Discovery: Zachary Kanin

By
Photography Benjamin Stelly

Published November 21, 2011

 

ABOVE: ZACHARY KANIN

Plenty of people have already “discovered” comedian Zachary Kanin—people who read The New Yorker, for which Kanin is one of the youngest-ever cartoonists; who perused the Harvard Lampoon when Zach was editor circa 2005; or who happened to notice the New York Times wedding announcements this summer. Not to mention anyone who bought Kanin’s book, The Short Book, through which Kanin transformed his height (he is 5’3″) into a series of exciting height-orientated facts (if only Napoleon had known there was such a healthy way to channel one’s discontentment with one’s physical stature!) We are categorizing Kanin as a “discovery,” however, because the number of Kanin fans is about to increase exponentially. As of September, Kanin added a new comedy career to his list: he is one of four new writers for the 37th season of SNL. Apparently, there is a Harvard graduate minimum on the SNL staff, and Kanin is keeping this quotient filled. We caught up with the man responsible for this Alec Baldwin skit to discuss the Pope, bodyguards, and the possibility of a future graphic novel.

AGE: 28

HOMETOWN: Newton, Mass.

ON FUNNY PEOPLE: My bodyguard, Reggie, makes me laugh. He’s always goofing, and he’s a riot. My other bodyguards have good senses of humor and like to laugh, but only Reggie has that special something.

THE SNL HIRING PROCESS: I submitted a packet of comedy sketches and, as far as I know, I was hired based on those. My work in The New Yorker—writing comic strips, articles, and 10-plus cartoons every week—has definitely helped me to become a better writer, but I don’t think it played into the decision-making process over at SNL.

FAVORITE COMEDY MEDIUM: I enjoy all of them, for different reasons. I have a greater feeling of authorship with the cartoons and my book, but working on sketches with other writers and actors is pretty amazing. It’s also just nice to have so many outlets. When I think of a joke, or a funny bit of dialogue, sometimes it doesn’t work in a cartoon, but it works in a skit, or as a stand-up joke, and it is nice to be able to use it where it fits best. Each medium requires a different skill set and caters to a different audience, and it’s both challenging and rewarding to figure out those nuances.

DREAM COMIC TO WRITE FOR: The Pope. (Is there still a Pope? That’s crazy.)

ON PRACTICING SNL SKITS AT HOME: Unlike with a cartoon or funny prose piece, when you’re writing for actors to perform, you have to see how the jokes play out loud. I typically hole up in my office and read everything to my bodyguards, who pretty much die laughing—while still remaining alert and focused on my safety at all times.

SNL VERSUS 30 ROCK: I’ve always been a big fan of both those shows, and in recent years, I’ve known writers for them, and I found it exciting to learn more about the writing and production processes.

ON RUMORS OF A GRAPHIC NOVEL: Where did you hear that? Do I have a leak in my platoon of bodyguards? This is very upsetting.

ON ANNOYING QUESTIONS: The most annoying question I get asked? “Do your bodyguards have to be in the room the whole time we have sex?”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE AIRS SATURDAY NIGHTS AT 11:30 PM EST. YOU CAN CHECK OUT KANIN’S 2012 PREDICTIONS FOR THE NEW YORKER HERE