Dave Chappelle Was Used Sparingly on 'SNL,' While Black Star Shone Brightly

November 12, 2022

Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews / NBC

BY Vish KhannaPublished Nov 13, 2022

Saturday Night Live platformed disgraced comedian Dave Chappelle and yet he appeared jovial and sparingly, performing a longer-than-usual monologue and appearing in just a few strong, pointed sketches, while Black Star brought the golden age of hip-hop to the little screen as hugely as possible. Here's everything that happened on SNL this week.

The Cold Open

Mikey Day, Heidi Gardner, and Bowen Yang appeared together as the Fox & Friends crew to assess the post-midterm election damage to the Republican Party. Cecily Strong appeared as Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who was made to selectively believe in the merits of the American electoral system. James Austin Johnson was soon beamed in as Donald Trump, live from his daughter Tiffany's wedding, where he tried to explain what he really meant by a red wave, and rather randomly invoked Canadian one-hit wonders Len before the talk show itself broke up with him. With a twist ending, this was well done.

The Monologue

Onetime comedy genius and current transphobic hatemonger Dave Chappelle took centre stage for an extra-long monologue as part of his recently recurring stint as SNL's host just after an American election.

He began with some funny PR advice for Kanye West, and riffed upon the current wave of antisemitism emanating from the rapper on Twitter and Drink Champs, and he shared his own experiences with Jewish friends and culture. He rather hilariously segued into Kyrie Irving's own antisemitism, and this is where the laughter from the audience got more nervous, as Chappelle vaguely defended Irving, treaded the line of being antisemitic himself, and then went back after Ye. Chappelle then dug into the midterms, describing Herschel Walker as "observably stupid." He also called Trump an "honest liar" and tried to humorously explain his populism, and he had a clever joke about his absconding with all of those classified "work" documents. Continuing on his hot streak of topicality, he told some good jokes about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, veered back into a purposeful bit about "newborn whites" experiencing the same strife as Black Americans, and closed off an uproarious monologue strongly and boldly. A bit of something for everyone to ponder, laugh at, and be offended by (beyond his very presence on the show) here.

P.M. in the Afternoon

On a sterilized TV talk show, Heidi Gardner and Andrew Dismukes played hosts who were both amused and puzzled by the title of their musical guest's new album, My Potato Hole. Chappelle played the blues artist, Willie T. Hawkins, who endured the white correspondents' puns and "potato hole" riffs before devastating them with the term's slave-era origins. This worked really well.

House of the Dragon: Season 2 Preview

Back from commercial, Chappelle occupied a spot similar to his Chappelle's Show stage, where he would throw to remote sketches, and that's just what happened here — in more ways than one. Chappelle introduced old, beloved CS characters, with cameos by Ice-T and Donnell Rawlings. For anyone not immersed in this Game of Thrones spinoff, this costume-meets-CGI remote was more nostalgic than very funny. Cool set, though.

Black Barbershop

In a mostly Black barbershop, opinionated chats about Kanye West, Kyrie Irving, vaccines, Jeffrey Dahmer and TV shows were vaguely stifled by Michael Longfellow as Phillip, an intern at the shop, whose white lines of conversation did not mesh with the others in the shop, who were Black. It was amusing, if a bit predictable.

Black Star

Wow. As soon as Madlib kicked the beat for "So Be It," Yasiin Bey was on one, releasing a torrent of rhymes as the lyrics to the song scrolled behind him, like some kind of reverse karaoke night. After Bey crashed the primary camera, leaving it moist and blurry from a kiss, Talib Kweli had to follow him and, in his relatively lower key manner, he did an admirable job, making Black Star's SNL debut an explosive one.

Less incendiary but no less compelling, the two MCs stalked the stage, putting "The Main Thing Is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing" across like the hypnotic banger it is. For those of us who love Black Star, these SNL performances were a triumphant moment.

Though no official clips from their performances have been released as of this writing, here's the official video for Black Star's "So Be It."

Weekend Update

Colin Jost began with his usual centre-right, Biden-bashing line of jokes while reporting on the midterm elections and the Democrats retaining control of the Senate, while Che similarly made a joke about the president's age and health. Jost got into the Trump/DeSantis feud, which was mildly amusing, while Che made a pretty great joke about Apple's use of child labour.

Marcello Hernandez turned up to play Latino presidential hopeful Jose Suarez, who provided a unique perspective on America and also shared some of his odd platforms, which was funny.

Jost told a lotto joke in the spirit of Norm Macdonald, while Che got an applause break for a funny bit about an unruly student acting a lot like a cop. Sarah Sherman reprised her Update role, which usually consists of her harassing Jost, but this time, we also got "Sarah News." This was like an NC-17 Pee-wee's Playhouse send-up of the segment, with Sherman telling suggestive jokes, some of which were still at Jost's expense and were mildly amusing.

Black Heaven

Back from commercial, Chappelle told us that he was tired and sitting the next sketch out, but that he had a very worthy fill-in. Devon Walker played a new arrival to "Black Heaven," and one his primary guides to this new place was a character uncomfortably played by Mikey Day, who was not ready to be a stand-in for Chappelle. This meta piece was full of mischief and glee, as Chappelle, Donnell Rawlings and Black Star all took turns laughing at Day's laboured attempt to play a Black character, all of which was rather hilarious.

please don't destroy: Election

The pdd boys were minding their own business when Molly Kearney stormed in in a panic, revealing that they'd somehow been elected to be Ohio's new Attorney General. The customary pdd chaos ensued, with a special cameo by beloved MSNBC analyst Steve Kornacki (along with some cast members), which made this manic remote all the more enjoyable.

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