On the first Saturday Night Live episode after each of the past two presidential elections, Dave Chappelle served as host and used the opportunity to share his thoughts about the state of American politics. The comedian returned for a third time this week after the midterms, but this time something was different.
It was Chappelle’s first time hosting SNL since he came under fire for a slew of transphobic jokes in his latest Netflix special The Closer. And before he even took the stage at Studio 8H for his monologue, there was palpable anger on social media and the threat of a boycott from the show’s writers, especially given that this season SNL has its first gender nonbinary cast member in Molly Kearney.
But while he made a point to avoid the topic that has seemingly consumed him for the past couple of years, Chappelle may have dug himself an even deeper hole by—deliberately—defending the essence of Kanye West’s antisemitic rhetoric through comedy.
The comedian entered the room and began by reading a brief statement: “I denounce antisemitism in all its forms and I stand with my friends in the Jewish community. And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time.”
Chappelle went on to explain that over his 35-year career, he has come to learn that there are “two words in the English language that you should never say together in sequence: ‘The’ and ‘Jews.’” And he had some strong jokes about West’s “death con 3” tweet and the ramifications he faced from Adidas and others for his words.
“It’s a big deal, he had broken the show business rules,” Chappelle said. “You know, the rules of perception. If they’re Black, then it’s a gang. If they’re Italian, it’s a mob. If they’re Jewish, it’s a coincidence and you should never speak about it.”
After noting that “Kanye got in so much trouble that Kyrie [Irving] got in trouble,” Chappelle said, “This is where I draw the line. I know the Jewish people have been through terrible things all over the world, but you can’t blame that on Black Americans.” That line was met with silence save for a single shout from the audience. “Thanks, the one person that said ‘woo.’”
“I’ve been to Hollywood and—no one get mad at me—I’m just telling you what I saw,” he added, pausing for effect. “It’s a lot of Jews. Like a lot. But that doesn’t mean anything! You know what I mean? Because there are a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, it doesn’t mean we run the place.” He said the “delusion that Jews run show business” is “not a crazy thing to think,” but “it’s a crazy thing to say out loud.”
There was much more to Chappelle’s monologue, which spanned more than 15 minutes and also covered Herschel Walker (“observably stupid”) and what some are calling “the end of the Trump era.”
But it was his decision to push the type of antisemitic conspiracies that got West in trouble, albeit through jokes, that stood out and will continue to reverberate.
“It shouldn’t be this scary to talk about anything,” he concluded. “It’s making my job incredibly difficult. And to be honest with you, I’m sick of talking to a crowd like this. I love you to death and I thank you for your support. And I hope they don’t take anything away from me… whoever they are.”
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