Dave Chappelle’s “SNL” episode drew the sketch-comedy show’s best Nielsen numbers of the young season. This iteration of Chappelle’s biannual post-election “Saturday Night Live”-hosting duties drew a 0.90 rating among adults 18-49, the show’s best since Will Ferrell’s return in January. Chappelle attracted 4.8 million total viewers, the show’s largest audience since Jake Gyllenhaal hosted an April episode.
Previously, this season’s highest-rated (0.79 among adults 18-49) and most-watched (4.322 million viewers) “SNL” had come from Amy Schumer’s turn the previous week. Of the now-six episodes thus far, Megan Thee Stallion’s on October 15 was the lowest-rated (0.66) and least-watched (3.711 million).
So the Chappelle performance was strong. But it didn’t come without controversy. And it didn’t take Chappelle long to generate said controversy.
In a lengthy monologue, Chappelle steered clear of the gender and sexuality-related issues that often get him into trouble, but his jokes about America’s recent problems with antisemitism sure generated controversy of their own. Chappelle devoted a considerable portion of his 15-minute monologue making fun of Kanye West and Kyrie Irving for their recent antisemitic remarks. He began by mocking their PR blunders, pointing out that Kanye should have apologized to “buy himself some time” and joking that the rapper was so antisemitic that Irving got in trouble by association.
The comedian then proceeded to explain why he sees antisemitism, particularly the idea that Jewish people collectively run the world, as a flawed ideology. He used examples of anti-Black racism in various parts of America as evidence that having a large quantity of people of a certain ethnicity in a given area does not necessarily equate to power.
“I’ve been to Hollywood and this is just what I saw: It’s a lot of Jews, like a lot,” Chappelle said. “But that doesn’t mean anything. There’s a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, but that doesn’t mean we run the place.”
The monologue began to attract some criticism on social media on Sunday, with some Jewish leaders and commenters lambasting Chappelle for making light of a serious topic. Some felt that explaining a racist ideology, even in a comedic way meant to debunk it, worked to unnecessarily normalize a toxic way of thinking. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, took to Twitter to condemn Chappelle’s remarks. His organization had previously put out formal statements condemning West and Irving’s comments, and he used his own platform to express regret about Chappelle telling jokes about anti-semitism.
“We shouldn’t expect Dave Chappelle to serve as society’s moral compass, but disturbing to see ‘SNL’ not just normalize but popularize antisemitism,” he wrote. “Why are Jewish sensitivities denied or diminished at almost every turn? Why does our trauma trigger applause?”