“I denounce antisemitism in all its forms, and I stand with my friends in the Jewish community,” he began.
“And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time,” he said, to laughs from the live audience.
The choice of Chappelle, who hosted SNL after the presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, to anchor the post-midterms episode raised eyebrows because of his past jokes about trans people. The release last year of his Netflix special “The Closer” sparked a walkout by some employees of the streaming service who viewed his jokes as transphobic. Last week, Page Six reported that some SNL writers were planning a boycott in protest of Chappelle. In a statement to CNN, a representative for Chappelle said, “we’ve seen nothing to support media reports of a writer’s boycott.” NBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Sunday.
Chappelle has repeatedly joked about trans people over the years in ways some have deemed offensive and dangerous. He has blamed the media for framing the backlash “as though it’s me versus [the LGBTQ] community, that’s not what it is.”
In Saturday’s episode, Chappelle did not directly address the controversy over his jokes about trans people but touched on several other hot topics. He dedicated almost half of his opening monologue to the backlash over antisemitic statements and material shared by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and by Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.
Chappelle joked that he had learned in his decades as a comedian that “there are two words in the English language that you should never say together in sequence — and those words are ‘the’ and ‘Jews.’ I’ve never heard someone do good after they said that.”
In recent weeks, Ye lost a plethora of lucrative endorsement deals and attracted condemnation from all corners of the entertainment industry for his remarks about Jews, including a threat on Twitter to go “death con 3” on them. And the Nets suspended Irving after he tweeted a link to a documentary the Anti-Defamation League described as including “extensive antisemitism.”
In his jokes, Chappelle appeared to pull from the same themes that landed Ye and Irving in hot water, alluding at one point to the unfounded antisemitic trope that Jewish people wield disproportionate power in some industries. Speaking of Ye, Chappelle said he broke “the show business rules [of perception],” which Chappelle described as: “If they’re Black, then it’s a gang. If they’re Italian, it’s a mob. But if they’re Jewish, it’s a coincidence, and you should never speak about it.”
He also said he understood how someone with “some kind of issue” — Ye has bipolar disorder — could “adopt the delusion” that Jewish people “run show business,” another antisemitic trope.
“I’ve been to Hollywood, this is just what I saw. It’s a lot of Jews. Like, a lot,” Chappelle said. “But that doesn’t mean anything, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri — doesn’t mean they run the place.”
The other half of Chappelle’s monologue — and much of the rest of the episode — was dedicated to politics and the midterm elections, whose outcome came into sharper focus after the episode began as a Democratic win in Nevada allowed the party to retain its Senate majority. Control over the House of Representatives is still being decided.
The cold open lampooned the “Fox & Friends” morning news show, in which hosts, not including Chappelle, framed former president Donald Trump as a loser. “Mister President, I don’t know how to tell you this, but we’ve moved on. We can’t have you on the show anymore,” SNL cast member Heidi Gardner, playing co-host Ainsley Earhardt, told an irate Trump, played by comedian James Austin Johnson.
In his monologue, Chappelle also took aim at Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for Senate in Georgia, whom he called “observably stupid,” and said Trump is an “honest liar.”
Several of the skits poked fun at White people and their perceived cluelessness about Black culture and history. In one skit, Chappelle, playing a blues musician, explains to stunned White talk show anchors and reporters that “potato hole” is not, as they seemed to infer, a word with sexual undertones, but rather describes the holes in the ground in which enslaved people in the United States buried food.
But Chappelle’s jokes about the backlash to Ye’s and Irving’s antisemitism appeared to be have attracted the most attention, and he was trending on Twitter early Sunday.
The comedian appeared to acknowledge the divide over his humor and role in popular culture toward the end of his monologue, saying, “It shouldn’t be this scary to talk — about anything.”