Note: NBC revealed on Sept. 11 that Michael Che is headed to Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update desk when the series’ 40th season premieres on Sept. 27. Learn more about Che’s background in the post below, originally published April 28.
Who is Michael Che, The Daily Show’s latest recruit? First and foremost, he’s a prolific workhorse of a standup known for performing in New York City comedy clubs seven nights a week, often in multiple venues each night. Secondly, he’s a writer for SNL whose work includes “12 Days Not a Slave” and that weird sketch where Zach Galifianakis plays a racist M&M. Thirdly, he’s a rising star who recently snagged a role in Chris Rock’s upcoming film Finally Famous, which sort of sounds like Rock’s take on Funny People. (Update: The movie is now called Top Five; it sparked a bidding war at the Toronto International Film Festival, eventually getting acquired by Paramount.)
But important as these tidbits may be, they’re also just lines on Che’s resume – and they don’t say much about what we might expect from him once he makes the leap from NBC to Comedy Central. Maybe these fun facts will be a little more revealing:
1. He grew up in the projects of New York City’s Lower East Side
Michael Che, born Michael Che Campbell – yes, the “Che” is after Che Guevara – frequently talks about his hard-luck upbringing in his standup. See, for example, this Comedy Central clip, which finds Che describing his old pal Homeless Dave. (“We used to tease the kids in the shelter because they were the only people we knew poorer than us,” he explains. “And we thought somehow they were messing up our property value by being homeless.”)
2. He’s been performing for less than five years
Try to contain your envy, wannabe comedians: Che, who turns 31 this year, did his very first open mic at the relatively advanced age of 26. That actually may be how he got so good so fast: “I was 26, and a lot of people were like 20, 22, so I had a little bit better sense of myself than a lot of people that started out. I had been a fan of comedy since I was in diapers, so I kind of knew what standup sounded like, in a lot of ways,” he explained to Splitsider last year. “I’m from New York and I started n New York, which I think is a huge advantage because I wasn’t overwhelmed by the city. I understood the city. All of the distractions that could come with somebody that started comedy in New York didn’t really happen for me.”
Che also got a sketch on air during his very first week as a guest writer for SNL – a feat that’s practically unheard of. (The year Larry David worked for SNL, exactly one of his pieces made it to the live show. One.) Here’s the bit that gave Che his ticket to a spot on Saturday Night Live’s permanent writing staff:
3. Hurricane Sandy almost derailed his Letterman standup debut
The superstorm hit right before Che was scheduled to do a career-making performance on the Late Show. “I was living in Jersey City at the time and by Tuesday, I had lost power, cell phone service was out, and public transportation had stopped. I had no way to find out if the Letterman taping was still going to happen,” he told W last March. When he finally got word that the show would go on, Che and a pal tried to drive into New York City – and made it to the Ed Sullivan Theater in the nick of time, only after giving a ride to a stranger and his toddler. This is the set Che performed once he got onstage that night:
4. He is not a very good Facebook friend
As proven by the following video.
5. He’s also not political
Wait – The Daily Show hired a guy who explicitly doesn’t care about current events? It’s true! Take this line from an interview with The Independent: “I don’t know a lot…I went to Egypt because I had no idea there was a revolution on.” This bit from a set Che performed on Late Night with Seth Meyers just a month ago is even more strongly stated: “I’m not saying I shouldn’t have to pay any taxes, but I shouldn’t have to pay as many as somebody that votes. I don’t vote because I don’t know anything about politics. And honestly, I can’t believe they’d let me. Isn’t that an important thing? They’ll just let me pick the president! I don’t gotta know anything!” Think he plans to bone up before joining Jon Stewart’s fake news team?