Head Writer Colin Jost

We’re three episodes into the 41st season of Saturday Night Live, and the most recent episode hosted by Tracy Morgan (check out my review of the whole episode over here) shows that the writers and cast finally getting comfortable and delivering a solid episode with a veteran cast member. It may have taken a couple episodes to get there, but they did it.

However, it turns out that this success has come with one major change behind the scenes that is only just now coming to light. SNL head writer Colin Jost is no longer has that title on the late night sketch show. The good news is that this should actually help improve the show.

Splitsider was the first to notice that the end credits for this past weekend’s episode of SNL didn’t list Colin Jost as one of the head writers, but simply as one of the regular writing staff. Here are the screenshots for proof:

snl-headwriter-credit

snl-writers-credit

In addition, Jost is no longer credited as a head writer on the Saturday Night Live website about page:

snl-writers-aboutpage

So what’s going on? Well, Vanity Fair learned that Jost actually hasn’t been credited as head writer since the 40th season finale earlier this year with host Louis C.K. THR added that the move was reportedly Jost’s decision, since he wanted to focus more on making Weekend Update better –a smart move considering how inconsistent the quality of that segment has been since he took it over with featured cast member Michael Che.

Jost was just 22 when he joined the writing staff of SNL in 2005, and while many people at Saturday Night Live join the show in their 20s, it’s still mind-blowing to think of someone fresh out of college getting one of the most coveted jobs in comedy. He became a writing supervisor in 2009 and then head writer in 2012 along with Rob Klein and Bryan Tucker, veterans of SNL who remain head writers. That’s a very impressive rise through the ranks.

However, since taking over the Weekend Update desk, thus putting himself in the spotlight more, Jost has taken plenty of fire from audiences and critics. Most of the criticism seems to be due to his smarmy comedic style, but for me that’s part of his appeal. He reminds me a bit of Dennis Miller, but he also brings to the table the ability to be a bit of a clueless WASP when it’s called for, so I’m glad to hear this change doesn’t seem to be about his talent.

And from a production standpoint, this does make complete sense. As a head writer, Jost was responsible for much more than his recurring fake news segment. Vanity Fair called our attention to an article over at Co.Create which profiled Bryan Tucker, and he had this to say about the position:

When you get in a more senior position, instead of writing everything you just want to write, you have to concentrate more on the show as a whole, and usually, that involves thinking about cold opens, current events stuff, the monologue for the host and then the places other writers are not writing for—it might be trying to write something for a cast member who needs a little more screen time; it might be trying to write a piece that involves lots of cast while other writers are just writing a piece for two or three cast members. It’s trying to help fill in the gaps.

Knowing that, it’s easy to see how Jost being occupied with other head writer duties would mean he gets to spend less time on Weekend Update. So with Jost back as part of the writing staff and putting his focus on that segment, hopefully the two-episode streak of great Weekend Update segments (improved mostly because of the interaction between Che and Jost) will continue when the show returns in November with host Donald Trump.

Fun fact: In addition to the staff of writers, there’s a private e-mail list of select comedians who are asked to contribute potential Weekend Update jokes each week. They’re blind-copied so no one really knows who is on the list, but if their joke gets picked, that writer is paid $100. That’s not bad for a single joke.

Cool Posts From Around the Web: