Critic's Notebook: Kate McKinnon's 'Hallelujah,' Dave Chappelle's Monologue Spark First Post-Election 'SNL'

Saturday Night Live,Donald Trump,Dave Chappelle,Jay Pharoah,Monologue,Lorne Michaels

Kate McKinnon singing 'Hallelujah' on 'Saturday Night Live.' I committed to writing about the November 12 episode of Saturday Night Live a couple weeks back when the assumption was that, airing four days after Election Night, it would mark a likely wrap for Alec Baldwin's necessity as Donald Trump. Oops. As you may possibly have heard, rather than canceling Donald Trump, the American people — not a majority or a plurality, but still... — gave him a four-year pick-up in a vote that still has a lot of the country feeling somewhere between perplexed and emotionally decimated. That turn of events made this week's SNL worth checking in on, hopefully ameliorated by the beyond-enticing combination of unpredictable genius Dave Chappelle as host and hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest as musical guest. It happened that Trump (and Baldwin) was nowhere to be seen on Saturday's episode. I don't have Baldwin's booking schedule or Lorne Michaels' call sheet handy, but I'm just going to assume that a decision was made that this wasn't the time to try to make viewers laugh at a caricature of the president-elect. That's not to say that SNL was aspiring to respect or kowtow toward Trump, not that you'd be so wrong to suspect that of a show that squandered incalculable credibility when Trump hosted almost a year ago tonight, but rather to suggest that many things that made viewers laugh when it came to Baldwin's take on Trump might not play as funny for at least another few days or weeks or months. I don't think SNL and Baldwin have made an announcement about an ongoing Trump relationship, so we'll have to see how that goes. SNL likes to do presidential sketches, but remember how long the show made do with Fred Armisen's embarrassingly bad Obama and then even though Jay Pharoah was better, try to think back to when we last had an Obama sketch and that's even before Pharoah left. Baldwin could either be utilized regularly once every few episodes or never. Instead of showcasing Trump, Saturday's episode began by playing to that portion of the audience feeling emotionally decimated about the election, combining it with sadness at this week's passing of Leonard Cohen. The opening was Kate McKinnon at a piano singing "Hallelujah" and although I've been a part of that mob saying that the greatest tribute to Cohen would be a moratorium on aggressive and manipulative overuse of "Hallelujah," it turns out that what the song really needed was to be covered by Hillary Clinton. Or was the performance McKinnon, in her Clinton wig and pantsuit, reflecting personally as a salute to a woman she's grown closely associated with? McKinnon wasn't really "doing" her Hillary impression, but she...

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