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<em>Saturday Night Live</em> Writer Michael Che Revisits His Favorite Sketches

I feel that a lot of racial sketches that I write should have a picture of me in the bottom left-hand corner smiling with thumbs up, saying, "Listen, it's okay! A black guy wrote this!"
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Photo by Mindy Tucker

Native New Yorker Michael Che only began performing in 2010, yet his credits already include Letterman, Rolling Stone's "50 Funniest People of 2013" and Variety's "10 Comics to Watch in 2013" lists, and making the very first stand-up appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. He's also enjoying his first season as a Saturday Night Live staff writer and will headline Carolines on Broadway March 20-23.

Here Che explores five favorite SNL sketches to which he contributed.

"I got to write with Bryan Tucker on that. He had an idea of having Josh [Hutcherson] as just a small break-dancer. I like that sketch because we originally wrote for it to be live, but then we thought it would come off better taped, and I'm really glad that we did it taped because it made it look cool. And also it's a unique New York experience where everybody that's ever ridden a subway in New York dreads hearing "Showtime!" I don't know who decides they're going to end up dancing on a crowded subway, how inappropriate that is that you've gotta dance in the most crowded place in New York City and do flips. So this is just a fun take that they're not moving but still dancing."

"That was my first live sketch I ever got on. I did that with Mike O'Brien, and the sketch was fun because it was a way to do all of these terrible stereotypical jokes in a sketch format. And it's [Zach] Galifianakis; he's one of the only guys who could pull that off because he's such a genuinely sweet, sincere guy. It's funny seeing him say all these horrible, horrible things. It was cool too, because he had some great pitches for jokes on that sketch, and Jason Sudekis had great pitches for jokes. Working with Jason was really cool, because he's like a extra director in the cast. He knows exactly where the camera should be and where the sound should be and how the jokes should go, so that was really fun for me.

"To me the best sketches are just the simplest concept, and it's basically Zach Galifianakis in an M&M suit being horrible. In fact, it's him apologizing for being horrible. My favorite joke in that one was is he calls Kenan [Thompson] "Black Joe," and Keenan is like, 'It's just Joe! There's no other Joe that works here!'"

It was me and Jay Pharoah and Seth Meyers. That was a really special sketch to me because it was the first time I really got to write with Seth. We kind of banged it out in almost an hour or two. The premise of it is how people think that racism was over when racism was abolished. When you're talking about racism in America, someone will be like, "Oh, that was 200 years ago!" "Yeah, but it was still really rough until about now, so..." That sketch is reimagining what it would be like for a slave who says, "Finally! Now we're all good!" "No, man; it's still not cool!" I don't know if it got lost or if people understood where the joke was coming from. I think some people got it and other people just thought, "Oh, this is SNL making fun of a black movie."

"You know, I always like doing the kind of sketches that kind of challenge comedy and challenge the audience, and a lot of time a lot of people are game for it on network TV, but I feel like what we should be doing more of, and it's really what makes comedy smart. And it's exciting that the show would let us put something like that on. It's a cool thing to be able to do that with Edward Norton, of all people. He was totally game for it."

"The Huffington Post did an article on why Best Man Holiday isn't a black Christmas movie, but just a Christmas movie. That's really what gave me the idea, because when you see a movie with an all-black cast, people just put it in that box of "black movie." It's like, what if the same thing happened in a white movie? Would it be considered a black movie? It's more of a question than an actual statement. I think people thought it was a sketch making fun of those quote unquote "black movies," but it really was more making fun of the concept of it being a black movie. It's just a movie with something silly happening in it and the people in it happened to black. That's really what the sketch was about.

"I felt like at the time there were a lot of diversity issues with SNL. People kind of took it as an insult. I feel that a lot of racial sketches that I write should have a picture of me in the bottom left-hand corner smiling with thumbs up, saying, "Listen, it's okay! A black guy wrote this!" I love sketches that challenge peoples' conceptions of what we can get away with."

"This sketch I love because it's just a shit joke. It's a two-and-a-half-minute, three-minute shit joke. That was Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin and me in a room about to write a sketch, and Tim was acting like he was a CEO holding a bag of shit in the elevator. We couldn't stop laughing. We were about to write a sketch at like 9:00 in the morning and he starts doing that, and we were like, "Maybe we should just write that!" We wrote it in like 45 minutes, and it just killed us. It's just a silly sketch. When you do all these political sketches and social sketches and stuff that's challenging comedy, sometimes it's fun to do one that's just purely sophomoric. That one was a lot of fun to do. It still cracks me up to think the guy has to ride the elevator holding a bag of shitty drawers.

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