Saturday Night Live recap : Dave Chappelle makes a controversial return for third post-election episode

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Dave Chappelle. The pride of Silver Spring, Md. As one of the world's biggest comedians, Chappelle has seen many eras — but recent years have proven problematic, even dangerous. You have opinions, I have opinions, hell even Saturday Night Live cast and crew members have reportedly been upset with the show's decision to bring him back for a third hosting stint.

Our favorite show has bumbled its way into a culture war. Hello, folks, it's SNL in Review time.

I am joined tonight by former SNL cast member Gary Kroeger. SNL boycotts are fairly rare, give or take a Nora Dunn. Kroeger recalls: "Jesse Jackson was sort of 'controversial' because he was polarizing to some people from a political standpoint. The Clash as a musical guest came with a little anarchy in their presence, but I don't recall anyone or any significant audience controversies. I performed as a faith healer once, and that angered some church and 'family values' organizations, but nothing out of the ordinary. Nick Nolte quit midweek, that's the only time I recall a scramble to get the show up that week." Of course, he adds: "Eddie Murphy rode to the rescue and hosted the show."

Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey of Black Star, Dave Chapelle, and Ego Nwodim
Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey of Black Star, Dave Chapelle, and Ego Nwodim

Rosalind O’Connor/NBC Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey of Black Star, Dave Chapelle, and Ego Nwodim

It's worth noting that Chappelle previously hosted the SNL episodes immediately following the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections; this time he's following the 2022 midterms. So, controversy notwithstanding, this marks another example of the show leaning into tradition and its own self-concocted crutches, for what it's worth!

Cold open

Here we go — it's Fox & Friends. Heidi Gardner and Mikey Day are joined by Bowen Yang as Brian Kilmeade. "What happened to that red wave?" Day wonders. Previous incarnations of this sketch featured hosts Gretchen Carlson (Vanessa Bayer), Steve Doocy (Taran Killam), and Brian Kilmeade (Bobby Moynihan).

Cecily Strong is back as Kari Lake, the far-right Republican gubernatorial candidate in Arizona. She oscillates on whether she is making an allegation of voter fraud.

Next up: James Austin Johnson as a man named Trump. This segment grapples with the GOP's disappointing election results this week. The party may be ready to move on from Trump — not because of the chaos and death, but because he's a loser.

This sketch ends with Kari Lake replacing Gardner in the studio. I like the concept, but the execution is a tad awkward. Overall, a tad on the lame side.


Chappelle comes out to music — and applause. He denounces anti-Semitism in a prepared statement and tells Kanye West, "That's how you buy yourself some time." This is noteworthy as Chappelle and Ye have a long history together, going back to when Ye performed with Common on Chappelle's Show. Classic performance. (Ye also performed in Block Party.)

It is glaring for Chappelle to discuss Ye's cancellation while mostly ignoring his own controversy. He seems to nod to his critics at the very end. Ye, anti-Semitism, and Kyrie Irving take up a bulk of the monologue, though Chappelle eventually gets to Herschel Walker: "He's observably stupid."

He labels Trump an "honest liar" and recalls his original debate performance. Chappelle wonders if this is indeed the end of the Trump era, and says Melania Trump "looks like the kind of chick that James Bond would smash but not trust." This gets a huge laugh. Next up: Trump stealing classified documents as well as the war in Ukraine.

Kroeger notes: "I've learned to never try and predict a Chappelle monologue. His gift, like only a few others, is his clarity. That doesn't mean — i.e., trans issues — that his perspective is the only truth, but it is his truth and he illustrates issues in a way that we simultaneously recognize and also may have denied. He is a genuine comedic monologuist. He is topical without the constraints of being 'topical.'"

Kroeger adds, "I don't look for things I approve of or don't approve of. Comedy is a personal taste, and satire has personal parameters. There will always be things one person likes and another hates. There will always be things one person finds offensive and another doesn't. I like comedy to stand apart, as best it can."

At 16 and a half minutes, Chappelle's monologue back in 2020 was one of the longest in SNL history. This rivals that. A lot to unpack, but as Kroeger says, no one does it quite like Chappelle.

Potato Hole

Willie T. Hawkins (Chappelle) is a legendary blues musician who he sings about his potato hole. This tickles the vapid (white) talk show hosts. Even the weather girl and sports anchor get in on the puns, it's all goofy fun.

Until Hawkins reveals the awful truth about the slave origins of potato holes. They're a symbol of oppression.

