Michael Che thought his 'Gen Z Hospital' sketch bombed on 'SNL.' Now he knows why

·3 min read
Comedian Michael Che smiling in a purple sweatshirt
Michael Che, shown in a scene from in his HBO Max series "That Damn Michael Che," just learned what AAVE is. (Matt Wilson / HBO Max)

Millennial Michael Che just got a lesson in writing about Gen Z, thanks to social media critics who accused his "Gen Z Hospital" sketch of placing African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in the mouths of "Saturday Night Live" cast members and calling it comedy.

Che, 37, initially thought the sketch had simply bombed — but got another impression after reading social media.

"This Gen Z hospital skit on SNL is so stupid. I’m so tired of nonblack people throwing random AAVE terms in their sentences and calling that horse s— 'Gen Z language,'" one Twitter user wrote Saturday night.

In the sketch, host Elon Musk played a doctor who's caring for the "bestie" of five stereotypical Gen Z folks portrayed by Bowen Yang, Kate McKinnon, Heidi Gardner, Mikey Day and Ego Nwodim. Melissa Villaseñor played a Gen Z-style nurse, clad head to ankles — hair included — in hot pink, while the others awaited results from the doc.

Jokes included the identity of the "bestie" but mostly revolved around the super trendy group's affected use of terms and phrases of various origins, including "stan," "bro," "no cap," "leaving us on read," "pressed," "feels," "iconic," "fire" and "for the 'Gram."

But some social media users noted the racial connotations of such language.

"Gen Z Hospital is the greatest example of why WHITE millennials/old people are not only out of touch, but how they steal black s— and use it wrong," wrote someone else on Twitter.

Meanwhile, another user got the joke: "Y’ALL: OMG. Gen Z Hospital was making fun of AAVE," he wrote. "No. Gen Z Hospital was making fun of the young social media crowd that appropriates & misuses AAVE on TikTok & Twitter all day. All I see is 'Whew chilay, pull up on these vibes, no sus cap. Sheesh!' That’s you, beloved."

Che's initial reaction was shock, according to an Instagram post that he has since deleted.

“I’ve been reading about how my 'gen z' sketch was misappropriating AAVE and I was stunned cause what the f— is ‘AAVE’? I had to look it up. Turns out it’s an acronym for ‘African American vernacular english.’ You know, AAVE! That ol’ saying that actual black people use in conversation all the time…,” he wrote, according to Deadline.

“Look, the sketch bombed. I’m used to that," continued Che, star of "That Damn Michael Che," a new sketch series on HBO Max. "I meant no offense to the ‘aave’ community. I love aave. Aave to the moon!”

Then there was the woman who would have rewritten the whole thing to make it more realistic.

"the real gen z hospital skit would have just been them going to the hospital for a mental health crisis," she tweeted, "and getting turned away with deep breathing techniques."

And finally, there was the guy who explained it further: "Quick reminder that AAVE is a rule-governed dialect, just like all other natural languages." He even provided a slide.

Um, class dismissed?

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.