The behind-the-scenes workings of SNL could fill a TV series all their own (in fact, they have!), but many a fan were caught off guard to learn that young head writer Colin Jost would step down from his position, following an already somewhat controversial tenure. Now, Jost opens up about the decision, hoping freedom will grant him a second wind at the revered NBC sketch series.

Both Jost and his Weekend Update co-host Michael Che sat down with NPR Fresh Air’s Terry Gross to discuss the state of SNL, most recently Trump’s hosting and Jost’s decision to step down as head writer. Jost left the position to fellow heads Rob Klein and Bryan Tucker before Season 41 began, telling NPR of his choice:

The head writing job is stressful. … I do the same exact amount of writing [now] as I did last year [as head writer], but the managerial part of the [head writer] job of dealing with the staff and managing a staff is very stressful and … it runs contrary to how you think as a performer. It’s much more you’re thinking about the logistics of the show, which doesn’t really free your brain as a performer. That was the decision.

And I had been a head writer for three or four years, and then I was a writing supervisor for, like, three years before that, so I had been some version of that job for, like, six years and it burns you out. It’s not an easy job to think creatively and then also have to think logistically … about the show. So I feel a lot more relief and a new joy about my job this year because I’m focusing on the creative elements again. It kind of gives me a second wind at our show.

And while both Che and Jost defended the decision for SNL to embrace controversy in hiring Donald Trump, Jost admitted the difficulty of winning over an audience, that, as Che described, “[have] made up their mind.”:

Jost: It was a little tense at dress rehearsal, and Donald Trump didn’t have any say in whether we did those things or not, but it just didn’t play in front of the audience at dress rehearsal.

Che: It’s a live show so you get to hear the audience enjoy it or not enjoy it when it’s on TV. So we kind of write the show — for me at least as a writer, you want a show that plays well to a live audience so that the people at home understand that it’s good, that it’s fun, we’re all in on the joke. So when it dies on air it’s hard to relate, then it’s just awkward, then it’s just tense. And then the next sketch has to follow that, so you can’t kill the room for the rest of the show.

SNL will get back to basics over the next few weeks with The Hunger Games franchise star Elizabeth Banks, as well as Matthew McConaughey, but has there been any notable shift since Jost stepped down as head writer? Was it worth it to bring Donald Trump into the mix?

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