Dave Chappelle, comedy’s reclusive genius, returned to the national stage as guest host of last night’s Saturday Night Live, and if the show let him down a few times – as it’s been known to do since the days George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Lily Tomlin worked the Studio 8-H audience – the former Chappelle’s Show groundbreaker moved gracefully and deliberately back to both the spotlight and his place among those stand-up greats.
“It’s been a long time,” he told the crowd at the start of his monologue, “so be patient.” Quickly adjusting the somber mood set by Kate McKinnon’s earnest rendition of the late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Chappelle pivoted to this week’s presidential election. “It seemed like Hillary was doing so well in the polls,” he said with mock bewilderment. “And yet, I know the whites. You guys aren’t as full of surprises as you used to be.”
“I haven’t seen white people this mad since the O.J. verdict. I watched a white riot in Portland, Oregon on television the other night. News said they did a million dollars in damages. Every black person watching was like, amateurs.”
Chappelle addressed the country’s recent mass shootings. Pledging allegiance to ISIS, he said about the Pulse nightclub shooting, is not the same as being ISIS: “It’s like shouting out ‘Wu-Tang!’ during sex – that don’t mean I’m in the Wu-Tang Clan.”
“You can’t even go to the goddamn zoo without seeing a shooting,” Chappelle observed. “They shot a gorilla at my local zoo and and the Cincinnati police said ‘shooting that gorilla was the toughest decision this department has ever had to make.’ I said, well you’re about to see a lot of n*ggers in gorilla costumes in Cincinnati.”
Chappelle’s routine wound its way through Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter (“that’s not a blue life, that’s a blue suit”), and being wealthy and black in the age of Obama and, now, Trump. “Leaving the country? Naw, I’m good dawg, I’m gonna stay here and get this tax break, see how it works out.” His first election as a rich man, he said, was Barack Obama’s victory. “He was like, ‘C’mon everybody, let’s start thinking about everyone else.’ I was like, n*gger I just got this money! I didn’t even think you was possible!”
Ending on a serious note, Chappelle, mentioning the large anti-Trump protests happening in New York City that day, recalled his visit to the White House a few weeks ago (“everyone was black except Bradley Cooper”) and how it made him “hopeful and proud to be an American.”
“So in that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck and I’m going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one too.”
Race and Trump charged through another SNL skit last night, in which a mostly-white group of friends move through the stages of shock and grief during an election-night viewing party, with Chappelle and surprise guest Chris Rock repping the thoroughly unsurprised racial minority.
“God, this is the most shameful thing America has ever done,” said Beck Bennett’s stunned Hillary supporter, to guffaws from Chappelle and Rock.
If the skit wasn’t as sly as the show’s “Black Jeopardy” bit with Tom Hanks earlier this season, “Election Night” at least offered evidence of SNL‘s latter-day willingness to tackle the nation’s black-white divide, even among the elites of its hometown.
Check it out below, and watch Chappelle’s monologue above.