'SNL' Takes On Race And Politics Post-Election Comedian Dave Chappelle hosted Saturday Night Live Saturday, which featured a somber opening and commentary about race relations after Donald Trump's victory.

'SNL' Takes On Race And Politics Post-Election

'SNL' Takes On Race And Politics Post-Election

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Comedian Dave Chappelle hosted Saturday Night Live Saturday, which featured a somber opening and commentary about race relations after Donald Trump's victory.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We have one more story about the election, this time from the entertainment world. Donald Trump's election prompted a burning question from fans of political satire. What will "Saturday Night Live" say? The show has a long history of defining pivotal elections through parody, and it earned some of its best ratings in years in part because of Alec Baldwin's devastating parody of Donald Trump. "SNL's" first post-election show last night featured one of comedy's most incisive voices on race in America, Dave Chappelle.

We wanted to hear more about it, so we called NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Hi, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi.

MARTIN: So this is the first time Dave Chappelle has even hosted "SNL," and I think, you know, it could have been a pressure moment for the comic. He's been largely out of the public eye in recent years. So how do you think he did?

DEGGANS: I thought - I was really impressed. I thought he did a great job. I mean, ever since he sort of left his Comedy Central show in the middle of production, people have wondered if he could handle another high-pressure, high-profile show-biz platform. And I thought he delivered the most consistent "SNL" we've seen in recent years. I mean, he acted really well. There were some great sketches. He even had a great monologue, where he said he would give Trump a chance. And I think we've got a clip from it. Let's check it out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

DAVE CHAPPELLE: America's done it. We've actually elected an internet troll as our president.

(LAUGHTER)

CHAPPELLE: Whites are furious. I watched a white riot in Portland, Ore., on television the other night.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

CHAPPELLE: The news said they did a million dollars' worth of damage. Every black person was watching it like amateurs.

MARTIN: So, yes, there was inappropriateness.

DEGGANS: Of course.

MARTIN: I do want to mention that this was the clip that we could play on our air...

DEGGANS: Yeah, this is the one we didn't have to bleep (laughter).

MARTIN: But for those who have not yet seen it - spoiler alert - Chris Rock was a surprise guest. He showed up in a sketch where he and Chappelle were watching election returns with a group of all-white, presumably liberal anti-Trump friends. Let's play that clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

AIDY BRYANT: (As character) Why aren't people turning out for Hillary the way they did for Barack Obama?

CHRIS ROCK: (As character) I mean, maybe because you're replacing a charismatic 40-year-old black guy with a 70-year-old white woman. I mean, that's like the Knicks replacing Patrick Ewing with Neil Patrick Harris.

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: Which, by the way, I would pay to see.

MARTIN: Yeah, me too. But did this show have that kind of a consistent through-line?

DEGGANS: Yeah. You know, I really do think it did. And what's interesting to me about that is, like, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, I feel like they've always had a little bit of a more cynical view about race and about society and about America than maybe even their fans have or especially their idealistic white liberal fans. And so we got to see a little bit of that in that sketch, and we got a sense of how black folks were reacting to this election where a lot of us were just kind of saying, well, you know, we kind of expected this.

And it also, to me, showed the value of diversity on "SNL" because "SNL" recently has been presenting some sketches where you see things from black folks' point of view, which is interesting. They had a "Black Jeopardy" sketch where Tom Hanks played a Trump supporter. And you saw how much in common white Trump supporters and black folks kind of had that they didn't realize. And maybe this election will force some of these anti-Trump satirists, you know, people that we've seen really take him to task - not only "SNL" sometimes but Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee - really up their game because they have something to push against now. And so the value of diversity and the value of pushing against something significant, I think we saw that in a lot of the sketches on Saturday.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, I want to ask you about what's called the cold open, where they open the show just right out of a commercial or whatever started before. "SNL" cast member Kate McKinnon, who has been playing Hillary Clinton, you know, throughout this season, she opened it sitting alone at a piano singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." For those who don't remember, Leonard Cohen died Friday. And she ended the song by saying she wasn't done fighting and you should not either. Interested in your thoughts about that.

