Published Nov 13, 2016In the closing credits, Dave Chappelle thanked Lorne Michaels for allowing him to host the show and scratch something off his bucket list. For his part, Michaels and his crew really seemed to let Chappelle own the show, as he got to go long in a few instances and do things most hosts can't. And Chappelle's spirit and A Tribe Called Quest made it a super strong episode.
The Cold Open
Kate McKinnon, done up as Hillary Clinton, paid tribute to the late Leonard Cohen with an earnest version of his most famous song, "Hallelujah." It wasn't a joke. It was real and McKinnon was in tears by the end of it. What a terrible fucking week it was. "I'm not giving up and neither should you," she told us at the end of the performance and it hit home.
Few SNL monologues are more satisfying than those delivered by stand-up comedians and Chappelle's was among the best ever. He debuted new material about America's new President-elect and the unpredictability of "the whites." The gun control and Black Lives Matter bits were incredible and incisive. He jokingly chastised Obama's tax plan for coming into effect just as he became successful. By this point, some are likely making a big deal about Chappelle invoking the n-word so much but whatever, they don't know Chappelle (he did directly apologize to Michaels after making a "grab them by the pussy" joke). He ended things solemnly with a story about attending a White House party held by BET a few weeks ago and suggested he'd give Trump a chance if the President-elect gave disenfranchised citizens the same opportunity.
At an election night party, a group of white friends is cocksure about Clinton's prospects but Chappelle plays a more cynical observer. Chris Rock suddenly appears to play a guy named Larry and he too rains on the Clinton parade. It slowly dawns on the white folk that Trump is going to win while Chappelle and Rock sarcastically point out how racist America really is. This was more pointedly yeah-we-knew comedy than therapeutic in any way.
The Chappelle's Show Character Cavalcade
Back from commercial, Chappelle was, unusually, back on the main stage to introduce the next sketch, the way he used to on his own, Chappelle's Show. He told us he'd had no plans to reprise characters from his old show but something about a recent episode of The Walking Dead changed his mind. And so, we got a satisfying remote piece that brought us the crack-addled Tyrone Biggums, Silky the wily pimp, the WASP-y Chuck Taylor, Lil John, and the black racist, Clayton Bigsby. It was just a treat to see and hear these old characters again.
A Tribe Called Quest
It was almost chilling, A Tribe Called Quest's first-ever appearance on SNL. Q-Tip is an amazingly charismatic, camera-friendly performer and he was amped up. Backed by Jarobi and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (who, as a key member, curiously was not featured in any of the bumper photos of ATCQ), Tip stormed into the blistering "We the People…" A stinging indictment of Donald Trump's vision of America from the new album, We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your service, it was all the more poignant when an illustrated banner of the late Phife was unfurled, as his verse was played. It was hair-raising. Things got even livelier for "The Space Program," which featured a brief appearance by Busta Rhymes and Consequence, and ended with the whole crew exhorting viewers to "make something happen" on Earth because we're all stuck her together. All told, it was an exciting and triumphant appearance by Tribe.
Colin Jost and Michael Che mostly riffed on the election and its bizarre and troubling aftermath. Jost made fun of Trump's distinction as the oldest president of all time, while Che, who's improved his accident-prone delivery a lot this year, stumbled over a punch line so badly, it actually got bigger laughs than the joke likely would've if it arrived intact. McKinnon reprised her impression of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to try and take the sting out of the appointment power Trump and his cronies now have. Her trolling Mike Pence was a clear highlight.
When this started, it seemed like a trainwreck of a sketch full of miscues and a thin premise. Turns out that was the point, as SNL surprised fans with a faux, post-game interview show called Inside SNL. Assembled media at a press conference probed the players in the sketch for their insights about it, and they each gave irritated answers about the experience, the way a losing athlete might. It was a cool idea and Chappelle and Leslie Jones were particularly great in it.
Kids Talk Politics
Framed by Van Jones' election night point on CNN about how difficult it'd be for parents to explain the result to their kids, SNL did a short bit about how kids understood Trump. In the end, the bit played on the idea that talking about cats could lead to invoking a euphemism describing a woman's vagina. Not the best thing.
The bar floosy
McKinnon's ridiculous middle-aged horndog showed up earlier in the episode than usual, but continued to trade disgusting come-ons with the last guy in the bar. This week it was Chappelle, who played an incontinent sleaze and, besides the two tonguing each other voraciously, Kenan Thompson breaking down was the most notable aspect of this.
Kyle Mooney's virginity
A well-done piece suggesting that Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney are having an office romance and that things might go all the way for the first time for Mooney. Jones' on-air flirtations with Colin Jost are lampooned in this meta bit built for fans and likely spearheaded by Mooney himself, in that way he does weird and real so well.
The middle-aged breast-feeder
Everybody got the giggles during this silly thing in which Chappelle plays a 43-year-old hosting a bunch of friends at his house to watch a football game. Turns out he lives with his mom, which isn't as weird as the fact that she breastfeeds him. A milk-spewing accident was a lot to handle for Pete Davidson and Kenan Thompson and this was an uncomfortably funny premise executed well.