Saturday Night Live has tapped into the dark matter that has been underpinning the American experiment for time immortal.
With a cast filled with more black people than the show has had in quite some time, skits like “Black Jeopardy” have proven to be among the most popular black-led skits since Eddie Murphy’s Hot Tub and Gumby. And while SNL has had the biggest names in Black comedy history as hosts, one name had been been missing for too long- Dave Chappelle.
So just when you thought SNL couldn’t get any blacker, last night it did just that when Chappelle walked down the steps and onto the stage. With a monologue that is dueling in my mind with Chris Rock’s 2014 monologue and Richard Pryor’s December 1975 monologue (an episode that also featured Gil Scott Heron), as the blackest SNL openings ever, Dave Chappelle put his imprint on the entire show and delivered everything we’ve always loved about him. It was almost as if all the stars aligned in order for Chappelle to have the perfect environment from which to cull his laughter.
Donald Trump is president, and that is only the most recent ridiculous thing that has happened this year. One could surmise that a Chicago Cubs World Series was a predictor of further unlikelihoods becoming reality. Ten years ago the very idea of Dave Chappelle hosting Saturday Night Live seemed so far outside of the realm of possibility that to even say it aloud result in curled lips, eye rolling and scoffing.
But with last night’s appearance, Chappelle slapped the SNL studio audience into laugh-induced submission with his raw, uncensored, signature brand of comedy, complete with brilliant sketch comedy, sophomoric prop humor and ridiculously articulated characters. We witnessed the return of a black comedic scion modeled from the tradition of Richard Pryor and Dick Gregory, combined with elements of Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock, sprinkled with a bit of Flip Wilson, minus Geraldine, for good measure.
Not only did Dave go in on the modern politics in light of the presidential election, he clowned white sensibilities, including liberals, all night long. The skit depicting the emotional ups-and-downs of overconfident Democrats on election night, complete with a cameo by SNL alum Chris Rock, was as brilliant as it was realistic. But Chappelle didn’t stop there, as he revived some of his most memorable and popular roles to pay homage to the ever popular “The Walking Dead.” Cast as Negan while simultaneously playing Tyrone Biggums, Clayton Bigsby, Silky Johnson and Lil Jon gave fans everything they wanted in one skit, the past and the present.
Adding to the history-making show was the addition of A Tribe Called Quest as the musical guests, which was the reunion of the group and the first time they performed without the five footer Phife, who passed away earlier this year. This further contributed to the show generating a feeling of being so soulful and relevant, yet light years outside of middle America’s perception of reality. The energy and anticipation leading up to the show proved that this was going to be a must see show, and the fact that Chappelle and ATCQ were the main stars on the SNL stage after the politic and social unrest we witnessed and experienced this week only solidified that we were being given an elixir we all needed. Chappelle’s understanding how how to combine recognition, experience and comedy into a joke is exactly what made Dave so funky way back when, and why we hope he continues bringing the flavor from here on out.