Friday, May 28, 2021

"A Very Punchable Face," by Colin Jost--Nonfiction Review

Review day obscurists! Let’s go with comedy this time. Today I’m talking about Colin Jost’s “A Very Punchable Face,” and much like his work on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, I love it.

Colin Jost

What I love about this book:

Obviously, it’d be weird if I reviewed a comedy book and didn’t mention that I thought it was funny, so let me just say Jost’s book is hilarious. It’s arranged so that each chapter focuses on one topic or is a story about Jost’s life, and almost all of them are funny. Right off the bat, when he describes being a—non-vocal, child of the corn-esque little boy, he takes something that’s a bit upsetting and makes it funny, which is really the soul of comedy.

Funny enough—see what I did there—one of my favorite chapters in this book isn’t a particularly funny chapter at all. The chapter is about 9/11, so you know—not a really hilarious topic for non-sociopaths. I liked the chapter so much because Jost talks about his mother’s experience of the day. On, 9/11 she was a doctor that worked with the fire department to support first responders, and more importantly, she was on site when both of the towers collapsed, and she managed to survive. It’s an unexpectedly intense chapter and a snapshot of the day and a chronicle of a courageous woman. 

On a lighter note, Colin Jost’s life is far more slapstick in nature than I would have expected. It’s a slight exaggeration, but it feels like every other chapter, he’s getting stitches, or some other serious harm is befalling him. He once injured himself while in a virtual reality setting—think about that for a second. Sure it was set off by some shit-bird Google tech-bro, but still, Colin Jost suffered real-world injuries while in VR. I guess it is common for people to get hurt because they’re too immersed in the VR and neglect their real-world surroundings, but still, Jost went to Harvard.

Another of the more memorable near-death experiences the comedian faced was in the ocean, while surfing, where he was nearly drowned or alternatively smashed to pieces on some rocks until Jimmy Buffett—yes, that Jimmy Buffett—rescued him. It’s a surreal story and one of my favorites Jost talks about in this book.

What I don’t love about this book:

Jost should really see a doctor—or a specialist of some kind. No adult of good health and sound mind accidentally shits themselves that many times. Once or twice, okay, but five!?

I think that Colin Jost and Michael Che and their segment—the latest incarnation of Weekend Update—on SNL is the funniest thing going on that show right now. So, any talk of quitting the show, like in this book, upsets me. Terrible advice here—but never grow, just do this forever, for my selfish, selfish benefit. I’m sure when he does finally move on from SNL, he’ll be great, and whatever. Still, I’ll be sad.

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Author's Website:

Parting thoughts:

The major thing this book, and books like it, make me think about is growth over time. I know I just joked about never growing, but I didn’t really mean it. How not just comedians and actors but any person develops over time is interesting to me. Experience, like water moving over stone, has a way of shaping a person in unexpected ways given enough time and exposure. 

Part of the reason I read so much is to vicariously glean as many experiences from as diverse a group of people as I possibly can. That way, when I form an opinion on something or think about a task or issue, I can draw from other’s experiences as well as my own—or that’s the theory.

In any case, I’ve found the more I read and the more I learn about people, the harder it is for me to hate them—even when I disagree with them. I think that’s probably one of the greatest boons of reading. When someone invites you into their world, and you get to see behind their mask down to what makes their mind tick, a little bit of empathy can go a long, long way down the road of understanding.

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