ended with this Che punch line delivered by Jost: “Last week was National Rosa Parks Day. Or as we call it in my house, Uppity Bus Passenger Day.”
SNL brought the segment back during this weekend’s season 44 finale, and it didn’t lose any of its steam. Again there were horny Che jokes — for example: “Doctors in Iowa have confirmed a dog disease that can be passed on to humans. Fine, I’ll wear a condom.” And of course, there were more racist Jost jokes: “A substitute teacher in North Carolina has resigned after she reportedly told a class of elementary students that Martin Luther King Jr. killed himself. In her defense, he is the one who decided to keep running his mouth.” The jokes are there for the shock value, but the real laughs — like when Seth Meyers gets coerced into delivering a punch line, only to be confronted by aghast faces from Ruffin and Hagel — come from the reactions. Like Jost following up that Martin Luther King Jr. joke with an instant “WHY??”
The Jost-Che joke swaps, while brief, have been glimpses of a new iteration of “Update” that’s less bogged down in obligatory Trump news and more rooted in surprise, excitement, and self-awareness — elements that “Update” and SNL as a whole have been lacking lately. The joke swaps are like when Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Tiffany Haddish, and Lorne Michaels all took turns punching Jost in the face back in 2017, only in “Update” form: Che and Jost are polarizing “Update” anchors, and their critics are never going to be converted into fans, but when the two are metaphorically punching each other in the face over and over, that’s about as close as this duo gets to reuniting both sides of the SNL fan aisle. When Jost and Che lean into their heel turns and completely torture each other for their embarrassment and our amusement, everybody wins. (Except for Nanette, because we’re still not sure if Che has seen it yet.)