Dave Chappelle Spent More Time Doing Stand-Up On Saturday Night Live Than He Did Appearing In Sketches

In recent years, it's become a bit of a tradition to bring in comedian Dave Chappelle as the host of "Saturday Night Live" after there's been a major election. Chappelle hosted after Donald Trump became president in 2016 and delivered one of the best monologue's "SNL" has ever seen, then executive producer Lorne Michaels followed that up by bringing him back in 2020 after Joe Biden won the election. Now he's back in 2022 after the Republicans failed to execute their so-called "red wave." However, Chappelle didn't really spend his monologue time talking about the election. Instead, he focused almost entirely on the recent antisemitic controversy surrounding rapper Kanye West. But we'll get to that later.

What's interesting about this episode of "SNL" is that Chappelle spent over 15 minutes on the mainstage in Studio 8H doing stand-up bits. Whenever he (or any other stand-up comedian, for the most part) has hosted, they pretty much get however much time they want after the cold open to showcase stand-up for their monologue. In fact, this same scenario played out back in his November 2020 episode, where he did over 16 minutes of stand-up. But even on his own sketch show, Chappelle never let the stand-up overshadow the sketches. I guess Lorne Michaels is fine letting the comedian take as much time as he wants. Was it worth it? Let's break down the episode and find out. 

The best sketch of the night

If I'm being totally honest, I actually think that the best parts of this weekend's "SNL" came from Weekend Update. Both Sarah Sherman and Marcello Hernandez were fantastic with bits at the desk, not to mention the fact that Colin Jost and Michael Che have been on a roll lately with stellar headline jokes. But if we're talking the best actual sketch from the evening, it goes to "Potato Hole."

First of all, this is a short sketch, but the punchline is so good that it still gets the job done. Admittedly, the first two-thirds of this sketch feel like a dud, with every member of this local news team making puns about their musician guest's album title, which is called "Potato Hole." This comes after Willie T. Hawkins (Chappelle) continually and kindly declines to explain the meaning of the title. You know that when the title is finally explained, it's going to be the punchline, but it hits so much harder than you might have expected. The cuts to the horrified and awkward news team as Hawkins explains its meaning are perfectly timed and executed, and it's just a great sketch that doesn't overstay its welcome. 

How was the rest of the episode?

Dave Chappelle likes to introduce sketches on "SNL" just as he did on "Chappelle's Show." But this particular sketch required an introduction to set-up the meta comedy that was about to unfold. Chappelle didn't feel like being in as many sketches, so he had Mikey Day take his part in "Black Heaven," and hilarity ensued. With the perfect white guy voice, it's absolutely hilarious to hear Day reluctantly spouting off lines that were intended for a Black character. It's a simple premise, but it's one that works very well thanks to Day's skills as a comedian. Also, I'm sad to say that I had no idea that Day was on the first season of the improv comedy series "Wild 'n Out" on MTV (now at VH1). Sounds like I have some homework to do. 

It was good to see a Please Don't Destroy sketch make it to air, especially one with such a prominent and absurd role for Molly Kearney. Much of the comedy from Please Don't Destroy's videos come from their fast-paced and frenetic energy, and this one is no exception. It runs through the gamut of election insanity in just over three and a half minutes, and Kearney continues to show off their comedic chops that fit in perfectly at "SNL." When Kearney comes in dressed as a full-on politician, it gets even funnier. 

Chappelle again brought some of his classic characters back from the Comedy Central sketch series "Chappelle's Show," but this time, he dropped them into the newly diversified cast of the "Game of Thrones" prequel series "House of the Dragon." It's somewhat basic when it comes to the formula of the sketch, but the production quality of this parody is rather impressive. Admittedly, there is some amusement that comes from seeing the "Game of Thrones" versions of Rick James, Tyrone Biggums, and Andy "Silky" Johnson, not to mention cameos from Ice-T and Donnell Rawlings, but if it wasn't for the impressive sets and costumes, this one would feel a little more half-baked.

Finally, we have the worst sketch of the night. For me, this felt like it was delivering the same kind of premise as the "Black Heaven" sketch and it wasn't executed nearly as well. A Black-owned barbershop has a white barber working on this day, and whenever he tries to get in the conversation, the chatter and haircuts come to a screeching halt. It's funny a couple times, but it happens far too repeatedly without enough variation to keep up the momentum. Plus, I can't help but be annoyed that we don't hear the barbershop clippers until just before they're shut off for the sake of comedy. It's a stupid nitpick, but it's a logistical issue that makes the setting feel less authentic. Plus, if there were more noise that suddenly cut out, it might make the bit more effective. Granted, this was only slightly worse than the political cold open, which continues to be a disappointment almost every week. 

How was Dave Chappelle as an SNL host?

Dave Chappelle has been in hot water recently with his Netflix stand-up special "The Closer" sparking outrage among the LGBTQ+ community with a series of observations and jokes that were full of ignorance. Sadly, the comedian has doubled down on his misguided perspective in the fallout that followed, but he chose not to address any of this with his 15-minute stand-up monologue. However, what he did instead may not have been much better.

Chappelle spent a good chunk of his time talking about Kanye West's recent fall from grace due to antisemitic remarks that he continually made online and during interviews. While he pointed out the problem, Chappelle came awfully close to agreeing with some of the stereotypes that West spouted off, but in a way that wouldn't get him in trouble. These are bits that sound like jokes, but they're also pointing out what he sees as hypocrisy. It's along the same lines of his commentary about the prejudice against the gay community versus the Black population in the aforementioned stand-up special that stirred up trouble. 

Granted, jokes about the prominence of Jewish people in the media are nothing new, especially among Jewish comedians, so this is deemed as being more acceptable. But even so, Chappelle comes awfully close to defending Kanye West's remarks by focusing on the manner in which he expressed them rather than the expressions themselves.

Anyway, when it comes to "Saturday Night Live," Chappelle was fine as a host. The comedian's persona has become larger than life, and there's a part of me that thinks he's gotten too casual in the manner with which he presents himself at "SNL." It's almost like he sees the show as being more of a showcase for him than comedy in general. The guy couldn't go a single (live) sketch without having a cigarette in his mouth or in his hand, and yes, they were real cigarettes. Hell, half of his ""SNL" bumper photos that appear when the show returns from commercial break had cigarettes in them. Even when he was playing his classic characters in the "Game of Thrones" sketch, it kinda felt like he was phoning it in. 

Sarah Sherman is a delight

Like I said earlier, the best parts of this weekend's "SNL" came from the Weekend Update desk. On top of the great jokes inspired by the week's headlines (Che's one-liner about the University of Kentucky student kicked out of school for using racial slurs and attacking Black students and subsequently arrested for "impersonating a police officer" was absolutely golden), the two appearances by Sarah Sherman and Marcello Hernandez were top notch. While Hernandez's bit was something new entirely, Sherman shined again by bringing her brand of alt comedy oddity to the desk in a manner more pronounced than ever before.

Complete with a bright, smiley world map, her own pink desk piece, and weird, neon graphics that feel like they came from a Lisa Frank universe designed by David Cronenberg, Sarah Sherman delivered her own news segment. Of course, it included riffs on both Michael Che and Colin Jost, but for me the best part of this is Sherman's brand of comedy. She's delightfully strange, and that reference to the "turkey wattle between her legs" had me in stitches. I hope she gets to do this bit every once in awhile. 

That's all for this episode. We'll be back in a few weeks after Thanksgiving when "Nope" star Keke Palmer hosts "Saturday Night Live" on December 3, 2022.