TV Recap: Saturday Night Live – Dave Chappelle and A Tribe Called Quest

Written by Mark Henely and Melissa Jouben


Host – Dave Chappelle

Melissa: When I first saw that Dave Chappelle was going to host SNL, I was thinking “what a great lineup for a post-election ‘we didn’t elect Trump’ celebration!” I’ll be honest and say that when we DID elect Trump, I contemplated sitting this episode out just because I wasn’t ready for whatever the cold open was going to be. I didn’t want to see Alec Baldwin do that impression because it’s too close to the real thing. I didn’t want to hear Kate McKinnon’s Hillary ponder on what went wrong. And I have to say, I’m so glad that this episode happened exactly the way it did because it was exactly what we needed. It should almost be mandatory viewing for anyone having anxieties right now. Dave Chappelle’s monologue (by the way, THANK YOU SNL for finally having a comedian on this season so we can get a truly great monologue) hit a lot of good notes. It was raw and barely censored. The story he told at the very end was a message of hope and a reminder of progress that made me want to weep. You couldn’t tell that it’s been as long as it has since Dave Chappelle was killing the sketch comedy game and his decision to bring back some of his Chappelle Show characters was one I was initially on the fence about so, so glad he went through with.

I can’t remember the last time I was watching an episode of Saturday Night Live and thought, “is it almost over? But it feels like we were just getting started!” This episode is the best of the season so far, without a doubt. I won’t be surprised if I still hold that opinion when the season is over.

Mark: The announcement that Dave Chappelle was going to host SNL was newsworthy on a level that viewers hadn’t seen since Donald Trump hosted last year. However, Chappelle was newsworthy in the right

Photo Credit: Will Heath/NBC
Photo Credit: Will Heath/NBC

way. Chappelle is one of the greatest stand up comedians alive and Chappelle show was one of the greatest sketch comedy shows ever. All sketch comedy shows are hit or miss (as any SNL fan could tell you), but Chappelle had entire episodes with a single miss.

I was excited about the possibilities of what we could see. I knew the monologue would be great (although, I will admit, I think I forgot really how great he is. That monologue was incredible), but I was excited to see him work with the cast. I wanted to see him play off of Pete Davidson. I wanted to see what a sketch with Leslie Jones would look like. I was lamenting the fact that we wouldn’t get to see a sketch between Cappelle and the recently let go Jay Pharoah (with Pharoah’s ability to do an impression of basically every major rapper in Hip Hop, you can’t tell me they wouldn’t have come up with something great together).

If I had one complaint about this episode is that I wanted to see more sketches with Chappelle playing off of the cast. I understand that they couldn’t do that with the Trump election taking place this week, but I suppose if my biggest criticism is that it wasn’t longer, then the episode was pretty perfect. I just hope he comes back soon.

Melissa’s Favorite Sketch of the Night – Election Week Cold Open

Melissa: I don’t want to say too much about this because I’m worried that whatever I can say won’t be eloquent enough to do it justice. I’m sure you’ll be able to read someone much smarter than me talk about this in a way that’ll make you cry almost as much as I cried watching it. The episode opens with Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton, sitting at a piano and performing and singing the late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” At the end of the song, a teary-eyed McKinnon turns to face the camera and says “I’m not giving up and neither should you.”

First of all, this is something that should be said because my mom was shocked when I told her so maybe it’s not public knowledge: Kate McKinnon is gay. The stakes for her in this election as a gay woman were pretty high. Her performance in this sketch made me proud. It made me feel hopeful. It gave all of us a chance to mourn both the death of Leonard Cohen and the world we wanted to live in. And now that we’ve mourned and cried together it’s time to get to work. That was the message here. And the sketch itself is a great example of what good we can do when we get to work. The writers didn’t stop writing or slow down when the election results came in. They got right to work creating something beautiful and healing to remind us of the importance of art. Again, this is required viewing for anyone who was riding high on anxiety all week and needs to take a quick break.

Mark’s Favorite Sketch of the Night – Election Night Results

Mark: I thought the sketch where Chappelle was  the only cynic (and only black person) at an election night party where all of the white guests were convinced that Hilary Clinton was going to win in a landslide. As the night progresses, the white guests get more and more distraught by the idea that they live in a racist country. Chappelle isn’t surprised by the depths of racism that the country can reach and the sketch consists of Chappelle’s reactions to their terrified proclamations.

The part that puts the sketch over for me is when Chris Rock makes a surprise appearance and starts delivering the kind of lines that Chappelle’s character had been delivering the whole sketch. I thought it was very gracious of Dave to give the spotlight over to Chris Rock like that on his episode of SNL. I also loved how much Chappelle seemed to love watching Rock crush his lines in the sketch. Chappelle was openly breaking character and I loved it.

Melissa’s Least Favorite Sketch of the Night – Football Party

Melissa: It wasn’t even bad. It was just the last sketch of the night and I was riding high on how good the rest of the episode was and I was a little put off by the weird camera cuts to all the football party guests and the general silence. Leslie Jones and Dave Chappelle looked like they were having a lot of fun, so that’s all that matters. The plot of the sketch is that Dave Chappelle’s character has his friends over to watch football, and they realize he lives with him mom. He’s an adult man and his mom still breastfeeds him. That’s really it. It was funny and I laughed but I loved everything else more.

Mark: I’m going to agree with Melissa that this was the worst sketch of the night, but only because this episode was so great and I don’t want to trash a 2nd sketch just because our column has a “Worst Sketch of the Night” feature on it.

I thought it was funny, but I was disappointed that this was the only time all night that we got to see Chappelle and Pete Davidson together. I think there is a great sketch between those two just waiting to happen.

So, it isn’t so much that this sketch was bad, it’s that it didn’t live up to the hypothetical Chappelle/Davidson sketch in my mind.

Photo Credit: Will Heath/NBC)
Photo Credit: Will Heath/NBC)

Musical Guest – A Tribe Called Quest

Melissa: A Tribe Called Quest came to this stage prepared. They were ready and their message was clear. As a commercial that aired during the episode reminded me, this is their first album in 18 years, and boy were they ready for this comeback. And we definitely needed it right now. Can you imagine if, I don’t know, Justin Timberlake was the musical guest in this episode singing songs from the Trolls soundtrack? This was such good foresight to book them and Dave Chappelle for this episode and despite the circumstances, I’m honored to be alive and see them performing relevant, powerful music at a time where it’s desperately needed. When they ended their first performance and the audience clapped, I found myself alone in my bedroom clapping too.

Mark: A Tribe Called Quest was amazing. In their first song, they payed tribute to the decease Phife Dawg by unfurling a banner with his face on it while his verse played and the other members danced to it. It was really sweet to see them do that and I think it fit the tone of this deeper than usual SNL.

It was also fun to see Busta Rhymes jump on stage and join them for a song.

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