It is not a perfect episode — I don’t think they exist on SNL — but a perfectly tragic confluence of events conspired to create one of the most memorable episodes in a very, very long time.
Cold Open — Kate McKinnon — as Hillary — does a straight version of the recently departed Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. There is no joke. That’s it. She ends it with, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.” I don’t know if she’s speaking as herself or as Clinton, but either way, it is incredible, and thank you, Kate McKinnon. A fitting song to memorialize what is essentially a national tragedy, and a lovely tribute to Cohen. Watch here. (Score: 10 out of 10)
Dave Chapelle Monologue — In Chappelle’s monologue, he waxes poetic on topics ranging from Donald Trump, staying in Trump Tower, white people, Black Lives Matter, the Obama/Trump meeting, and the problems with being a rich black guy in America. It is vintage Chappelle. Stick around for the last two minutes, where he offers a weirdly hopeful anecdote about our country and our coming Presidency. (Score: 9 out of 10)
Election Night — This sketch is basically exactly what happened to most of us white people watching election returns on Tuesday night, only with black people (Chappelle and Chris Rock) offering rattlingly sober and cutting commentary. Ouch. (It also recalls my friend’s response to election week as Viola Davis). (Score: 8 out of 10)
The Walking Dead — Chappelle recreates Negan’s kill scene in The Walking Dead, only all the people in the lineup are “Chapelle Show” characters. It’s like a “Chappelle Show” reprise. It’s absolutely brilliant, and Chappelle is killing it tonight. Watch here. (Score: 9 out of 10)
Weekend Update — Jost and Che had plenty to work with tonight, and I’ll concede that they deliver a few on-point jokes about Donald Trump, HRC, and the election. Jost’s joke about the minorities being elected to the Senate is wicked good, too. Occasionally, they get it right, even if they don’t offer much insight. That said, it’s hard to watch “Weekend Update” without feeling like you’re being mansplained the election. Watch “Update” here and here.
Kate McKinnon’s Ruth Bader Ginsberg is also weirdly comforting, like: You are damn right she’s gonna stick it out another four years. “I’m eating an apple a day to keep Ben Carson away.” Watch Ginsberg here. (Score: 7 out of 10)
Jheri’s Place — SNL goes meta with a bad sketch followed by a press conference with the cast members breaking down what went wrong with the bad sketch, complete with Leslie Jones echoing Allen Iverson’s “practice” rant. “The wig was funny, man,” Chappelle commented. “I really thought I was going to be the next David S. Pumpkins.” (Score: 7 out of 10)
Kids Talk Trump — Chappelle’s “daughter” drops some truth about the election of Donald Trump to a table full of little kids. Watch here. Watch here. (Score: 5 out of 10)
Last Call — McKinnon trots out an old standby, which we haven’t seen in a while (February with Larry David). It is the sixth recurrence, and it is not unwelcome. The tongue-swords are a lot to handle, though. (Score: 7 out of 10)
Leslie and Kyle A pre-taped segment tracks the behind-the-scenes romance of Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney (as themselves), as Kyle attempts to lose his virginity while competing with Colin Jost over Jones’ affections. It’s very much a Kyle Mooney sketch, like a really long set-up to a joke that never arrives. I guess they can’t all be winners tonight. Watch here. (Score: 4 out of 10)
Breastfeeding — After almost an entire night that didn’t feel like an episode of SNL, the final sketch is typical SNL, seeing Chappelle play a guy who lives at home with his mother and still breastfeeds. It’s pretty dumb. Watch here. (Score: 3 out of 10)