Taraji P. Henson, the Oscar nominee and popular co-star of Fox’s runaway hit series Empire, proved her formidable comedy (and singing) chops even when the material fell short – as it did more often than not – in her first appearance hosting SNL on a night that also featured a couple of terrific surprise cameos and a robust appearance by musical guests Mumford & Sons.

Henson’s first challenge came early, with the opening monologue celebrating her “overnight success” as “Cookie” Lyons (the star pointedly commented that her appearance in Studio 8H “after 20 years in show business proved hat white people finally know who I am!” She punctuated the resulting applause with a conspiratorial laugh).

To drive home the notion, she launched into a roof-raising, gospel-choir-backed paean to making it (“I could have been an extra on The Lion King“) that had all the cast members testifying about how they might otherwise have ended up. Trust me, the bit reads better than it played – although Henson added considerable juice to the number with her own high energy and a strong shot of irony.

Were you watching? Tell us how you think the number played.