House of the Dragon

Chappelle is back on stage commenting on the hair and accents of the characters on House of the Dragon. Lorne Michaels has secured a preview for the new season.

Donnell Rawlings and Ice-T appear alongside Chappelle reprising their characters from "The Playa Haters' Ball." Chappelle's Rick James also appears — Chappelle is going back to the hits. Man, those characters were a long time ago. Look, there's Tyrone Biggums too — why? Not sure we needed this, particularly since we got a similar box-checking retread that spoofed The Walking Dead in 2016. Skip this unless you're a Chappelle's Show completist or really love Game of Thrones.

Barber Shop Talk

It's a quintessential Black barbershop, a watering hole for people to discuss the news of the day. Today they're focusing on Kanye West, Stacey Abrams, COVID-19, and other topics.

Philip (Michael Longfellow) is the interloper white barber — there's a huge disconnect on what he has to say. He hopes he is not offending anyone. Not bad.

Black Star perform "So Be It"

Black Star are one of hip-hop's great duos. Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli released their critically acclaimed debut album back in 1998, and it's one of the best rap albums of the late '90s — and probably one of hip-hop's best debut records, period. Back then they embodied pure artistry. Rawkus Records was the ultimate stamp of approval for a suburban fan such as myself. Anyway, flash forward: Their second album, No Fear of Time, was only released in May.

Pretty energetic performance. "Brooklyn's finest," as Chappelle says. (Both rappers performed on Chappelle's Show back in the day too.)

Weekend Update

Colin Jost comments on the midterm elections, again not giving Joe Biden his due. Michael Che looks off to the side in reaction to a joke he made about Biden's age — classic Che. "Who, me?!" The crowd is shocked at another joke about iPhone production in China. Oh, Che!

Latino voters turned out huge on Tuesday. Jose Suarez (Marcello Hernandez) wants to run for president one day, he's inspired. "Everything is basically fine" would be his campaign slogan. To him, people need to stop complaining. He grew up in Cuba without Wi-Fi — they had real troubles back then.

Sarah Sherman also shows up to spoof "Update" with "Sarah News"! She wants more jokes about her and less focus on boring topics like the midterms. This is so refreshing and funny! I hope it's an audition for a post-Jost/Che "Update."

Believe the podcast stans noted this segment was cut from last week's episode. Glad it made it back on, it was clever. Watch this segment for sure.

Heaven Scene

Chappelle appears at the top to note that he's too old to appear in this sketch and needs a break; Mikey Day has been cast in his role instead. He is increasingly uncomfortable saying these culturally specific lines.

Of course, Day is 42, so this does not work as well — Andrew Dismukes should have played this. I do like the breaking of the fourth wall here, as Day and Chappelle keep interrupting the proceedings. But it's not as natural or organically funny as it should be. Skip.

"You were on Wild 'n Out season 1!" Kenan Thompson chides. That's a cute call-out.

Black Star perform "The Main Thing Is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing"

This single was the first new material from Black Star since their debut. Produced by Madlib, it was released last year. Good percussion, sharp lyrical content.

"Sexual chocolate!" Bey says at the end of the performance. Great reference.

Please Don't Destroy — Election Night

Somehow Molly Kearney finds herself running for attorney general of Ohio. Steve Kornacki makes a cameo.

"I gotta stop tweeting drunk!" Strong Farley energy, crossed with Andy Milonakis.

There's only one thing to do: Declare fraud. High jinks ensue. This is cute, I especially like Sarah Sherman playing Kearney's campaign-approved wife.

Final thoughts

  • So what did you think? Was anyone in the cast noticeably absent? Vote and comment below!

  • Thank you to Gary Kroeger for his great insights tonight! One more from him: "I understand the uproar, and I am not being unsympathetic to those who feel hurt and who justly feel persecuted by transphobia. But avoiding the issues at hand is not a solution… Satire and comedy is the best way to illuminate all such issues because its central cause is to find discrepancies in life and allow us to see things more clearly. People should remember that Saturday Night Live is not a family, it is a comedy show. That doesn't mean the cast, writers, and crew don't care for each other — for the most part they do, I'm sure. And they respect each other, but it isn't a blood oath to protect each other… Saturday Night Live would not survive if it took the path of least resistance; it remains relevant by dispensing with sacred cows."

  • Nice moment in the goodnights when Chappelle salutes Takeoff.

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