Emmy episode analysis: Dave Chappelle makes triumphant return to TV with ‘Saturday Night Live’

Dave Chappelle returned to television for the first time in a decade to guest-host “Saturday Night Live” in 2016, and has been rewarded with an Emmy nomination as Best Comedy Guest Actor. The stand-up comedian has competed for the TV academy’s top honor three previous times: Best Variety Series and Best Variety Writing for “Chappelle’s Show” in 2004 and Best Variety Special for “Dave Chappelle: For What It’s Worth” in 2005.

Chappelle’s episode, taped just days after the 2016 presidential election, opens with Kate McKinnon singing Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” as a defeated Hillary Clinton (Cohen had passed away recently as well). In Chappelle’s opening monologue, he recalls a trip to the White House to meet President Barack Obama, featuring all black guests and Bradley Cooper. He then addressed the president-elect with a message of hope, admitting he would give Donald Trump a chance. Sketches included “Election Night,” which portrayed a viewing party where the white attendees prematurely call a victory for Clinton, while Chappelle and Chris Rock remain skeptical, and a digital short with the performer reprising some of his “Chappelle’s Show” characters in a “Walking Dead” spoof.

Interestingly enough, McKinnon has submitted this same episode for consideration for Best Comedy Supporting Actress. Will “SNL” earn Chappelle his first Emmy? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.


It’s been a long time since Chappelle has been on stage, and he’s returned in a big way. In addition to hosting “SNL,” he also headlined two standup specials for Netflix to great acclaim and made a cameo appearance in Spike Lee‘s film “Chi-Raq” (2015). Voters love a comeback story, and the comedian has a great one.

Nostalgia for “Chappelle’s Show” and a feeling that he was overlooked at the Emmys for it may work in his favor if voters would like to right that wrong.

“Saturday Night Live” has had good luck in this category: both Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon won twice for hosting.

Given the timing of this episode, the country needed some relief, and Chappelle delivered that with laughs. Although somewhat dated given its in-the-moment reaction to the Trump election results, the sketches still hold up.


Is Chappelle overshadowed in his own episode by McKinnon? Her haunting piano rendition of “Hallelujah” was a highlight, and may make everything else that follows it pale in comparison.

Chappelle competes in this category against two other “SNL” hosts: Tom Hanks and Lin-Manuel Miranda. All three could split the vote, swinging the prize to Riz Ahmed (“Girls”), Matthew Rhys (“Girls”), or the one person not contending against a co-star, Hugh Laurie (“Veep”).

In his opening monologue, Chappelle encouraged the nation to give Trump a chance. Will he soon regret that?

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