Dave Chappelle hosted Saturday Night Live last weekend and was unable to escape controversy.
If you’ve been online in the past few days, you might have read some of the backlash surrounding Chappelle’s SNL appearance, but if not, here’s why people are upset.
First, it’s important to note that the comedian’s hosting gig was shrouded in controversy even before he took to the stage, with reports surfacing late last week suggesting that a number of SNL writers were furious that he’d been selected to host.
“They’re not going to do the show,” an insider told Page Six last week, referring to a number of writers. A representative for Chapelle has since denied this, stating that there was “no evidence of a boycott.”
The alleged disapproval was thought to be centered on the fact that Chappelle came under fire earlier this year for making anti-trans and anti-gay jokes in his Netflix comedy special The Closer.
Nevertheless, the show went ahead as planned, marking Chappelle’s third time as host.
As is standard, he kicked off the show with a monologue. Spanning more than 15 minutes — three times longer than the average five minutes — Chapelle’s lengthy opener touched upon a number of topical issues — namely Kanye West’s recent antisemitic comments.
“I wanted to read a statement I prepared,” he began. “I renounce antisemitism in all its forms and stand with my friends in the Jewish community. And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time.”
Chappelle made a number of jokes about the Jewish community, saying at one point: “If they’re Black it’s a gang. If they’re Italian it’s a mob. But if they’re Jewish it’s a coincidence and you should never speak about it.”
Later in the segment, he brought up an antisemitic trope about the number of Jewish people in Hollywood — rhetoric that Ye has recently perpetuated — claiming that they “run” the media industry. Discussing this, Chappelle appeared not to condemn Ye’s comments but simply suggested that he shouldn’t have voiced them.
“I’ve been to Hollywood… it’s a lot of Jews. Like, a lot,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean anything. There’s a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri. Doesn’t mean they run the place.”
He added: “I can see if you had some type of issue, you might go out to Hollywood and start connecting some kind of lines and you could maybe adopt the delusion that Jews run show business. It’s not a crazy thing to think. But it’s a crazy thing to say out loud in a climate like this.”
Soon after the show aired, writer Adam Feldman was among the first to criticize the performance Twittersuggesting that Chappelle’s comments “probably did more to normalize antisemitism than anything Kanye said.”
In response, fellow writer Mark Harris echoed the disapproval, saying it wasn’t “brave or edgy” for Chappelle to make jokes about the Jewish community, going on to argue that his approach may even appeal to antisemites.
Chappelle’s monologue even prompted a statement from Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, who wrote on Twitter that it was “disturbing” to see SNL “normalize” antisemitic remarks.
“We shouldn’t expect @DaveChappelle to serve as society’s moral compass, but disturbing to see @nbcsnl not just normalize but popularize #antisemitism. Why are Jewish sensitivities denied or diminished at almost every turn? Why does our trauma trigger applause?” he wrote.
As it currently stands, neither SNL nor Chappelle has formally addressed the backlash.
And now, it seems that Chappelle may have gone out of his way to prevent the show’s execs from pulling the plug on his controversial monologue, with brand-new reports claiming that he switched it out for an alternative performance during the dress rehearsal.
According to Page Six, Chappelle opted to show a “fake” monologue during the dress run because he didn’t want SNL boss Lorne Michaels, or any other staff, “to know what his real monologue is.”
The insider did not go into more detail, although the insight suggests that the first time any of the SNL staff heard Chappelle’s actual monologue was live on air.
On top of this, the SNL source claimed that Chappelle made a reference to the supposed writers’ boycott in the dress rehearsal, apparently joking about a specific staff member who had objected to him hosting.
This allegedly “caused tensions to flare” on set, although the joke did not make it into the live show.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to representatives for Saturday Night Live and Dave Chappelle for comment.