Colin Jost’s new memoir, which should have been called Jost the Facts but instead is called A Very Punchable Face, finds the Saturday Night Live co–head writer, “Weekend Update” co-anchor, and Scarlett Johansson fiancé in funny-confessional mode, giving behind-the-scenes glimpses into his Staten Island past and 30 Rock present. Jost has been a comedy writer since his Harvard Lampoon days, and, if nothing else, he’s very good at punctuating his life stories with rule-of-three–adherent jokes. Also: Did you know his mother was the chief medical officer of the FDNY during 9/11 and was working at ground zero when the Towers fell? Here are 20 other things we now know about Jost, ScarJost, and Saturday Night Live thanks to Jost’s new book.
He rowed crew with the Winklevoss twins.
Jost rowed crew at Harvard with the Winklevoss twins, as in the double Armie Hammers from The Social Network. Jost guesses that they probably don’t remember him, because he was eventually moved to the lightweight team, and adds that “by the end of freshman year, I stopped rowing crew but made the interesting decision to continue eating five thousand calories a day.”
He was “probably one of the first hundred people to join” Facebook.
You might have guessed from the Winklevii connection that Jost was at Harvard at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg. Jost was a year above Zuck and was Facebook friends with him, “back when that actually kind of meant something,” but initially thought Facebook was “a gigantic waste of time.”
His rejected hidden-camera-show pitch with Simon Rich still would not fly today.
In 2004, before either of them joined SNL as writers, Jost and his Harvard Lampoon friend Simon Rich devised a hidden-camera-show concept called Admissions Impossible, which promised to “exploit high school seniors at their most vulnerable” by setting up fake college interviews for elite, competitive schools, a “prime opportunity to screw with these kids.” It understandably never went anywhere.
In the mid-2000s, Lorne Michaels was very into Snood.
Jost recounts his first meeting with Lorne Michaels when interviewing for a position at SNL. When he entered Michaels’s office, “he was on his computer, presumably conducting high-end talent negotiations, though I now know with 100 percent certainty that he was playing Snood.” Later in the book, Jost says that “no one who works at SNL is really an adult,” adding in a footnote, “Even Lorne is basically a seventy-five-year-old teen.”
He shits his pants not infrequently.
In the first five years after graduating from college, Jost shit his pants “like five times,” an average rate of one accident a year. He has continued “cruising along at a ‘Shit My Pants Once Every Year or Two’ kind of pace” since then. Also: during college, at SNL, on a first date, and before and after stand-up sets. He devotes an eight-page chapter to this, titled “Okay, So Maybe I’ve Shit My Pants a Couple Times.”
Jim Carrey shit his pants during a Black Swan sketch.
When Jim Carrey hosted SNL in 2011, he “screamed so loudly in the scene that he shit his pants,” earning the bit an “Honorable Mention” in Jost’s chapter about his favorite SNL sketches that he helped write. At first, I thought this was a joke, but considering the degree to which pants pooping is a recurring motif in the book, I know Jost means it.
Jost considers “nine dollars an hour” “really good for a summer job. Or any job in general.”
It was his rate at the Staten Island Advance as “a college intern with no skills.” Prior to that, he had “interned at the paper for two summers in high school and wrote articles for the ‘Teen Section,’” including a “glowing review of Bernadette Peters in Annie Get Your Gun.” After graduating from Harvard, Jost took a job as a night editor at the Advance, where he wrote front-page articles with titles like “It Was a Matter of Life … and Death,” about “a raccoon that had gotten hit by a truck.”
Jost first met ScarJo while working on an SNL sketch he had written in his first year on staff.
It was a 2006 parody of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, and ScarJo was 20 and a first-time host. “She claims that she remembers thinking I was ‘cute,’” Jost writes, and he says, “She had a grace and a smile that I’ve still never seen in any other human.” The only line from the sketch that he remembers writing for her: “This party is literally worse than the Holocaust.”
He broke his hand trying to outpunch the Chicago Blackhawks.
If you’ve ever seen Jost’s 2012 Just for Laughs Chicago stand-up set and wanted to know the full story behind the bandage on his hand, he had gone out drinking the night before with many members of the 2012 Chicago Blackhawks (Jost writes that the team “had just won their first Stanley Cup in forty-seven years,” but they won the Cup and ended the drought in 2010, after forty-seven seasons.) They were at a Whirlyball court on the outskirts of town and he tried to outpunch them on one of those arcade-game punching bags. “If the range of scores is between zero and 1,000, the hockey players are punching 900s and I’m punching a 32,” he writes.
