Saturday Night Live guest host Louis C.K. began his monologue last night with that hoariest of set-ups: Why did the chicken cross the road? But it was the punchline that defined the bit, launching a stand-up routine about racism that was prime Louis.
“Because there was a black guy walking behind him,” was the answer. “He was nervous, he was new to the city, this chicken.”
From there, C.K. used the animals-as-stereotypes that goes back at least to Simon & Garfunkel’s “At The Zoo.” Giraffes, moose, goats and horses got a going-over before the host arrived at his destination: his own sense of privilege.
Noting that he was actually happier during his lean (career-wise) days on the comedy circuit, staying in cheap motels where “the minute you get in the shower, you’re dirtier,” C.K. recalls a recent stay at a fancy hotel where a grouchy housekeeper set him off.
“I said, ‘You want to try that again?’,” C.K. recounts telling a hotel housekeeper who didn’t answer the phone with enough enthusiasm.
“It’s wrong that white people get preferential treatment, but as long as they do, what’s going on at this hotel?,” C.K. tells us, disgusted if a little amused at his own entitlement. “It’s awful and wrong, but where is it right now?”
Watch the monologue above.
Elsewhere during the episode, C.K. slipped into various characters, the funniest a re-enactor at New York City’s (real-life) Tenement Museum. As he and Kate McKinnon present a slice-of-life scene of an impoverished 1913 Polish couple new to the city, they first charm the gathered high school students before stunning them with casual racism. The jokes are decent, but it’s C.K.’s accent – a mix of Borat with the wild and crazy guys of Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd – that breaks up his castmates, and himself.
Take a look:
“Birthday Clown,” a pre-taped bit, has C.K. as a depressed 53-year-old who’s hired a child’s birthday clown (Bobby Moynihan) for a party of one, a situation so awkward it would be right at home on C.K.’s Louis.
Equally strange was a commercial parody – sort of – about sofas. Odd and funny – and most likely the best riff on sectional couches since the 1970s.
In the music video “Thank You, Scott,” C.K. plays a regular-joe hero praised by his Facebook followers for social media crusading: “He knew he had to stand up/he knew he had to march/over to his laptop and write Black Lives Matter in his Twitter bio.”
Pulling up the rear of C.K.’s SNL offerings were skits about a leering 1950s soda jerk whose fatherly advice to bobby soxers turns not so fatherly, and a courtroom sketch starring the comic as a lawyer with eyelashes so long and beautiful they win over judge and jury. Not me.