Funny Business

A chat with Saturday Night Live head writer Bryan Tucker.

Veteran comedy writer Bryan Tucker—Chesterfield born and raised—celebrates his 13th season with NBC-TV’s Saturday Night Live this year. A multiple Emmy nominee and Peabody Award winner, the boyish co-head writer, 45, works at 30 Rock but stays connected to the Commonwealth—his mom lives in Williamsburg, his dad in Hopewell, and his sister in Falls Church. Recently, he took some time away from thinking up new jokes for Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones to talk to Virginia Living about, among other things, how SNL has kept its mojo after all these years, goals for his new sports comedy website, TheKicker.com, and what in the heck is so funny about Chesterfield County. 


The co-head writer of SNL came from Chesterfield. How in the world did this happen? 

(Laughs) It was a great place to grow up, but there’s no comedy scene in Chesterfield County. I didn’t even really get into comedy until I went to college [at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill]. But there was an old comedy club in Shockoe Bottom in Richmond that my friends and I would go to sometimes.  

Was Clover Hill High School a funny place? 

Well, I was the school newspaper columnist (laughs), and I would try to write funny things, but a couple of times I got the newspaper shut down. Pretty funny now, but scary at the time. Here’s the story: the only place you could buy class rings was from a company called Herff-Jones, and so I wrote that there was a man named Herff Jones wandering the halls asking people to kiss his rings and buy his rings. So I got called to the principal’s office and a lawyer from Herff-Jones was there. They did not like the column. The paper got shut down.  

Censorship at an early age. 

Right, and one time I made a joke about going to a red-dot sale and bringing your own red dots, and that got the newspaper shut down. I was supposedly encouraging stealing or grifting. You know, it took a long time for me to get really good at comedy, but I was trying. 

How do you write comedy week-after-week, even when you might not feel funny? 

That does happen. Luckily, SNL is a place that is very collaborative. Most things are written with at least one other person, usually a cast member or another writer. If you are having a bad week, you can kind of lean on others to carry the load, which is nice.  

Has your sense of comedy changed over the years? 

It has evolved a bit for me. You would think I would be more particular about things and have stronger opinions about what’s funny and what’s not. But the longer I’ve stayed in comedy, the more I’ve mellowed. SNL has always been a place of many voices—one sketch can feel very different from the next sketch, written by different people with different cast members in it. And an SNL hosted by Kevin Hart is going to be very different than one hosted by Blake Shelton. So there’s lots of different voices, and the longer I stay there, the more I understand and respect that. I’ve kind of gotten more ‘big tent’ in a lot of ways. 

SNL is known, especially these days, for political satire.  Does it become a chore to have to come up with something week after week? 

It’s something that I wrestled with all summer—there are so many jokes about [President Donald] Trump, stories about him, shows about him, that our biggest challenge is to find something unique that other people aren’t doing. There’s Trump fatigue, not only in comedy, but I think in the country and in the media. But, you know, even with [former President Barack] Obama, when we made fun of him, there was always a group that would turn it off because they thought we were being unfair. So it’s tough.  

Your humor website, The Kicker, mixes sports and comedy. How’s that going? 

One of our main advantages is that not a lot of people are doing it. There weren’t a lot of outlets for comedy based on sports, and that’s why I started it. You are a Dallas Cowboy fan, say, and you might send this funny video to your friends and so forth. So it’s more of a lighter-side of sports [approach] than an SNL sketch comedy kind of thing. It’s going well. We have 400,000 subscribers on Facebook and have released quite a few videos that have received between a million and 6 million views, and we’ve done a lot with brands like Pepsi and Converse, and all of that helps to keep the lights on.  

Will there be many more SNL seasons for you after this one? 

If SNL is a big hill, I’m definitely on the other side of that hill. I don’t know when I’m getting off of the hill, but I’m not climbing it anymore. I know that. But it’s a tough place to leave. It’s a show everybody knows so well. If you’re eight years old or 80, you have at least heard of it, most everyone has seen it, especially this past season, which was so exciting. There’s still this exciting show business atmosphere that almost no other show has. That’s probably because it’s so expensive to produce, and too much of a risk. BTComedy.com, TheKicker.com

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