Arts and Entertainment

Dave Chappelle on SNL shows how much America could have used him this election cycle

Dave Chappelle has still got the juice, and boy, America sure missed him over the past two years.

Chappelle has been one of comedy’s most elusive figures ever since he walked away from millions of dollars and his wildly popular Comedy Central series in 2005. During two seasons of “Chappelle’s Show,” the stand-up made a name for himself as a comedic genius unafraid to cull humor from the most tragic aspects of racism in America (see: Clayton Bigsby, his black, blind, white-supremacist character).

This weekend, Chappelle once again did what made him so famous: provide hilarious, biting commentary on race from a point of view not often treated as the default, mainstream perspective.

The comic returned to television to host “Saturday Night Live” just days after America elected Donald Trump as its next president, the conclusion to one of the most contentious election cycles in recent memory and one now met with anti-Trump protests and reports of biased-based attacks.

Chappelle has been out of the sketch-comedy game for awhile, and in an episode that felt nostalgic and cathartic to disappointed Americans, he mostly performed with an easygoing manner with a few outlandish characters thrown in between. No matter; America wanted to hear from Chappelle. The episode brought season-high ratings in preliminary overnight numbers, and early reports indicate it may match or surpass ratings from a controversial 2015 episode when Trump hosted.

[Dave Chappelle is the perfect host for the first ‘Saturday Night Live’ in Trump’s America]

Trump’s victory last week took most media by surprise, and it’s a safe bet that SNL’s writers were no different.

Just last month, Hillary Clinton, played by Kate McKinnon, confidently said “I think I’m going to be president” with a smirk. The studio audience laughed — with her, not at her. This weekend, McKinnon re-upped her Clinton role for an entirely serious, teary-eyed cold open.

The election results may have thrown off a lesser stand-up; most comics who host SNL test out their monologue jokes for weeks. But Chappelle came armed with Trump-winning material just days later, showing his mastery of the art.

“You know, I didn’t know that Donald Trump was going to win the election. I did suspect it,” Chappelle began his monologue. “It seemed like Hillary was doing well in the polls and yet — I know the whites. You guys aren’t as full of surprises as you used to be.”

[Read Dave Chappelle’s entire SNL monologue: ‘It’s been a long time’]

Chappelle also lampooned Trump’s first meeting with Obama, two days before.

“Oh God. Got to tell you,” Chappelle-as-Trump said, “this job looks like it’s going to be a lot harder than I thought.”

Chappelle-as-Obama replied: “Really? It’s not that hard. I mean, at least you get to be white while you’re doing it.”

In another election-themed sketch, Chappelle provided his trademark dry insight on race. As a group of white liberals watched the election returns and their optimism turned to despair, one remarked: “Oh my God. I think America is racist.”

“Oh my God,” Chappelle’s character said, with fake shock. “You know, I remember my great-great grandfather told me something like that. But you know he was like a slave or something, I don’t know.”

Chappelle also offered a treat for his longtime fans, bringing back well-known “Chappelle’s Show” characters in a prerecorded short spoofing a recent scene from “The Walking Dead” that killed off a beloved character.

The popularity of those “Chappelle’s Show” bits have, in the past, derailed his stand-up performances. For years, Chappelle has dealt with hecklers at shows and in day-to-day life, who shout lines from his most iconic characters. On Saturday, the comedian didn’t shy away from those roles, but did metaphorically end them.

It wasn’t all jokes from Chappelle, though. He wrapped up his monologue by recounting a recent visit to the White House for a BET-sponsored party (“everybody in there was black — except for Bradley Cooper, for some reason”).

Chappelle described seeing pictures of past presidents, how black Americans were not welcomed in the White House for so long, and how on that particular evening, he looked around in a room full of black people “and saw all those black faces” and how “happy everybody was. These people who had been historically disenfranchised.”

“In that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. And I’m going to give him a chance,” Chappelle said. “And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”

Politics newsletter

The big stories and commentary shaping the day.

Sign up

The SNL broadcast likewise felt unapologetically black. A Tribe Called Quest made a triumphant, bittersweet return with tracks off their newly released farewell album while paying tribute to member Phife Dawg, who died earlier this year. Consequence and Busta Rhymes also joined.


