In an alternate reality that splintered off from this one sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s, Steve Bremner pursued his improv comedy career. Not realizing until he was in the thick of it that he was not very funny at doing characters and sketch comedy, nor particularly talented as an actor, he focused mostly on writing bits for others and performing stand-up comedy instead.
In this other life, he wound up going down a path that led to him becoming a writer on Saturday Night Live and a sometimes on-air talent, but never a full member of the cast.
It’s in this venue that his passion for creating content, writing, and impacting peoples’ lives comes to fruition.
After many years writing thousands of mediocre sketches that never made it to air, and hundreds of ones that do but are hit or miss, Steve finally followed in the footsteps of his hero and fellow Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald (who’s self-narrated autobiography Based On a True Story is also hilarious) and becomes anchor of the long-running Weekend Update fake news segment.
And by “fake news”, I mean sarcastic and satiric takes on current events delivered from behind a desk like the news.
OK, back to this reality.
I rarely watch SNL down here in Peru live when it’s broadcast, I’m well aware of Jost’s comedic stylings and delivery on the WU segment with co-anchor Michael Che thanks to YouTube and FB page videos.
The on-air performance-done-live aspect of it, as well as the behind-the-scenes writing and creation of that particular American TV and pop-culture institution.has always fascinated me.
For this reason, I thought nothing of spending one of my Audible credits on the new memoir from Colin Jost, A Very Punchable Face. Some chapters made me think there was little rhyme or reason for including them other than the funny delivery, which Jost does himself, but otherwise, the self-deprecating book was very entertaining, insightful, and enjoyable.
You see, Jost and I are close in age, and in many ways, other than the Harvard graduation thing and actually having hair, I see a lot in him that reminds me of myself if, as I mentioned in the 3rd intro to this article, I had gone another route in life.
I didn’t previously know or realize his mom was a first-responder on 9/11 and was actually buried under rubble for a time when the first tower collapsed and survived to help others.
I also didn’t previously realize a lot of things, like that he didn’t speak a single word until he was 4 years old. This was encouraging to me because my current 3-year-old and second daughter struggles pronunciation and expressing herself. This is almost the polar opposite of her 6-year-old sister, who I affectionately nickname Jabber Jaw, who was yakking away with everybody and always inquisitive when she was not even 18 months old yet.
So, it gives me great hope and encouragement for my own child who is late so-far at developing her verbal skills.
I also didn’t know that fellow SNL alum Will Forte was originally hired to write for The Late Show with David Letterman when he sent in crudely drawn images that looked like a child had drawn them as part of his writing packet. According to Jost, the writers of that show thought they were hilarious and Letterman walked by the writers’ room one moment when they were all being pass around, saw them, and on the spot said “hire that guy!”
Then Forte was fired nine months later.
Most importantly, and the real reason for even bothering to review the book here on my website is for the same reason I once wrote a review about why every writer needed to read Stephen King’s writing memoir: Jost is a writer, first and foremost, albeit in a comedy institution.
You see, I’m a sucker for podcasts and audiobooks by other comedians, especially when it involves the craft of writing itself. There is a lot to learn from comedians as there’s not a lot of difference between writing personal non-fiction, whether in a blog, ebooks, or even creating a podcast. I’ve learned a lot about the mindset and the way different performers and entertainers create their material. Probably as much or more so than reading or learning from other non-fiction authors.
Another bonus is that even though I don’t believe all authors should perform or narrate their own audiobooks, Jost is definitely in the category of writers who know how to do it right. Perhaps from his 6 plus seasons of writing and performing on Weekend Update.
Colin has just enough enthusiasm and self-deprecation and a dose of laughing at his own recollection of certain experiences and events in his life, which is only picked up in the audiobook version. I mean, how many other authors do you know who will write an entire chapter about how many times they’ve crapped their pants as an adult and let the whole world know about it? His timing and comedic delivery are brilliantly executed more often than not.
I realize that not every author or memoir writer will be writing in a profoundly humorous way, but there is still a lot to learn from reading or listening to this particular book. Just a warning to my more sensitive or Christian friends and followers that the book has a LOT of vulgarity and some chapters glorifying lifestyle decisions with some pride I wouldn’t imagine you relating to unless it’s your “BC years”. You’ve been warned, so no need to write to me and complain I’d promote it.
If you’re open to it, there’s a lot to take away here, and I’m probably going to listen to the audiobook again in another 6 months just for the clever wordplay alone. And like the story shared above about Will Forte, even whenever Jost deviates from his own narratives and shares details about other people, they are always fascinating enough that they never feel like he’s deviating from his own story. They always fit in enough to service the point he’s making.
Also, as you read or listen to this book, it’s likely the tidbits he decided to share are probably just a fraction of the stories he probably could have included if this is the one-shot he’s going to take at writing a book. What I mean by that is it doesn’t feel like a book filled with fluff or stories added to pad the page count, but that the things he’s included were given careful thought, but still like mentioned earlier, sometimes I didn’t understand his choice for chapter breakdown or why certain chapters or stories are included.
If you’re a writer, or more specifically if you’re a writer who’s thinking of narrating their own audiobook, then listen to A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir for a lot of insight on how to do it the right way.
However many stars I feel like out of however many stars there are.