It’s been years in the making, but Dave Chappelle finally stepped foot on the stage in Studio 8H to host Saturday Night Live. And of course it came in the most dramatic of fashion, as we’re on the heels of one of the most strenuous Presidential elections, representing a turning point for many social issues in the United States.
It was an episode of SNL we kind of needed right now, funny, real, touching, cathartic, and bubble bursting all at the same time. True, many lay blame at the doorstep of SNL for allowing Presedent-elect Donald Trump to host last year (one year to the day of being elected), normalizing and legitimizing his run for the White House. On the other side of the coin, the show has always walked on the bleeding edge of cultural zeitgeist. That risk sometimes comes with incredible reward, and other times they get hung out to dry. Let’s run the night down.
Cold Open: Hallelujah
Whenever there’s a major moment in the world, we often ask ourselves, “What will Saturday Night Live’s take be on this?” Well, after Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in an extremely close and long election followed shortly by the death of music icon Leonard Cohen, SNL decided to pay tribute in a subtle and touching way. Effectively framing the week’s events into a cathartic moment for many rather than hit us with yet another cold open featuring Clinton and Trump arguing over something. In fact, there was no sign of Alec Baldwin’s Trump anywhere during the night. Wondering what their plans are for handling him in the upcoming weeks.
Kate McKinnon, who had performed Clinton on the show for the last few years, opened the show sitting at a piano performing Cohen’s most famous song, “Hallelujah.” She concluded the performance with the message, “I’m not giving up and neither should you.” For those preaching, Love Trumps Hate, it’s one of their finest moments.
Like most comedians who host SNL, Chappelle took the opportunity to deliver stand-up as his monologue. Chappelle delivered timely jokes about the election and race. Opening by noting, “I didn’t know that Donald Trump was gonna win the election — I did suspect it. It seemed like Hillary was doing well in the polls, and yet… I know the whites. You guys aren’t as full of surprises as you used to be.”
Chappelle continued, “America’s done it, we’ve actually elected an internet troll as our President. The whites are furious… I haven’t seen white people this mad since the O.J. verdict.” He declared that the whites are so mad he saw them protesting in Portland.
Chappelle ended the monologue with a story about a recent visit to the White House where he saw many black folks enjoying themselves in a place where they’d been “historically disenfranchised.” Adding that it made him feel “very happy about the prospects of our country.” He ended by stating, “So, in that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. I’m going to give him a chance, and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one too.”
Our first sketch of the night does a great job of recreating how many Clinton supporters felt on election night as they watched her chances diminish over time. But the twist here is that while it might’ve been one of the worst nights for many, Chappelle and his friend (Chris Rock) frame it perfectly for the black experience. Bursting many bubbles.
“Oh my god! I think America is racist.” It’s a realization for some white folks, business as usual for people of color.
The Walking Dead Chappelle’s Show
This week many wondered if Chappelle would break out some of his classic Chappelle’s Show characters on SNL. There are too many that we’d want to see come out of the woodwork, so why not perform a sketch that can utilize them all. Just so happens, one of the most buzzed about TV moments this year require the appearance of many people. It should also be noted that Neal Brennan was listed as a writer on this episode of SNL. Logic would tell us that as a co-creator and writer of Chappelle’s Show, Brennan more than likely contributed to this sketch.
A Tribe Called Quest “We The People”
It’s the incomparable A Tribe Called Quest. There are few lineups that SNL has put together that make more sense than pairing ATCQ and Chappelle. Both iconic and unique voices that are making returns to the warming glow of television for the first time in the long time. ATCQ suffered a a devastating blow earlier this year with the death of founding member Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor shifted off this mortal coil. The band was in the middle of putting together their comeback record, which just hit stores this week. How are they to move on with the loss of one if their most unique voices? Well, starting by acknowledging him during while he spits his lyrics. We read a rumor that this might be the band’s last public appearances, if it were the case, what a way to go out.
As with the rest of the show, Update flowed along at a fun and loose pace. Jost and Che had plenty of material to cover but it was obviuosly mostly about the election. With a particularly inspired joke about Obama starting Isis and a bit about the “large” amount of women who made it into congress with the vote.
The one and only guest at the Update desk this week was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who dropped in to let us know that with Trump winning the election, she’s not planning on retiring.
Let’s go inside SNL with this sketch. Breaking the wall of a sketch comedy bit and analyzing it like a ball game. In fact, writing about this sketch proves its point. A meta breaking of the 4th wall making references to previous sports press conferences (we talking about cards?) and self-referential with the David S. Pumpkins joke.
Kids Talk Politics
A throughline in this election was that our kids are watching, and who knows what the inflamtatory language tossed around will do to them. Yet again, this is something that’s news to only surprised white folks. To people of color, it’s just another day.
This sketch should now be called the comedian’s sketch, because it seems to be pulled out every time a stand-up comedian hosts the show. They probably gravitate toward it because of the rapid fire jokes that can be tossed out for the bit. It also allows them to go head to head with the great Kate McKinnon
A Tribe Called Quest “Space Program”
Once again, or should we say 1nce Again, Tribe returns to the stage for another cut of their latest album. While it wasn’t a full Leaders Of The New School drop in for a bar or two of, “Scenario,” seeing Busta Rhymes and Consequence get on stage makes us smile the biggest of smiles.
Love and Leslie
Leslie Jones is like all of us, just looking for love. With a job that keeps her busy during much of her waking hours she looks to work to find companionship. Turns out it’s Kyle Mooney. While many think Leslie has a thing for Colin Jost when she drops in on Weekend Update, it’s Kyle who has her heart.
The 1o-to-1 sketch of the evening was a fun idea that just seemed like one we needed. Much goofier in tone than the rest of the night and probably a good reminder that we’re going to be alright. An adult man still lives with his monther and still breasts feeds with her. While there was some clumsy execution it simply provided laughs we needed. The juxtapsition of Kyle Mooney keeping it straight as Pete Davidson loosing it just provided laughs.
Next week Kristen Wiig and The XX stop in at Rockefeller Center to send us off before we all stuff our faces with Thanksgiving turkey.