The knives are out for “Weekend Update” host Michael Che, although it’s difficult to know how many have actually been brandished. The media is on his case at least, doing that thing where outlets assign news value to a stream of critical tweets, predicated on the absurd notion that Twitter produces representative samplings of public opinion.
Actually, I’m not sure the practice is even that thoughtful. It’s probably just about clicks.
Back to Che. After complaining about his Caitlyn Jenner jokes on “Saturday Night Live’s” Oct. 26 broadcast, detractors this week made an issue of Che’s jokes about prison showers and a 67-year-old giving birth. Che had referred to Jenner as a “fella” and “Bruce” in past tense, which was deemed transphobic.
As for the prison showers, Che joked that California should be using violent rather than non-violent prisoners to fight wildfires, “somebody that’s really good with water, because they spend all of their time hanging out in the showers.” The 67-year-old woman, he said, “set a record for most friction” during the birth.
Che added: “See, you guys don’t realize this but that joke took me like four hours to write. I had much better punchlines but the fellas at NBC standards said they were all too dirty. Like, at first I was gonna say, ‘Well I hope that kid likes his milk chalky!’ But they said, ‘You can’t say that on TV.’ It was my second favorite punchline! My first favorite being, ‘She can breastfeed just by standing over the crib.’ That’s a good one, right? Nope, NBC said, ‘Too gross,’ which is ridiculous. Too gross would be like if I said, ‘Doctors described the birth as pulling a penny out of a wad of gum.”
Che’s already something of a pest to comedy critics, with a history of mocking complaints about allegedly harmful bits. He also defended Louis C.K.’s comeback. The guy is clearly not interested in moderating his act. With two high-profile controversies in two weeks—and an apparent eagerness to fight back—Che’s the man to watch.
Here’s exactly how this is going to go. Che, like any comedian worth his salt, will continue relishing the backlash. Needling sensitive keyboard warriors will become a regular schtick. The doubling down will become tripling down and quadrupling down. It will be good for his career. It will be good for “SNL,” which could seriously use some sparks of excitement.
And it’s all because most people do not accept the boundaries applied to comedy by its serial scolds, who enjoy outsize influence over culture thanks to streams of legitimizing media coverage. Che will thus be elevated to Comedy Martyr status, branded a Chappelleian resistor helping save humor from the haters.
To be clear, Michael Che is basically at the top of his industry. He’s a head writer on “SNL” and the host of “Weekend Update.” He’s not a victim of political correctness. (Not yet, at least.) If anything, Che’s enemies will fuel him to new heights.
So go ahead. Harp on Michael Che for telling jokes. It’s going to end much better for him than for his critics.