Live from L.A.—where she escaped months of self-isolation in New York—Saturday Night Live comedian Ego Nwodim talks about sneaking race into comedy and the digestive silver lining of quarantine.
I’ve heard you talk about the sounds people’s mouths make. Do you have misophonia, the disorder where people are driven crazy by noise?
I have not been diagnosed with misophonia, but I was a biology major. That gives me no credibility as far as diagnoses go, but I’m going to just take it and say that means I can diagnose myself. This is not an exhaustive list, but I am bothered by noises from a person’s mouth that are not talking, singing, laughing, whistling. Like when people are chewing with their mouth open, or people whose mouths make…mouth noises.
You created a sketch for the Phoebe Waller-Bridge episode of SNL where the Black anchors of a news show are visibly relieved when it’s reported that the perpetrator of a crime wasn’t Black. It feels like comedy can be a Trojan horse into uncomfortable but important conversations about race.
The “Mid-Day News” sketch is one I am particularly proud of because it’s based on a feeling I had and the stereotypes that we all see demonstrated and perpetuated in media. I’ve heard it said that Black people have been putting our experience and our pain into our comedy and our art, and it’s been consumed but somehow has still kind of flown above everyone’s head. That’s strange. It’s like we’re talking about this awkward and uncomfortable thing—or something that we’ve been made to feel uncomfortable about—and still it’s not being recognized.
What’s going to stick from all the turmoil we’re going through and what’s going back to normal? Like, are they really going to go back to banning takeout cocktails? Will you really go back to writing straight through the night once a week with the whole cast at the SNL studio?
I’m sure we would all enjoy more sleep, but we would kind of miss staying up until 5 a.m. on Wednesday. The show operates so much on tradition, and this maybe doesn’t make the most sense, but that’s what’s exciting about it. Being in love doesn’t make sense! I’ve never been in it, but I hear it’s special. And I’m the person who didn’t want to leave my Manhattan apartment after being quarantined in it by myself for nine weeks because I was like, well, this is tradition now.
BEING IN LOVE DOESN’T MAKE SENSE! I’VE NEVER BEEN IN IT, BUT I HEAR IT’S SPECIAL.
I feel like we’re all stuck at home wondering who we are without the activities that make up our lives.
What I do is only part of my identity, and I try to make sure I’m always in tune with that fact. It’s interesting in this time to rediscover other parts of myself and old hobbies that had fallen by the wayside.
I’m really passionate about food—almost as passionate as I am about people not making mouth noises. And even before I was at SNL, I ate out a lot. There’s no food in my fridge whatsoever. I’ve got, like, prune juice, and you know what that’s for. But I’ve spent a lot of the time in quarantine looking up recipes from restaurants that I miss and making them. I’ve been so successful, but I would be remiss not to mention a couple of my failures. I made cinnamon rolls without a hand mixer. And I had no business trying to make pupusas, and I did, and I failed, and I deserved to.
You mentioned the prune juice, and going from mostly eating out to eating at home. Are you, like me, having the most seamless digestion of your life?
Listen, honey. I experienced the same thing. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about this. But it’s only right for a foodie to be passionate about bowel movements! I got to L.A., and part of me being excited to come here was like, my goodness, I can’t wait to order takeout from this place, this place, and this place. But guess what? As soon as I started ordering takeout, we needed the prune juice again.
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