Jost and Johansson are definitely on the same page about her playing a tree.
Jost writes that he’s “Irish Catholic and pride is a sin,” but among the SNL sketches he does “remember fondly” are Cecily Strong’s “The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With at a Party” character on “Update” and the “Diner Lobster” sketch. Also among his favorites is the “Can I Play That?” game-show sketch, which was his response to “so many actors getting burned for doing parts they ‘shouldn’t do.’” He started wondering “how far it would go” and thinking that “the fundamental definition of acting was changing,” so he made a game-show parody in which actors get told what roles they are and aren’t “allowed to play.” This sketch aired in March 2019, four months before his partner Scarlett Johansson’s infamous “I should be able to play any person, tree, or animal” interview.
Jost had to reaudition for the “Weekend Update” job he already had.
After Jost’s first eight episodes anchoring “Weekend Update” with Cecily Strong at the end of season 39, Lorne decided to have him reaudition for the role in August 2014, along with potential anchors Vanessa Bayer, Leslie Jones, Chris Kelly, and Sasheer Zamata. Jost calls the auditions a “great process, because everyone who auditioned was really funny,” except that Lorne “decided at the last second to scrap the run-through and do it directly on camera,” which sounds nerve-racking but also like classic Lorne.
Jimmy Buffett saved Jost’s life in St. Barts.
In 2014, Jost and his girlfriend Carmel Lobello were on vacation in St. Barts when Jost met Jimmy Buffett, who told him he was there because he always spends “a few days surfing wherever we open a new Margaritaville.” When Jost went surfing with Buffett and his family, he got “pinned against the rocks by my own leash” and was “bleeding because I sliced my foot open” as five-foot waves crashed into him. Buffett came to his rescue, paddled over to the rocks, and cut Jost loose with the knife that he surfs with — “(which, how awesome is it that Jimmy Buffett swims with a knife??).” The next day, when Jost tried to find Buffett to thank him for saving his life, he learned he “flew himself to Nevis to play golf for the day.”
Lorne Michaels comes in to work every single day.
“Never before 4 p.m., but yes! Every damn day.”
SNL cast members make “between a hundred thousand and 2 million dollars a year.”
Two million seems low, actually, for Kate McKinnon.
Mick Jagger calls Lorne’s office for stage-banter ideas before concerts.
Jost calls SNL “the kind of place where Lorne will call you into his office in the middle of the day and say, ‘Mick Jagger’s about to go onstage in Prague and he needs a joke to open the show. Any ideas?’”
Donald Trump was present for every stage of SNL rehearsals the week before his 2015 episode.
And by the end of the week, “I think most people at our show thought, Huh. This guy isn’t a monster after all,” Jost writes. Jost also tells a story about a guest who refused to admit that he wore a toupee, so the wig department had to put a bald cap over his toupee, and a wig atop that. Jost doesn’t name names, but the implication is there. He also compares Trump — who came to rehearsals without bodyguards or assistants — with Hillary Clinton, who brought “about fifteen people” for a five-minute appearance on the show in 2015, including “Secret Service guys, advisors, liaisons, friends.”
French teens once threw tomatoes at him and ScarJo.
And the chapter begins thusly: “Scarlett and I were wandering the streets of Paris after a romantic Senegalese dinner …” It was 2 a.m. when what Jost calls “a gang of vicious sixteen-year-old French thugs with flowing blond hair and designer sneakers” began throwing tomatoes at him from their bicycles. (ScarJo was not hit.) He describes the sensation of being hit with a fresh tomato by a French teen in front of your girlfriend who is Scarlett Johansson as akin to “getting hit with a water balloon that doesn’t break. Or like a baby’s head.” Jost hopped on “the Parisian equivalent of a Citi Bike” and tried to track the teens down, gave up, and chucked the bike over the fence of a construction site at the Musée d’Orsay.
Expect a ScarJost baby in the future.
Talking about how much he has grown since he started on SNL, Jost writes, “I’ve even woken up on a Sunday after a show and thought, I would love to be raising a baby right now!”
He’s “preparing mentally to leave SNL in the near future.”
He calls it “a choice I need to make” and says he “will miss SNL in a deeply spiritual way” because it’s the thing he has “cared about the most for the past fifteen years.” He writes that he has worked “very broadly” at SNL and that he’s now “ready to work more deeply.”
ScarJo was the first person to read this book.
In the acknowledgements, Jost writes, “And finally, thank you to Scarlett for being my first reader and for always protecting me from my worst instincts. Remember that Mexican tribal mask I tried to put in our living room? Thanks for stopping me from doing that.”