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'SNL' writer Michael Che talks upcoming Boston show, Comedy Central special, and more

Posted by Matthew Juul  February 18, 2014 01:40 PM

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Mindy Tucker

As one of comedy’s fastest rising stars, “Saturday Night Live” writer Michael Che is setting himself up for a big 2014. The New York-based comedian recently made Rolling Stone’s “50 Funniest People” list – even though he only started performing in 2009. Che will be the first stand-up act featured on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” next week, and will also tape a special for Comedy Central in March. The comedian, who will be at Laugh Boston on Feb. 20-22, spoke by phone to recently about his upcoming Boston show, his favorite moments working at “SNL,” and more. You started doing comedy just a few years ago and you are already writing for “Saturday Night Live.” How has the experience been so far?

Michael Che: It’s been amazing. I came in February of last year as a guest writer and then when I left, they asked me to come back and finish out the season. Then they let me come back this season, so it’s been really cool. What’s been your favorite moment of the show so far?

Che: There’s a lot of favorite moments that I am sworn to secrecy. But a favorite moment … Aw man that’s a tough one. Yeah that’s a tough one. There are some really cool moments.

Just the experience, period, is my favorite. Like the first day I got there it was a Monday, so we were doing pitch. And I never had, like, orientation or anything so I didn’t know what was going on. But, in pitch, we all go into Lorne’s [Michaels] office and we meet the host – the whole cast, every writer – and we pitch a couple of sketch ideas that we want to write. And to me, that first one was my favorite one just because it was such a brand new experience. Lorne Michaels is there, the whole cast is there. Everybody’s being funny and laughing. And to me, it’s like, “Oh [expletive], we are really writing a show.” It was exciting. Do you find it harder to write comedy for other performers on “SNL” as opposed to writing stand-up for yourself on stage?

Che: It’s harder for me to write for other people because it’s not what I’m used to doing, so it’s just like a learning curve. I’m learning how to do it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s something that I think helps with writing jokes for yourself later on because now when you tell a story, you start thinking of everything funny that everyone else is doing. It’s more writing comedy from a world perspective than an individual perspective. I read in an interview that you’ve previously called “SNL” the Yankees of comedy. Since you’ll be coming to Boston, who or what would be equivalent to the Red Sox?

Che: Aw man -- you trying to get me in trouble? Maybe a little, haha.

Che: This might not sound politically correct, but “SNL” would be the Red Sox, too. Like, all of those kind of teams. It’s basically something that people grew up with. A lot of times, it’s older than a lot of its fans. So many legendary performers that you grew up on came from there. So Yankees, it could be anything. Who are some of those performers that you grew up on?

Che: Growing up, I always liked Eddie Murphy because of his “Best of Eddie Murphy” VHS tapes. I would watch Buck Wheat and all that stuff. Mr. Robinson in the neighborhood. I guess Eddie Murphy is the guy that made “SNL” what it was to me. As a kid, I loved “In Living Color” because I loved Damon Wayans and them, so I didn’t really watch “SNL” as a little kid. But then, like Will Ferrell, those guys kind of made me really pay attention to “SNL” and even go back and watch [Chris] Farley and those guys too a little later. Last year you headlined 25 shows in 26 days in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the UK. How grueling was that experience?

Che: That’s not just me. That’s normal over there. Over there, that’s what they do. They headline shows ... they just go on a run, man.

It was grueling for me because I wasn’t used to comedy that way. Having reviewers there, having shows at XYZ times because this paper’s there and that paper’s there. It was a lot of anxiety that I wasn’t expecting. I thought it was just going to be where I can build an hour. It’s really where you take an hour, not where you build an hour. But by week two, I started to get the hang of it and there started to be a lot less pressure. I started to have more fun. Also, I was sick out there. I wasn’t in the best head space. But I can’t wait to go back and do a bunch of shows. I had a lot of fun, people seemed to have fun. I read that you used to be a painter and owned a T-shirt company. Do you consider yourself more of an artist than a stand-up performer or comedian? Are there other mediums you’d like to delve into?

Che: I consider myself a comedian more than anything. I knew how to paint and stuff, but I wasn’t amazing or anything. I didn’t feel like I could be amazing. That’s not saying I’m so amazing at comedy, but comedy seems to be the most fun thing for me to learn how to do and to really have fun with. So I consider myself a comedian.

As far as mediums, I always wanted to take, like, photography. I always thought that was a fun, cool thing. And directing, you know, which is sort of photography. The more I learn about TV production working at “SNL” and the way shows come together, I would love to direct or produce something. I read on Twitter that you have an upcoming half-hour special on Comedy Central.

Che: That’s taping in March in Boston. That’s exciting. I’m going back overseas to London and to Edinburgh for a run. I’m working on a couple of projects that I can’t really talk about yet. But there’s going to be some screen stuff hopefully soon. It’s exciting, but the number one focus is stand-up and the number one of the bulletin board is an hour for next year. A whole hour for next year, whether it’s on a network, or just put out myself. An album and a special are something that I’m really looking forward to do. For people who haven’t seen your work before, what can audiences expect from your show when you come to Boston?

Che: They can expect a lot of fun. Everything I’m doing is coming from a place of fun. I just want to have fun with you guys in Boston. So if you hear something that you don’t agree with, it doesn’t mean you can’t laugh. Just find that it’s funny that I think that way. I just want to have a good time ... that’s what comedy does for me. And I also just want you to think of things that maybe you didn’t necessarily think of when you first heard the subject.

Readers: Will you be seeing Che at Laugh Boston?

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Stephanie Callahan is a native Bostonian who loves cooking, traveling, spa treatments, and being on the ocean.

Meghan Colloton is a Bostonian who loves traveling, channeling her inner Julia Child, and trying weird things -- from food to bungee jumping.

Milva DiDomizio is a New England native who's fond of cooking, singing, and Boston's arts and culture scene.

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Emily Wright is a native Cape Codder who enjoys exercising, baking, and the occasional guilty pleasure action movie.


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