Anxious speculation had been building all week ahead of Dave Chappelle’s “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig.
Since the return of the controversial comedian to the sketch-comedy show was announced, NBC and executive producer Lorne Michaels faced criticism for giving Chappelle a spotlight in light of what they called transphobic comments on his Emmy-nominated 2021 special, “The Closer.” Reports circulated that some “SNL” writers upset by his comments were refusing to work with him. Those reports were denied by Chappelle’s representatives.
So when he came on stage as the house band played the opening notes of Otis Redding’s classic “Try A Little Tenderness” and said he wanted to read a statement, many viewers no doubt wondered whether he was going to address the issue or other hot-button topics.
Pulling out a paper from his black leather jacket, Chappelle read, “I denounce antisemitism in all its forms, and I stand with my friends in the Jewish community.” He then took a sharp poke at the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who has come under fire for several antisemitic remarks.
“And that, Kanye,” he said with a mischievous grin, “is how you buy yourself some time.”
The joke was in a 14-minute opening in which he also targeted Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, Georgia’s Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker and former President Trump.
Aside from a few mild profanities and a few drops of the N-word, Chappelle’s comments fell far short of the rawness he has expressed in previous routines. His monologue was received with hearty laughter and applause from the live studio audience.
Much of the routine was aimed at West, who is also known by his preferred name, Ye.
Chappelle said that during his 35-year career, he had heard that “there are two words in the English language that you should never say together in sequence, and those words are ‘the’ and ‘Jews.’ Never heard someone do good after saying that.”
Chappelle also mocked the rapper for bragging that the sportswear maker Adidas would not drop him for making antisemitic remarks. He also referenced Irving, who has been suspended indefinitely by the Nets for posting a link to a film that contains antisemitic material.
“Kanye got in so much trouble, Kyrie got in trouble,” he said. He later said “I know the Jewish people have been through some terrible things all over the world, but you can’t blame that on Black Americans — you just can’t.”
When the comment drew only a mild whoop from an audience member, Chappelle said, “Thanks to the one person who said anything.”
Taking a swipe at Walker, Chappelle said, “I don’t want to speak badly of him because he’s Black, but I have to admit he’s observably stupid… He’s the kind of guy who looks like he thinks before he makes a move on tic-tac-toe.”
Trump was also ridiculed: “Why did he have all those documents at his house? He was famous for not reading his press briefings, and now all of a sudden he’s got 10,000 documents? I’ve been fired from many jobs in my life and I’ll be very honest with you, sometimes when I was fired, I stole things from the office… But you know what I never stole from work? WORK!”