Dave Chappelle is hosting Saturday Night Live this week. This is not a usual Saturday night, though; it’s the first weekend after the 2020 US elections. It feels like a weird flashback to November 2016: the anxiety of not knowing who’s going to win, the long wait, and Dave Chappelle hosting SNL.
Yes, because Chappelle debuted on the comedy show on the first weekend after the 2016 elections, when polls were projecting Hillary Clinton as the winner until the very last minute, the cast were getting ready to prepare a show about the first female president – but as we know, it didn’t go as planned.
There couldn’t be a more perfect moment than the weekend after the 2016 elections for Dave Chappelle to make his SNL debut. He’s a very outspoken comedian who’s not new to daring statements, and his Emmy-winning opening monologue on the live comedy show is further proof of this.
“You know, I didn’t know that Donald Trump was going to win the election. I did suspect it”, said Chappelle, “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.” Finishing up, he noted “I’m wishing Donald Trump luck, and I’m going to give him a chance, and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one too.’
After these incredible statements that moved a whole nation, it was an obvious choice for SNL producers to call Mr. Chappelle back to Studio 8H on 7th November 2020. Especially as it seems like history is about to repeat itself this year; the country divided in half and the results incredibly close in many US states. Even though it looks like Joe Biden is managing to secure the presidency, it’s not an easy job for Democrats and Republicans alike this year, and it’s still too close to call.
But what does this mean for the iconic Saturday night sketch comedy in the 2020 post-election show? Going back to 2016, political satire was certainly popular, but not nearly as interesting as it’s been in the past four years. Yet for most of these years, it felt like there wasn’t the need to use satire at all; most of the things said, or tweeted, by the 45th President of the United States sounded like something straight out of a satirical TV series, and what’s currently happening during these elections is no different.
Take, for example, what’s happening outside the election centres during the counting. Trump supporters gathered outside the buildings where the ballots are being counted chanting ‘Count the votes!’ in counties where Trump is winning, and ‘Stop the count!’ in places where Biden is ahead. If this sounds like something out of a TV show, it’s because it is.
Alexis Wilkinson (@OhGodItsAlexis), writer of the popular and multi-awarded HBO political show Veep, retweeted a video of President Trump supporters saying, “we wrote this on @VeepHBO…and they just…tweeted it out…”
Over the past four years, it’s been difficult to discern between reality and political satire, and SNL did a great job at it, especially during the first few years. But at this point, enough is enough. At first, it was funny to make fun of a President who had no clue of what he was doing, but four years on, it’s easy to see how things got out of hand and along with many social and economic issues brought on by this government, comedy was affected too.
From funny and entertaining, SNL political sketches got boring, being a kind of a literal repetition of reality, making it sad and unbearable to watch. Alec Baldwin’s impression of Trump is still spot on but got weaker with time.
If Biden becomes the new President of the United States, he will also bring a new breath of fresh air to comedy, including Saturday Night Live. I’m not saying Biden is the perfect man to be President, but with someone who has political experience and decent moral values, it’s going to be easier and entertaining to watch political satire again, without the anxiety of reality looming behind our backs.
Also, it would be great to see Alec Baldwin handing the show over to Jim Carey and Maya Rudolph, who who routinely provide incredible impressions of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Harris would also be the first woman and first person of colour to be Vice President in the White House – better late than never, I guess…).
Four years ago, Dave Chappelle predicted what was going to happen during Trump’s presidency, and even though it’s still too close to call, let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself. I just have one thing left to say: let’s make political satire great again.
Words by Federica Battiato