Meet Detroit Native and SNL Writer Alex English

Detroit Native Alex English Returns for His Second Season Writing for Saturday Night Live.
Photo by Brad Ziegler

After a night spent telling jokes back in his hometown of Detroit, Alex English is hungry for some damn pancakes.

“I’ve literally been coming here since I was a kid,” he says, sitting in a booth at The Original Pancake House on Woodward Avenue in Birmingham. “I applied to work here like, so many times” he adds with a laugh. “I keep giving them business, and they don’t want me.”

They might keep him as a customer, but they missed their chance to have him serving pancakes. The Detroit native now only visits when he returns from New York, where he makes his living writing for Saturday Night Live

This fall marks his return for his second season to SNL after what he calls a successful first year.

Newbies don’t always get their ideas on the air, but one of his original ideas — a sketch called “Nice Jail” that featured Willem Dafoe — made the cut.

“It was great. It went really well,” he says of that first year. “I mean, I was scared as hell.”

Despite his success on the late-night show, English’s focus is stand-up — a career he fell into by accident. After graduating from college in 2012, he moved to New York with no other goal than earning enough money to pay rent. Waiting tables and working temp jobs, he attended an open mic night with a friend. Not planning to perform, he told some jokes on the fly — and was invited back.

That led to more open mics, which led to some paid gigs, which led to getting an agent, which led to writing for TV shows like The Rundown with Robin Thede, The Fix and National Lampoon Radio Hour — and, after three attempts, SNL. 

He spent this summer touring with and opening for Colin Jost, with the hopes of, in time, getting his own TV special. Being among a group The New York Times called “The Queer Young Comics Redefining American Humor,” he may be on his way.

“My stand-up is so special to me,” he says. “It just continues to grow.”

Keep your eye our for where Alex English lands next — he’s hungry for a lot more than pancakes.

This story is from the September 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.