Confusion over comments that Dave Chappelle made about the 2016 Presidential Election (wherein he said some things about Donald Trump, was branded a Trump supporter, and strongly refuted those assertions) should help make for an interesting monologue on Saturday Night Live this weekend. But while some may be weary because of those remarks, it seems unlikely that Chappelle’s return to the sketch comedy space will be defined by recent political developments. Though he dabbled with impressive proficiency, Chappelle was always more comfortable directly tackling political issues than the political process itself. And after the last few days, that should be welcome relief.
It’s been hard, of late, to consider the notion of thought-provoking comedy absent the context of the electoral process. But following an election that oddly centered more on the (deeply flawed) candidates than on the issues and challenges facing voters, it’s vital to remember that those issues exist and that they would have plagued us no matter the results on Tuesday. Even in this moment of mounting anger and disappointment (among some, not all, of course), we need to examine those issues — soberly, at some point, but perhaps with the aid of a few laughs right now. Because a lot of us could use a few laughs right now, even if the numbing effect is ever so brief.
Saturday Night Live is not the place for deep issue-based satire. That’s not so much a knock on the show as an observation. Each episode is an astonishing accomplishment as the cast and crew manage to hurdle through a week at a breakneck pace to deliver 90-minutes of live comedy with a thousand unseen moving pieces, but the approach naturally leads to more silliness than salient points.
Chappelle’s Show was no doubt inspired by a time when tackling social issues in a pointed way was a heavier part of what SNL did. In Living Color, Richard Pryor’s comedy, and The Chris Rock Show also deserve credit for clearing the path. But while those influences were key, all credit for the show’s lasting impact goes to Chappelle’s provocative sensibility and his ability to comment on issues of race with the language of pop culture in an effort to reach a broad audience without sacrificing the weight of his message