DEGGANS: Well, you know, part of me thought - I know she's getting a lot of praise, but I'm like now she's not giving up, you know? It's like "SNL" gave Donald Trump an important boost last year when he was fighting for the nomination, and they let him guest host the show and featured him in a way that they didn't feature the other contenders for the GOP nomination at a time when he was trying to stand out and win there. And so even though I thought she did a great job, part of me thought, well, this is "SNL," you know, trying to get on the right side of its liberal viewers once again.

MARTIN: That's Eric Deggans. Thanks so much for joining us.

DEGGANS: Always a pleasure.

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'SNL' Strikes A Somber Tone In Post-Election Episode

Jarobi White (left) and Q-Tip (right) of musical guest A Tribe Called Quest pose with host Dave Chappelle (center) on Saturday. NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images hide caption

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NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Jarobi White (left) and Q-Tip (right) of musical guest A Tribe Called Quest pose with host Dave Chappelle (center) on Saturday.

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In charge of the highly-anticipated first episode following the presidential election of Donald Trump, Saturday Night Live carried a tall order: offering comic relief to about the half of America that's struggling to digest Tuesday's outcome.

Trump's win came as big surprise to many who didn't take his candidacy seriously, let alone expect his win to become a reality, including SNL, who milked Trump's run for joke fodder all season long.

But judging by Saturday night's iconic lineup, it's as if SNL had long been gearing up to put on a show in a Trump America.

Both host Dave Chappelle and musical guest A Tribe Called Quest are known for inserting politics, race relations and what it means to be African-American into their contentious work. So, it seemed, the show's writers had all the right ingredients to play upon a long and divisive campaign season with alienating, racially-charged rhetoric, most notably from the president-elect himself.

It was an SNL debut and comeback of sorts for both talents. Chappelle has been notoriously reclusive since the abrupt end to Chappelle's Show, while the surviving members of the seminal hip-hop group, ATCQ, broke a nearly two-decade hiatus with their album release the day before.

Alec Baldwin didn't reprise his Trump impression. On WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show last week, Baldwin said: "I'm trying to shed the Donald Trump cloak."

Instead, viewers got a show full of bittersweet tributes woven into themes of positive social protest — starting with an unexpected, emotional cold open — that overshadowed the show's typical cathartic political humor.

In the cold open, a lone Kate McKinnon's Hillary Clinton took the stage to cover Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" at a grand piano, a nod to both the Democratic candidate's loss, and the singer-songwriter who died on the eve of the election. Cohen's lyrics in particular, "Love is not a victory march," take on a new meaning in context of the Clinton's rallying cry "Love Trumps Hate," while "I did my best, it wasn't much," alludes to Hillary Clinton's hard-fought race, "even though it all went wrong." McKinnon closed by turning to the audience to say, "I'm not giving up and neither should you."

Chappelle didn't hold back in an edgy monologue that aired uncensored, and surprisingly, SNL appeared to give him that leeway. He took jabs at Trump ("We elected an Internet troll as our president") but mostly left the usual president-elect-bashing to the Weekend Update team, to end on a diplomatic, positive note.

Saturday Night Live YouTube

"I'm wishing Donald Trump luck," the comedian said. "I'm going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one too."

ATCQ didn't pump the brakes on the inspirational spirit either. The group performed "We the People," in front of a mural of the late founding member Phife Dawg. Q-Tip, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad returned for a second act with the new album's opening track, "The Space Program," this time joined by Busta Rhymes and Consequence. Phife's recorded vocals played in time for his verse: "We gotta get it together forever, we gotta get it together for brothers. We gotta get it together for sisters," he chants. "Let's make something happen."

The surprises continued with an appearance from comedian Chris Rock in a sketch about a Democratic watching party on election night, which spoofed Clinton supporters who faced a trajectory of emotions as they watched the results trickle in.

In a historically unconventional episode, SNL seemed to tap into the emotions of those who perhaps are not yet ready for their pain to turn into comedy.