Alec Baldwin as President Trump and Michael Che as journalist Lester Holt. Photograph: NBC/ Getty Images
It was around this time, in his mid-2 0s, that he started going to open-mic comedy depicts , not to participate but just to observe. Something about the” anything runs” nature of standup attracted him. He joined the audience every day for weeks before plucking up the gallantry to have a go himself.
” I was like: I might not be as good as the good ones but I could be as bad as the bad ones, and they're not afraid to be bad, so why am I? So I tried it, and I immediately left the stage and went to another one because I wanted to try it again and again.
” It was like Candy Crush- I couldn't stop if I wanted to ,” he says. He expended the next four years racking up gigs, often multiple times a night.” The more you're on stage the more comfy you are, the more you're free to take chances .”
Talent spotters and fellow comedians started to take notice of his laid-back, languid style of delivery and his poignant gags about life in the poorer parts of the city.
The big break came in 2014 when Che was hired as a correspondent on Jon Stewart's satirical The Daily Show . Just three months later he was poached by Saturday Night Live . And at the end of last year he became one of its head novelists- the first time in its 43 -year history that the prove has had a black person in that role.
Standup comedy and live TV are not a million miles apart, Che says. Scripts are being written while the show is on air, reacting to breaking news. And like his one-man shows, he adjusts his performance according to the mood of the audience.
” It's exciting because when it's clicking it's maybe the best thing you can see on TV, next to athletics .”
Now 35, Che says his family is “amused” by his renown but doesn't profess to understand it.” If my mama considered me hosting the Emmys, or she saw me in a McDonald's commercial, she wouldn't know which one is better. She's just happy that I've got a job and I'm not sleeping on a bench .”
Sleeping rough is what a lot of people he grew up with are doing, though, Che says.” Worst-case scenario, I was supposed to be dead at 25, you are aware, or selling drugs or in jail. I think that realisation has helped because you never let this kind of stuff- the success- get to you. You never let it seem more important than it is .”
It's that down-to-earth, real-life edge that Che tries to inject into his scriptwriting for Saturday Night Live . In one of his most popular sketches, for example, Tom Hanks played a Trump supporter pitted against African Americans in a quiz about black street jargon. In the end, they had more in common than they might have believed.
” I guess people want to laugh about the things that attain them similar , not what makes them different. I mean, the funniest portion is always the proportion that everybody can connect with ,” he says.
Che is an outspoken critic of Trump but says that, as an African American raised in the projects, he often feels he has more in common with white Trump voters than with white Upper West Siders. Perhaps as a result, he has sometimes rubbed up America's white middle class the wrong way. Last year he upset the liberal surrounding of Boston by saying their city was the most racist place he had ever visited.
He is unrepentant, but more cautious in his social media posts these days, and has stopped using Twitter.” For some people, your jokes are gonna suck no matter what ,” he says.
But Che knows that going down poorly with the glitterati at the Emmys in September is not an option. Award presents can often live or die by how well they are fronted.
He and co-host Colin Jost will start writing jokes in the next couple of weeks.” We'll just try to be funny, we're not going to try and reinvent the wheel ,” he says.
It all might seem a long way from a makeshift T-shirt stall on the corner of Wooster and Prince Street, but Che insists that he doesn't let it get to him. Otherwise he'd never get out of bed in the morning.
” Anyway, I know that this is all fleeting- none of it is real. So what have I to be afraid of ?”
Michael Che will be at Gorilla, Manchester, on 29 July and Union Chapel, London, on 30 July