Honest, emotional, and freaking hilarious: Colin Jost’s ‘A Very Punchable Face’

Image courtesy of https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com

Image courtesy of https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com

I remember the first time I ever watched Saturday Night Live. It was 2015, and my parents convinced me to watch the 40th Anniversary Special, featuring SNL greats such as Dan Aykroyd, Will Ferrell, Dana Carvey, and many more. I was shocked by how many of my favorite comedians became famous on SNL. I may not have understood all of the jokes, but I still found the show incredibly entertaining and, now that I am older, I have become a regular viewer of the show.

Over the last couple of years, my favorite segment of the show has been Weekend Update, hosted by Colin Jost and Michael Che. That is why I decided to read Colin Jost’s new memoir, A Very Punchable Face, which was published in July 2020. I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, as I have not read many memoirs, but the introduction was enough for me to realize that this memoir was going to be hilarious. It only took one page for Jost to crack me up: “And some of you, I’ll admit, were duped. Because half the copies of this book were titled Becoming 2: Michelle’s Got More to Say. And for that I apologize, even as I continue to fight Mrs. Obama aggressively in court.”

Each chapter of A Very Punchable Face addresses a different portion of Colin Jost’s life in rough chronological order. He starts by recounting his speech issues as a child (he wasn’t able to talk until the age of four), and his experiences as a Staten Island resident and Harvard student. In other memoirs and autobiographies, these early chapters can feel disconnected from the rest of the book. However, Jost takes the time to explain how his childhood experiences shaped his adult life and career while keeping the reader entertained with the self-deprecating humor suggested by the title. 

He continues by explaining every step of his career as a writer/comedian, writing for the Harvard Lampoon, then the Staten Island Advance, then for the Nickelodeon show Kappa Mickey (yeah, I’ve never heard of it either), until eventually becoming a staff writer for SNL. If you are a SNL fan, you will love Jost’s detailed descriptions and insight into the life of a SNL writer and performer, and your perspective on SNL may change. Personally, I gained an appreciation for how hard everyone on the show works after learning that 80+ hour work weeks, all-nighters, and sleeping at the office are all very common. 

You will also learn about a variety of random things no one would ever expect to learn from an SNL comedian, such as St. Petersburg, Central American parasites, competitive debate, Jimmy Buffett’s vacation habits, and the WWE. These topics may sound completely random, (and believe me, they are) but their complete randomness is part of what makes the book so relatable. We all have our crazy stories, and Jost is here to remind you that celebrities have them, too.

One of the most unique aspects of A Very Punchable Face is Jost’s self-awareness. He does not resist pointing out his own mistakes, such as when he applied to the Harvard Lampoon: “I even missed my grandfather’s funeral to turn in my final submission when I was applying, which is so strange and sad in retrospect.” This awareness is often conveyed through self-deprecating humor, which ends up defining the book. Many celebrities who write about themselves risk coming off as self-centered or ungrateful, but Jost makes the effort to recognize his privileges and his failures, making the book much more entertaining to read.

As previously mentioned, A Very Punchable Face is incredibly hilarious, with Jost using his signature witty banter and observational humor to enhance his storytelling. His ability to connect jokes to his life experiences while remaining truthful and sincere allowed me to appreciate the quality of Jost’s storytelling while also laughing out loud. Even if you generally don’t find Colin Jost funny, I believe there is a decent chance that you will enjoy this book. I recommend reading at least a couple of chapters, and then deciding whether or not to read it.

Even though this book is filled with humorous moments, there are emotional ones too, such as when Jost recounts his mother’s experiences during the September 11th attacks. She was the Chief Medical Officer of the New York Fire Department during the attacks, and was almost killed by the collapses of the Twin Towers. The chapter is incredibly well written, even if it lacks humor, and it is the chapter that convinced me to write a review. Jost also talks about his connections to alcohol abuse and speech impediments, and ends his memoir with a detailed, personal explanation of how he plans to move forward in his career and his life.

Overall, I loved Colin Jost’s A Very Punchable Face. It is the perfect blend of humor and emotion, sanity and insanity, usefulness and uselessness. I believe that anyone, especially fans of Saturday Night Live, will enjoy this book and should seriously consider reading it. 

Final Review: Five stars, 10 out of 10, A+, and 100%.