SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Dave Chappelle" Episode 1710 -- Pictured: Host Dave Chappelle during the monologue on November 12, 2016 -- (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — “Dave Chappelle” Episode 1710 — Pictured: Host Dave Chappelle during the monologue on November 12, 2016 — (Photo by: Will Heath/NBC)

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2016.

Before I get into my Love It/Keep it/Leave It picks, a word on the Hillary “Hallelujah” Cold Opening, which I have chosen not to categorize. Normally when SNL forgoes a proper sketch in favor of a song for the opening, it is in the wake of a national tragedy. So add one more way in which this election is unprecedented. The song selection memorializes the recently departed Leonard Cohen, rendering this moment less depressing and more bittersweet.

Love It

Dave Chappelle’s Monologue – I guess somebody knew that Trump was going to win. That somebody? SNL’s talent booker. How else to explain how we got Dave Chappelle on the exact week that we needed him? This is not the most laugh-out he has ever been (although Bradley Cooper being the only white person at a BET-sponsored White House party is hilarious enough for the whole set), but that is fine, because he is mainly aiming for truth and strength. A lot of disappointed citizens have been struggling to say something positive while also holding on to their legitimate disappointment. By finding hope while passionately defending enfranchisement, Dave Chappelle hits that multilayered note.

“Love and Leslie” – Finally, a new Good Neighbor short! Leslie Jones’ love life has been the cornerstone of her SNL persona ever since her first appearance on Weekend Update. In her own hands, she has gone broad and over the top. So this quieter take on her romance is informed by plenty of context as a counterpoint. Combine that with Kyle Mooney always playing every role so genuinely – with a premise so earnest, this is a love story for the ages: goofy, sweet, and adorably weird. It is also a sort of companion piece to “Kyle vs. Kanye,” but in this one, everyone’s a lot more supportive.

Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock are the clearheaded black friends who remember history well enough to handle Election Night…It’s not quite the Bird Family, but the Breastfeeding sketch is the ultimate visual gag in one of the most visual gag-heavy SNL episodes ever. Bonus points for Kyle Mooney’s character being totally cool with everything.

Keep It

Jheri’s Place/Inside SNL – The obnoxious Jheri curls have me wondering why SNL ever goes this broad. Leslie Jones’ deer-in-headlights look gives me flashbacks to one of the most disastrous sketches in recent memory. Then Kyle Mooney comes in with an absurdly off accent, and then I realize, “Oh, this is supposed to be bad?” The meta approach is not tipped off until the moment that it hits hardest, and we are all set for a good, hard session of self-reflection. What we end up with, though, is mostly just a fairly standard parody of post-game press conferences.

The Chappelle’s Show characters on The Walking Dead parody is mostly uninspiring nostalgia, but I’m a bit of a sucker for the hosts introducing a sketch from the main stage…Michael and Colin start a little slow, almost profoundly unable to make a joke, but then Che has a major gaffe that proves his point, and Colin goes ice cold (Trump shows his bravery by “meeting face to face with the man who founded ISIS”)…Kate McKinnon’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg stays alive by taking a big gulp of Emergen-C in an episode filled with visual gags…If it’s going to ape the format of his old gig, why doesn’t Beck Bennett host Kids Talk Politics? Oh well, at least that girl knows how to say, “We have a black cat!”…Is this Bartender Kenan’s best Last Call yet? He deserves zero yellow cards. Bonus points for the frog falling from the ceiling.

Leave It
Nothing to hate, in a week where we really needed to avoid any clunkers.

Dave Chappelle
If Dave Chappelle shows up, he is going to give you what you need. And in a week when a lot of people are worried about the message the election results are sending to minorities, he shows up. He has decades in the comedy game, so he is clearheaded enough to know how to give people hope and make them laugh in the midst of a crisis. That whole vibe is intrinsic to all of his performances in this episode.

A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest is one of those bands that I am familiar with even though I don’t really know any of their songs. And that feels so crazy, as they are legends. So I wish I had the context to say whether or not “We the People….” and “The Space Program,” are like their old stuff, or if it is all a completely new sound. But I do feel qualified enough to say that they are enthralling and relevant as they throw down. I am pretty sure these songs were not written immediately after Trump was elected, but they might as well have been. Has there ever been a timelier host/musical guest combo? Also, I really appreciate how, in an episode that is all about breaking apart the regular formula, Busta Rhymes and Consequence are just chilling in the audience before joining in.

Letter Grades:
“Hallelujah” – No Grade
Dave Chappelle’s Monologue – A-
Election Night – B+
The Walking Dead – C+
A Tribe Called Quest performs “We the People….” – B+

Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Ruth Bader Ginsburg – B

Jheri’s Place/Inside SNL – B
Kids Talk Politics – B
Last Call – B
A Tribe Called Quest performs “The Space Program” – B+
Love and Leslie – A-
Football Party – B