Why did Dave Chappelle pop into the last seconds of Saturday Night Live this week?

Justin Timberlake, Dakota Johnson, Barbara Cocoran, Mark Cuban, Jimmy Fallon, and Dave Chappelle on SNL this weekend
Justin Timberlake, Dakota Johnson, Barbara Cocoran, Mark Cuban, Jimmy Fallon, and Dave Chappelle on SNL this weekend
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It seems the cast of Saturday Night Live simply cannot escape the presence of Dave Chappelle, even on a night when he’s nowhere near the call sheet. The divisive, transphobic comedian popped up on stage alongside host Dakota Johnson, musical guest Justin Timberlake, and a slew of other celebrities including Jimmy Fallon and Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran during the goodbyes segment of this past weekend’s broadcast, seemingly to the surprise of the cast as much as the audience. And sure, this writer is no body language expert, but it seems clear that certain cast members weren’t too thrilled about welcoming the three-time host back to their place of employment.

Studio 8H is no stranger to the unexpected celebrity guest. Dakota Johnson called attention to this pattern over the weekend in a bit from her monologue, in which she shared a photo of herself sitting in a star-studded audience during the show’s 40th anniversary, alongside both Donald Trump and Taylor Swift. Her monologue was even “crashed” by Fallon (who also showed up in a sketch with his old pal Timberlake later in the show), so it’s not as though Chappelle’s intrusion was totally unprecedented.

But that didn’t make the surprise visit any easier for repertory players Bowen Yang and Sarah Sherman, who seemed visibly distraught when they realized Chappelle had joined the group on the other end of the stage. Chappelle has come under extreme fire from the LGBTQ+ community in recent years for self-identifying as a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and peddling other nasty, homophobic dialogue in Netflix specials like The Closer and The Dreamer.

This isn’t the first time Yang and Sherman have come into contact with Chappelle. The comedian has hosted SNL three times—most recently in 2022—an appearance which also caused a good deal of backlash. While Chappelle’s reps denied it, Page Six reported at the time that some of the show’s writers boycotted his episode because they did not agree with his views. Even though none of the actors staged an explicit walkout and everyone participated in the show, Trae DeLellis did note in his review of the episode for The A.V. Club that Yang, Sherman, and Molly Kearney, a featured player who identifies as non-binary, were “notably absent” from that night’s goodbye segment.