At the end of what felt like a bleak week for many, “SNL” provided its usual comedic relief with a dramatically different tone.
This week’s show, hosted by Dave Chappelle (“The Chappelle Show”) took an inevitably more serious note in the wake of what was a shocking and devastating election result for many. Both the show and Chappelle took the opportunity to express a hopeful sentiment regarding the country’s future and pause for reflection about how the nation got to where it is now. The cold open was scrapped in favor of a heartfelt rendition of the late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” performed by Kate McKinnon (“Ghostbusters”) dressed as Hillary Clinton. Rather than parodying Clinton as she usually does, McKinnon embodied her spirit and quoted her concession speech, “I’m not going to give up, and neither should you” in an appropriately poignant opening.
Despite this message of hope, the show went on to mock the election results and the country’s responses to it with its trademark satire, some unexpected new sketch formats and Chappelle at the helm. With an edge of cynicism, the first-time host discussed the week’s events in his opening monologue, touching on the Black Lives Matter movement and pointing to President-elect Donald Trump’s most grating flaws.
However, Chappelle may have surprised audiences by claiming he himself wasn’t surprised by the election results, stating “You know, I didn’t know that Donald Trump was going to 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.”
Following up his response to the election, Chappelle reminded audiences that other important issues still deserve our attention. In the best line of his opening monologue, Chappelle jokes, “Why do we have to say that Black lives matter? Now I admit that is not the best slogan, but McDonald’s already took, ‘You deserve a break today.’ ” Chappelle’s candid humor and ability to deliver frank comedy that gets the point across makes his monologue a linchpin of this week’s show.
Though his monologue perfectly encapsulates the sentiment following the election with practiced humor, he also appeals to audiences with a more serious undertone in a mic-dropping line, “I’m going to give Donald Trump a chance and I hope that he’ll give us, the historically disenfranchised, a chance too.”
This powerful opening monologue perfectly transitions into the first and funniest sketch of the evening — poking fun at liberals who were dumbfounded by Trump’s upset victory on election night. Chappelle plays the skeptical attendee deriding the others’ confidence in Hillary’s prospects. Audience members may have heard many of the lines they themselves uttered during election night, which turned frantic as Trump claimed more and more electoral college votes. But the overall message delivered in this honest depiction was that people who were confident in the results were blinded by the drastic partisan gap that determined the election. Chris Rock (“Grown Ups”) even made an appearance supporting this, bursting into laughter alongside Chappelle when SNL cast member Beck Bennett sadly notes, “This is the most shameful thing America has ever done.” Their laughter says it all.
Colin Jost and Michael Che tackle the election on “Weekend Update,” with Jost comparing Trump’s presidency to the plot of “The Intern,” and a barely second-long sequence listing the names of the record-breaking number of female minorities elected to the Senate set to the tune of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.” The song barely finishes the first line of lyrics before the clip ends. Though the nature of the segment is mostly to blame for an excessive amount of election material, most of it falls flat (especially following Chappelle’s monologue and the first sketch). However, Jost and Che pull through with some amusing lines and are ultimately saved by McKinnon’s best appearance as Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appearance yet. McKinnon downs a huge bag of Emergen-C and claims she has “horcruxes” hidden, refusing to let her old age get in the way of her job now that Trump’s president.
Having addressed just about every aspect of the election throughout the show, “SNL” turns to analyzing itself. Though not one of the strongest sketches, “Inside SNL” is delightfully surprising in contrast to the cynical tone taken by most of the previous coverage of the election. Cleverly using the post-game analysis format, “Inside SNL” takes a look at what doesn’t work in a sketch, with members of the cast delivering cliché lines about their performance. The smart framing and pure silliness of the sketch makes it a refreshing break from all the political satire.
Despite one of the toughest weeks the United States has had in recent history, “SNL” pulls through with a standout episode, reassuring audiences that it will be there to make us laugh as always.