“Saturday Night Live” called on host Dave Chappelle’s wit and Kate McKinnon’s performance of “Hallelujah” for a thoughtful coda to a divisive presidential campaign.
Chappelle, claiming to be rusty after a decade largely out of the TV spotlight, proved ready and eager to offer his take on Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton, including the protests that followed.
“I haven’t seen white people this mad since the O.J. (Simpson) verdict,” the comedian said drolly, suggesting he would take a knee like football player Colin Kaepernick and let whites figure out the election.
There were one-liners – he grabbed the maid in his Trump hotel room because the “boss said it was OK” – but Chappelle also got serious, talking about the Black Lives Matter movement and other issues beyond the election.
“I don’t even think it’s the most important thing we’re dealing with,” Chappelle said, noting “all these shootings in the last year, worst mass shootings in the history of the United States.”
Giving a shoutout to President Barack Obama for a job well done and saying he’d be missed, Chappelle told of attending a recent BET-sponsored White House party attended mostly by African-American guests.
He recalled how rare it was in past centuries for blacks to be allowed to visit the White House, adding that he relished seeing “how happy everybody was, these people that had been historically disenfranchised.”
“It made me feel hopeful, and it made me feel proud to be an American, and it made me very happy about the prospects of our country,” Chappelle said.
“So, in that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck, and I’m going to give him a chance,” he said. “And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”
After a string of openings featuring cast member McKinnon as Clinton sparring with Alec Baldwin’s Trump, McKinnon owned the stage solo last night.
Costumed as the Democratic candidate and seated at a piano, McKinnon performed “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, who died last week. It proved a resonant Clinton swan song.
“I did my best, it wasn’t much, I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch.
“I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you,” McKinnon sang. “And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the lord of song, with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”
At the song’s end, McKinnon turned to the camera with her own – or faux Clinton’s? – message of hope.
“I’m not giving up and neither should you,” she said.
Chappelle, who earned increased fame and critical acclaim with his 2003 Comedy Central sketch series, “Chappelle’s Show,” abruptly left early in its third season.
For a “SNL” parody of “The Walking Dead,” Chappelle revived a number of the characters he played on his old show. Chris Rock joined him in a sketch mocking white election angst.
When a white character exclaimed, “Oh my God, I think America is racist,” Chappelle replied: “I remember my great-grandfather told me something like that. He was like a slave or something.”
The show’s musical guest, A Tribe Called Quest, sang, “We the People” and later, “The Space Program” with Busta Rhymes and Consequence.