Dave Chappelle touched on gun violence, racism, the pandemic, and white anger during his 16-minute “Saturday Night Live” monologue, which served as an edgy yet empathetic overview of the state of American society. It was familiar territory for Chappelle, who was also the first “SNL” host following the 2016 election.
Chappelle opened his monologue Saturday discussing his great-grandfather, who was born into slavery, and joking about how his ancestor might see Chappelle as a sellout. Then he turned his attention to the election results, which had been called 12 hours earlier.
“I got a text from a friend of mine in London and she said, ‘The world feels like a safer place now that America has a new president.’ And I said ‘That’s great, but America doesn’t,'” he said. “You guys remember what life was like before COVID? The mass shootings every week? Everyone remember that? Thank god for COVID. Something had to lock these murderous whites up and keep them in the house.”
Chappelle discussed what he’s been up to during the pandemic. The comedian lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio (population 3,500), where he has been hosting outdoor events in cornfields that have prompted noise complaints from his farmer-neighbors, he said. In August, reports surfaced about local complaints at a board of zoning meeting in the area where Chappelle was holding his shows. The permit, which was issued for personal use, remained — though the venue operators were required to work on reducing the noise and meeting with locals.)
“They had a whole Zoom meeting about me. I didn’t talk during the meeting, I was just listening. You should have heard them talk about me,” Chappelle said. “They’re saying ‘Man, I’m trying to put my children to bed and I keep hearing this guy screaming all night. My kids are trying to sleep and all they hear is the n-word.
“I said ‘Was I saying it, or were you?'”
Chappelle went on to recall Ronald Reagan’s “welfare queen” trope and note how now, many white people now find themselves in the grips of heroin addition and poverty. He joked about how if white people can wear masks to Klan rallies, they can wear one to Walmart, too, and how he himself has found himself relying on a “mask” of comedy over the years.
“I can’t even tell something true unless it has a punchline behind it,” he said.
After joking about Trump’s experience with COVID, Chappelle began to close his monologue by returning to the idea of white anger and hate, something he discussed during his 2016 post-election appearance on the show.
“Remember when I was here four years ago, how bad that felt? Remember that half the country right now still feels that way,” he said. “Remember for the first time in the history of America, the life expectancy of white people is dropping because of heroin, suicide.
“All these white people that feel that anguish, that pain, they’re mad because they think nobody cares. Maybe they don’t. Let me tell you something: I know how that feels, I promise you, I know how that feels. A police officer, every time you put your uniform on, you feel like you got a target on your back. You’re appalled by the ingratitude when you would risk your life to save them. Oh man, believe me. Believe me, I know how that feels. Everyone knows how that feels.
“But here’s the difference between me and you: You guys hate each other for that. And I don’t hate anybody. I just hate that feeling. That’s what I fight through. That’s what I suggest you fight through. You’ve got to find a way to life your life and forgive each other. You’ve got to find a way to find a way to find joy in your existence, in spite of the feeling.”