Check Out The Best Of Dave Chappelle's Much-Anticipated Hosting Of Saturday Night Live
Emotions are raw, but laughs are plentiful when Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest take the stage.
Dave Chappelle is a lot of things, from a pioneering sketch-comedy God to a pointed contrarian who rarely toes the line in terms of politically correct comedy. When it was announced that he'd be hosting SNL for the first time, the reaction was rapturous. When, only a week or so later and just before the presidential election, he did a stand-up set that lobbed major criticisms at Hillary Clinton and seemed to support Donald Trump, that rapture curdled into a knot in the stomach of some fans. What would Dave do on SNL in the wake of a shocking national turn of events on the first post-election episode?
Luckily for everyone, Dave Chappelle showed up in full form with an excellent, on-point monologue, and a surprising filmed bit that resurrected Chappelle's Show if only for a brief spell, helped a lot by another knockout Kate McKinnon performance and some excellent friends (A Tribe Called Quest, Chris Rock). Let's take a look at how it went.
Funniest Sketch Of The Night
The most memorable moment of the show, the one that will stick with everybody, will be the cold open (we'll get to that in a second), but in terms of comedic strength, bravo to SNL for not going to the obvious Alec Baldwin/Kate McKinnon election-night well and instead focusing on a group of liberal voters who get progressively unhinged as the election swings to Donald Trump. Chappelle's character is the one sane voice in the room, expressing doubts and showing a lack of surprise as America's true character is revealed. And then Chris Rock shows up and the whole thing notches up another level.
Like "Black Jeopardy" from a few weeks ago, it's a welcome shift of POV from the typical political SNL sketch and the last line/reaction to "This is the most shameful thing America has ever done" is brilliantly played.
You may be tired of Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton, you were probably sick to death of covers of "Hallelujah," but Clinton's loss and the death of Leonard Cohen this week made for a tear-inducing, simple cold open with McKinnon at the piano, singing the hell out of the song and essentially saying goodbye to the character she played so well for the election cycle. You don't have to be a Clinton supporter to feel the raw emotion or to appreciate the last line: "I'm not giving up and neither should you."
Best Unexpected Resurrection
As brilliant as Chappelle's Show was, it's easy to forget that it wasn't a filmed-onstage production like SNL. It was brief stand-up bits introducing pre-filmed sketches and that's where Dave Chappelle is a superstar (apart from stand-up). Chappelle was fine and loose in the live sketches, but he was phenomenal in this Walking Dead homage playing not only Negan from the show, but several of his Chappelle's Show characters including Tyrone Biggums, Silky Johnson, Chuck Taylor, black white-supremacist Clayton Bigsby, and Lil Jon. No Prince or Rick James, but this was such a treat for fans of the show, and Chappelle actually makes a great Negan. And it was fantastic to see Donnell Rawlings in the sketch, too.
Best Super-Short Sketch
"Kids Talk Politics" does a CNN setup, a panel with kids moderated by Vanessa Bayer, and an appearance by Chappelle, and it clocks in at less than 90 seconds. If you're one of those people who thinks SNL sketches always drag on too long, this one tells its one great joke and gets out before you even know what just happened. Brilliant.
Apart from the Walking Dead sketch, the one that felt the most like vintage Chappelle was this post-sketch press conference sketch in which a piece that goes off the rails is discussed in front of a room of reporters. Like an NBA press conference, you have the surly player, the truth-telling coach, and lots of jokes about SNL tropes. Satisfyingly self-deprecating for the show.
I thought this week's "Weekend Update" was fairly flat and predictable and just not as sharp as it should have been, so thank goodness Dave's monologue was damn-near perfect.
And Now A Tribe Called Quest
It's fortuitous that A Tribe Called Quest has returned with its first album in 18 years at just the moment when we need it and the show could use that caliber of musical guest. The two songs performed were both excellent, timely, and a perfect complement to the rest of the episode. For people who were too young or never got into them the first go-round, this was a perfect introduction.