Jarobi White and Q-Tip of musical guest A Tribe Called Quest perform on Nov. 12. (Will Heath/NBC)

“All you black folks, you must go,” Tribe rapped during a particularly political song. “All you Mexicans, you must go /And all you poor folks, you must go /Muslims and gays / Boy, we hate your ways / So all you bad folks, you must go.”

As the credits rolled at the end of the episode, Chappelle said, “I gotta tell you, making a comeback is scary as hell.”

“I wouldn’t even call it a comeback,” he continued. “But whatever it is, it’s so much better than not coming at all.”

Comic RiffsOpinion

Why the ‘Suicide Squad’ extended cut is a better movie than the original

The extended cut of “Suicide Squad,” now available for purchase digitally, is the version of the movie that should have debuted in theaters back in August.

Unlike the R-rated edition of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which didn’t add much to the film’s PG-13 theatrical release, “Suicide Squad’s” extended cut is a better movie than the original.

There is no extra action. What you saw in the theatrical release of “Suicide Squad” in terms of bat swings, gun blasts and boomerangs is what you get here. Action rarely gets left on the editing room floor in superhero (or in this case supervillain) movies. When studios are looking to make cuts, it’s usually a conversational scene. That’s the case with “Suicide Squad.” Surprisingly enough, though, those conversations between Squad members give these characters a little more depth.

Jared Leto was vocal that WB/DC left a lot of his Joker performance out of the movie, so many assumed that would make up most of the 13 extra minutes. Instead, the character to benefit most from the extended cut is Harley Quinn.

The theatrical release gave us the crazy Harley Quinn that those who grew up watching “Batman: The Animated Series” already knew would be there. In the extended cut, we get to see Harley trying to figure out what brought each of her squad-mates to their current bad-guy destinies. It’s a reminder that Harley, even after her transformation into a super-villain/anti-hero, is indeed still a doctor and one of the Suicide Squad’s brightest minds — which wasn’t as apparent in the theatrical version.

[A new ‘Suicide Squad’ cut might show all that Jared Leto Joker footage we didn’t see]

Those who felt the Joker was underutilized in “Suicide Squad” may still feel the same after watching the extended cut. Let’s not forget, there were many, including myself, who thought the Joker would be the main villain in this movie, and the reason for putting the Suicide Squad together (he wasn’t). Leto’s performance was mainly about introducing a new Joker to go along with Harley Quinn and possibly use for future “Batman” or “Suicide Squad” movies in the future.

Post Most newsletter

Most popular stories, in your inbox daily.

The extra Joker we do get in the extended cut (alongside a pre-transformation Harley Quinn, who in this extra Joker scene is still Dr. Harleen Quinzel) is someone who just doesn’t have time for love. We learn that the Joker’s continued rejections of Harley Quinn’s romantic advances are part of what drove her insane. The fun part is trying to figure out why the Joker doesn’t want to be bothered. Is he that much of a jerk or does he love Harley enough that he’s trying to save her from what a life alongside him would be? Leto gets another scene here to portray the conflict in the Joker’s mind as he reluctantly realizes Harley Quinn is a part of him whether he likes it or not. This is, of course, the one factor above all that sets Leto’s Joker apart from any previous performance: His Joker’s in love. And it makes for great superhero movie/bad guy magic.

There’s also a little bit more of the brewing bromance between Will Smith’s Deadshot and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag. Enhanced by Harley Quinn’s on-the-job psych evaluations, we get a little bit more of each of “Suicide Squad’s” supporting characters, including Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje).

Aside from “Suicide Squad” reviews like mine that came from the perspective of someone who is a fan of comic book culture, this movie was destroyed by most mainstream critics. If you agreed with those negative reviews, the extra 13 minutes here isn’t going to do anything to change your opinion of “Suicide Squad.” But if you’re someone who liked the movie, the extended cut should feel like a better version of something you already enjoyed.

According to Box Office Mojo, “Suicide Squad” finished its theatrical run earning $325 million domestically and an additional $420 million overseas (after reportedly costing $175 million to make), which should make WB/DC very happy with the financial result of yet another divisive DC Comics film.