Michael Che is old — so old, in fact, he wears gray pants “unironically.” That’s just a self-assessment the comedian offered not long after taking the stage in Stamp Student Union’s Grand Ballroom as the headliner for Student Entertainment Events’ spring comedy show. In reality, Che is a youthful 32-year-old, dressed casually in red and white Jordan 13s, a hoodie, a Yankees flat-brim cap and, well, gray pants as he deftly analyzes the packed crowd of students, looking for comedic fodder. He finds it in a kid named Wes, a male student who refuses to provide an answer to what his favorite porn is, and in a girl with a cast on her leg and accompanying scooter sitting unfortunately close to Che. Laughing, the audience eats up the crowd work. To Che, it’s just politeness.
“I feel like if you go to somebody’s house, you should say hello,” he said in a post-performance interview. “So if I go to your performance venue, I’ll say hello. That’s what crowd work is, it’s me saying I acknowledge your presence … and back to poop jokes.”
Che’s jokes aren’t safe. He pokes fun at Jesus’ biography, including opinions he might have had as a carpenter while on the cross. Che’s act is always dangerous, never tailored to please a particular crowd.
“You know why?” Che asked. “Because, like, if I go see Batman or some shit like that and if you liked it and I go see it and I don’t like it, it’s not going to be a different movie, it’s the same fucking movie. You either like it or you don’t and it’s okay if you don’t.”
However, certain crowds can leave an impact on the comedian himself. Not having attended college, Che is left wondering what could have been after visiting and performing at various universities.
“A lot of times when I see the different kinds of facilities that students are exposed to, I’m like, ‘Oh man, that would’ve been cool. I wish I would’ve done that shit when I was 19 or 20,'” said Che. “That might have changed my outlook.”
And what was Che actually doing when he was 19 or 20?
“Oh boy … I don’t know if you could write that,” said Che. “What I was doing at 19? Let’s say this: I was wasting a lot of time.”
Now, Che is objectively successful. He splits his time between his stand-up and his work on Saturday Night Live, where he hosts “Weekend Update,” SNL‘s longest-running recurring sketch. For Che, the dual time commitment is admittedly “tough,” but also a “good problem to have.”
“It’s honestly like having two wives … so fantastic,” Che jokingly said.
And which wife is more fun?
“The redhead,” Che said.
Che gives off a vibe of being perennially at ease, carrying the poise of a man who knows he’s good at what he does. He stopped to take a picture with the select audience members he sarcastically berated throughout the show, acknowledging their contribution to his act. Thank-yous and handshakes were abundant after the show, as Che noted the SEE staff treated him like “one of the boys.” Because I asked and because he’s in a position to do so, Che offers his advice to up-and-coming comics.
“The most important thing is to be comfortable on stage, and the only way to be comfortable on stage is to be on stage a lot,” Che said. “Just do it, stop being fucking lazy. I sound like one of those Everest College commercials.”
The few people remaining in the room laugh at Che’s quick wit. It’s safe to say he’s pretty damn comfortable.