WARNING: Complete spoilers for the entire episode ahead
Dave Chappelle made his triumphant return to television this weekend as the host of “Saturday Night Live” with musical guest A Tribe Called Quest. After a week that featured one of the most dramatic presidential elections in the history of our nation, Chappelle and “SNL” stepped up to the plate and delivered one of the funniest episodes in the 42 season history of the show.
Alec Baldwin’s Trump impression was nowhere to be seen tonight. The show opened with Kate McKinnon dressed as Hillary Clinton in a white pantsuit performing a haunting rendition “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, who passed away on Monday. McKinnon closed by looking into the camera and saying “I’m not giving up and neither should you.”
Dave Chappelle took the stage for his first time as “SNL” host, and if you’re wondering whether he’s still got it, that’s one worry you can cross off your list. He does. Chappelle delivered a scorching ten-minute stand-up set mostly focused on the election of Donald Trump. “We’ve done it,” said Chappelle. “We’ve actually elected an internet troll as our President.”
The first sketch of the night featured Chappelle and a handful of his Caucasian friends sipping white wine and watching Tuesday night’s election returns roll in. Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant and Beck Bennett all shrug off the early returns showing promising news for Trump and remain in denial for most of the evening until they finally begin to entertain the shocking idea that America might have a teeny tiny problem with racism.
Last week’s episode featured appearances from “SNL” alums Dana Carvey and Bill Murray. This week featured a cameo by Chris Rock who shows up at the party as the white people in the room conclude that Hillary Clinton can surely still win if there’s a massive late turnaround in states like Wisconsin. Rock smiles at Chappelle and says “Yeah, let’s hope there are 100,000 of us in Green Bay.”
DAVE CHAPPELLE’S ‘WALKING DEAD’
NOTE: “Walking Dead” spoilers ahead
Chappelle introduced the night’s first digital short by saying he had originally decided against reprising any of his beloved characters from “Chappelle’s Show” tonight, but then changed his mind after seeing the latest season premiere of “The Walking Dead” in which long-running character Glenn gets his head bashed in with a baseball bat.
The short features Chappelle in the role of Negan deciding which of his “Chappelle’s Show” characters to kill. Crack addict Tyrone Biggums was the unfortunate recipient of Negan’s bat to the head. This sketch killed harder than…well…Negan with a baseball bat.
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST PERFORMS ‘WE THE PEOPLE’
The groundbreaking alternative hip-hop group is now a trio due to the death of founding member Phife Dawg in March 2016. The energy between remaining members Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White lit up the stage as they performed their new song ‘We the People…’ with a banner of Phife Dawg between them.
The co-hosts pulled no punches with their post-election Trump jokes, with Colin Jost opening by talking about Trump taking office at age 70 with no political experience whatsoever. “A 70-year-old holding a new career is not how ‘The President’ is supposed to work,” he says. “It’s the plot of ‘The Intern’.”
KATE MCKINNON AS RUTH BADER GINSBURG
McKinnon played her second political character of the night by taking to the Update desk with a brassy, hip-hop dancing impression of the 83-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who was set to retire soon, but swears she’s not going anywhere now that Donald Trump is becoming President. She then pounded a massive bag of Emergen-C Immune support powder and said she’s ready to keep rocking for at least four more years.
“SNL” got meta this week and featured a sketch about a sketch gone wrong. The scene opened with Chappelle and his coworkers wildly spraying their Jheri-curled hairdos as Leslie Jones announced the health inspector was coming to visit due to a complaint about unsanitary conditions. It looked like Jones majorly screwed up on reading the cue cards until the camera pulled back to reveal Beck Bennett reporting on the sketch going off the rails. The cast members then sat at a post-game conference table and shared their own theories about why the sketch didn’t work. Chappelle shrugged and said:
“You gotta realize a wig can’t carry an entire sketch…I put it on and I really thought I was going to be the next David S. Pumpkins.”
It’s nice to see “SNL” trying something different with this one, and also nice to see them poking fun at their own comedic shortcomings.
KIDS TALK TRUMP
The next political sketch is a digital short featuring Vanessa Bayer interviewing kids about the results of the election, in which the kids are clearly just repeating what they’ve heard from their parents. This quickie video ends with an African American girl saying that her understanding is that the country will return to the “dark ages of white Presidents” and that Donald Trump is going to “frisk our cat.” We’re just going to leave it at that and let Dave Chappelle spell the euphemism out for you in the sketch if it’s not already clear.
This scene features Chappelle and Kate McKinnon as two of the nastiest barflies to ever haunt an NYC barstool. It’s a classic “SNL” character sketch that features hilariously revolting descriptions of what the lovers want to do to each other when they go home for the night. It ends with them dousing each other in Axe body spray and licking each other’s tongues as Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” plays in the background. This sketch shouldn’t be funny. It should just be weird. But it stars Dave Chappelle and Kate McKinnon, so they get a pass on just going totally bizarro with this one. It’s reminiscent of the “post Update” sketches from the olden days of “SNL” where the cast members weren’t afraid to let their freak flags fly.
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST – “SPACE PROGRAM”
Tribe’s second performance is just as invigorating as the first and features special guests Consequence and Busta Rhymes.
(This performance is available as part of the full episode.)
LOVE AND LESLIE
The third digital short of the night is a mockumentary about Leslie Jones’s search for real love. We soon learn that she and fellow cast member Kyle Mooney have been hooking up off-camera, that Kyle has never had sex, and that Leslie might be just the right girl to take his virginity. Mooney gets viciously jealous of Jones’s onscreen flirtations with Colin Jost, but the sketch ends on a happy note with Jones and Mooney consummating their relationship in Chappelle’s dressing room.
This is more of a sweet sketch than a hilarious one, but we do love seeing Mooney lash out as Jost as they pass in the hall.
In the final sketch of the night, Chappelle has his friends over to watch football and reveals he still lives with his mom (Leslie Jones.) Oh, and he’s still breastfeeding. It’s good for the mother. It’s good for the baby. And, says Jones, Chappelle will always be her baby. The other partygoers seem uncomfortable with Chappelle’s breastfeeding, except for Kyle Mooney who is totally fine with it and grabs a freshly squeezed glass of milk to go with the cookies Mom serves. All of the partygoers end up covered in milk when Jones has a slight breast-splosion.
This is another sketch that really shouldn’t be funny at all, and probably wouldn’t be if Dave Chappelle wasn’t so hilarious, but his presence is so infectious that we’ll let this guy get away with anything tonight.
This was one of the strongest “SNL” episodes we can remember in years. Political tumult has always been great for comedy and that shines through tonight. The pacing of the show was also much faster than usual, without any drawn out sketches that had us checking our clocks.
“SNL” returns live next week with host Kristen Wiig and musical guest the xx.