Here's my brief Q&A with Weekend Update head writer Alex Baze. Thanks again to Alex for taking the time to answer these questions! The answers are super-insightful and make for an interesting read!
How did you get your job at Saturday Night Live?
That’s a long story, but I’ll try to stick to the important parts. After a year of teaching high school, I moved to Chicago to learn improv at Second City and ImprovOlympic. Moved up the ladder, made my connections, learned the craft and so on. Then, years later, I submitted a packet of sketches to SNL and got an interview. Didn’t get the job that time, but they told me I could fax jokes to Weekend Update freelance. 100 bucks a joke if it gets on the air. So I did that for several years until Tina Fey brought me in to interview for Update. And that time I got the gig.
What/who are your writing/comedic influences?
Everybody. Is that a good answer? In seriousness, I devoured any comedy I could find when I was a kid, trying to figure out how they did it. I really like Jerry Seinfeld for his ability to craft a joke and his respect for detail. I’m less of a performer, so I tend to enjoy stuff that’s well written and has a point of view. The stuff that Steven Colbert is doing now is genius.
What is your personal process for writing Update jokes each week, and if you get writer's block, how do you deal with it?
Well, we get a worksheet with encapsulated news stories when we come in every day, so that gives us an idea of what we’re writing about. As for my process, I like to just keep reading the stories over and over, looking for different angles. I generally ask myself “what do I want to say about this story?” Then, once I can answer that, the next question is “What’s the cleverest way to say that?” And I don’t believe in writer’s block. You may write well, you may write badly, but you can always write SOMETHING. And usually, if you just put your head down and keep writing, you’ll find your groove.
Can you think of any recent event that was either very easy or difficult to write jokes about?
Well, we had to write about Goldman Sachs being charged with fraud by the SEC. And if you fell asleep reading that sentence, you know why it was hard. The more you have to explain to the audience, the harder it is to find a joke in there. You may have heard that comedians “say what the audience is thinking.” With a story like that, the audience isn’t really thinking anything about it, because they don’t understand it. On the other hand, something like the Sarah Palin saga is easier, because everyone knows a lot of detail about her.
What is your favourite part about being a writer for the show?
The best part for me is working with the funniest people in the world every day. I’ve learned so much more about comedy in the last six years than I did in the previous 37. Yes, I’m very, very old. Also, the health insurance is pretty stellar.
Pretty cool, huh?