As Saturday Night Live featured player and stand-up comedian Jon Rudnitsky prepares to make his headlining debut at Carolines this weekend, we sat down with the 26 year-old New Jersey native to talk about his stand-up career, his thoughts on his first season on SNL and more.
Carolines on Broadway: Are you excited to be continuing with stand up after being on SNL this season?
Jon Rudnitsky: Absolutely. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the summer. And SNL has provided me the opportunity to do so much more stand up. I’m headlining for the first time and being able to develop a full hour is such a creatively fulfilling challenge.
COB: Has the way you do stand up changed since when you started?
JR: Definitely and it continues to constantly evolve. So much of my act has to do with my experiences on the show, whether it’s stories, characters, sketch ideas, or impressions, I’ve been able to work a great deal into my act as a result of being there this past year. Like any comedian I feel inclined to discuss Trump, but to spend a week with the guy definitely helps provide some added perspective.
COB: Do you prefer stand up to sketch or vice versa? Why?
JR: I love both for different reasons, but the lines between the two forms of comedy have become a bit more blurred for me recently. I’ve begun incorporating sketch into my stand up, and once I realized I could even do that, my whole act really changed. It went from telling jokes to making it more of a performance. Doing sketch specifically on SNL is of course a different beast altogether. It’s gratification on the grandest scale, because you’re writing a sketch with a group of the funniest people in the world, and then suddenly it’s on live TV four days later. That kind of comedic experience can’t really be compared to anything else.
COB: Is there something that you’re able to accomplish in stand up that you cannot do through sketch?
JR: It depends on the idea. Some concepts require a cast, wardrobe, and set pieces to work. Some ideas are character pieces or impressions that can easily fit into my act or can be useful as a Weekend Update piece on the show. Update is definitely where the two worlds of sketch and stand up merge the most.
COB: How was your first season at SNL? What was your biggest surprise?
JR: Everyday was the most exciting/frieghtening day of my life. I’m surrounded by my heroes and as much as I want to pinch myself and take it all in I have to also write and perform alongside them. It’s a constant scramble to come up with something for whichever movie star or presidential candidate is hosting that week. It’s all very surreal, but the job doesn’t give you too much time to step outside of the chaos and realize just how wild it all is.
The biggest surprise was how nice everyone is. Of course, you expect and hope people are going to be respectful, but I had freshman year nerves. Will they let me sit at their table during lunch? They all let me sit with them. That was a big relief.
COB: Where do you hope to see yourself as you continue your career? Do you want to continue with stand up and sketch or do you see yourself continuing onto television and movies?
JR: I want to do it all. I want to continue building my act with stand up. I want to continue creating sketches on the show. And I want to do film and television work in the off season. That’s the dream right? That’d be nice. I’d like to live the dream.
COB: When did you know that comedy was more than just an interest?
JR: My whole life. Truly I’ve been pretty certain forever. In middle school if we had recess indoors I would host an impromptu talk show where the lunch lady was my guest, and my classmates were the studio audience. I’ve been doing Improv and stand up since my freshman year of high school. I studied theatre in college out in LA knowing I wanted to audition and pursue a career in film/television.
It all began because I enjoyed making my family and friends laugh and I’ve been trying to turn that love into a career ever since.
COB: What is one thing you want people to know about you?
JR: That’s a tough one to answer. I kind want people to get that from my act, and make up their own mind about who I am. And if they relate to what I have to say and who I am great and if not please don’t tweet mean things at me, because I cry very easily.
COB: Is your set very rehearsed? Is it down to the t or do you change it up each show?
JR: I change it up. I of course have bits I do a bunch, but I’ll explore different ways of getting to the punchline or finding different tags after. I like writing on stage and improvising a bit. It keeps it fresh, and that way you never know what you might discover in the moment – it could be the missing piece to a bit that suddenly brings it all together.
COB: This is your debut at Carolines on Broadway. How do you feel performing at a place where so many greats (SNL or otherwise) have performed/starred?
JR: I started doing open mics in the city when I was 16, and would always walk past Caroline’s hoping one day I could perform there. It took me ten years and to think now the first time I’ll be performing there is as a headliner after my first year on SNL is difficult to wrap my head around. It’s a legendary club and I am honored to have been asked to spend a weekend telling jokes there.
COB: You are the second youngest cast member on SNL at the moment. How does your age and/or point in life reflect in your work, if at all? Do you think your acts will change as you get older?
JR: For sure. I think you have to talk about what you know, anything else would feel strange coming out of my mouth. I’m not going to talk about the wife and kids I don’t have. I’m going to talk about dating apps, and my penis, and being a piece of shit millennial. I’ve gotta speak my truth, anything else would be false, and unfair to the audience.
COB: Who has inspired/shaped your humor?
JR: Martin Short is the greatest performer I’ve ever seen. I saw him do his one man show when I was a kid, then went again in High School, then again last month at the Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin, and he’s still simply the best. I have always been inspired by Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, and Robin Williams. I watched the best of Farley, Sandler, and Ferrell on repeat growing up. The list is pretty vast, but those are the initial names that come to mind.
COB: What is your most embarrassing moment while performing?
JR: I have a joke about somebody getting hit by a bus, and I did the bit at Iowa State a couple months back to dead silence. And somebody from the fourth row yelled out “hey, dude somebody got hit by a bus here three weeks ago.” I had an hour to go in that show. I never quite won them back. It didn’t help that I kept saying, “are you guys still upset about the bus thing?” I just felt so badly and couldn’t help but draw attention to it. I guess I’ll never make it in Aimes.
Jon Rudnitsky headlines this Friday, June 24 – Sunday, June 26. Purchase tickets here or call our Box Office at 212.757.4100 for reservations.
Click here to see Jon share his most memorable moments from Saturday Night Live’s 41st season.