Chadwick Boseman on 'SNL': 3 Sketches You Have to See - Rolling Stone
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Chadwick Boseman on ‘SNL’: 3 Sketches You Have to See

‘Black Jeopardy’ and Nike women’s commercial highlight ‘Black Panther’ star’s hosting turn

Hot off starring in one of the most successful films of all time, and increasingly at the center of the marketing for Marvel’s next blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, Chadwick Boseman confidently stepped onto the stages at Studio 8H and delivered a fantastic job as Saturday Night Live host. 

The material quite often let him down (including a dire one-two punch near the end that nearly undid all the good will from the first hour of the show), but Boseman was another first-time host this year that instantly felt like a cast member. While there were certainly lots of Black Panther references in the episode, Boseman created a bevy of weird, specific comedic characters that bore little resemblance to one another.

Given his meteoric rise over the past few years, and his potentially central role in the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him hosting again at some point in the next year or two. For now, here are the three sketches people will be discussing until John Mulaney hosts next week.

Nike Women’s Ad

Just watching certain exercise commercials can be exhausting. If they don’t depict someone using a complicated piece of home gym equipment as the single item in a room large than most houses, they depict people exercising at the level of an Olympic athlete. This parody celebrates those that favor the Couch Panini over a 10k run, and succeeds at doing so.

Part of this sketch’s success comes from its production values: We take it for granted now that SNL can turn these commercials around with this quality under incredible production duress for granted, but this looks visually identical to the commercials it’s mocking. (A good litmus test: If you turn off the volume, it feels like a genuine ad that took months to produce.) 

While Heidi Gardner and Melissa Villaseñor play it straight, Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon have far too much fun using leggings as napkins, playing dead for their Fitbits, and experiencing post-nap exhaustion. It probably won’t be the sketch that comes to mind when anyone looks back on this week’s episode (we’re about to get to that), but will almost certainly get a lot of mileage being shared on social media this week.

Black Jeopardy With Chadwick Boseman

Recency bias is a tricky thing. It’s what pretty much dominates every All-Time Great <insert category here> discussions, especially in the realm of sports and popular culture. There’s always a tendency to artificially inflate the placement of whatever just flashed across your eyeballs and forget what you thought about whatever previously sat in higher esteem. So when I finished watching this sketch and instantly thought it was the best “Black Jeopardy” sketch ever, I knew I was probably jumping to conclusions. But damnit, it sure FELT like it was.

In the cold light of day, does that sentiment hold true? Well, comedy is subjective, but pound for pound, this is almost certainly funnier than the iteration that used to sit atop my personal rankings: the Tom Hanks Season 42 edition. The Hanks installment blew the doors off what this sketch could be, and still stands at one of the five sketches I’ve rewatched the most from this decade of SNL. The way that Hanks’ version dealt with the sociopolitical climate of America still makes that a crucial snapshot into this moment in history. 

Still, Boseman’s version featured seven minutes of jokes that continuously worked. Every single joke was funny and elicited increasingly unhinged laughter from the audience. That’s because Boseman didn’t get all the good material here: It was equally spread around, allowing him to get the best lines but still allowing Leslie Jones and Chris Redd to land some solid knockout punches as well.

There’s no way that T’Challa could serve the same function as Tom Hanks’ Doug. Instead, the show leans into T’Challa’s inherently positive attitude about humanity’s potential. It gives him answer after answer that are wrong by the game show’s standards, but right in terms of how people should behave to one another. 

Still, the standout moment is the final question, in which the camera puts both T’Challa and Kenan Thompson’s host in-frame as the King Of Wakanda works through a scenario involving potato salad that has to be seen to be believed. The Studio 8H ceiling nearly caved in to the noise that erupted in pure comedic catharsis.

The Game Of Life: DACA Edition

I’ve written this several times this season, but it still holds true: SNL deals with the Trump Administration far more effectively when not actually depicting him onscreen. Showing him works less than when it shows whose lives his decisions are impacting. This pre-taped sketch brought a sensibility from Last Week Tonight With John Oliver late in the episode, a time in which politics are usually an afterthought in favor of more absurdist humor. But its surprise placement in the episode made this all the more effective.

The comparison to Last Week Tonight is slightly unfair: After all, SNL has a five-decade history dealing with political satire. But it’s still interesting to think about how this sketch could work as the final segment in an episode that show would dedicate to DACA, insomuch as the two shows (and indeed, almost all late-night shows) are in dialogue with one another at this point in time. All of late-night is wrestling with their own way to approach the state of America in 2018, and this sketch is another example of how SNL is diving into thorny issues with an increasing level of cynicism. 

The apex of this trend was the Robert Mueller Bachelor-inspired sketch a few weeks ago, but this is another example of the show not pulling punches when it comes to complex topics. It’s a stark contrast to the show’s pre-2016 optimism, and worth noting as the season approaches its end.


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