Chris Rock is the third Saturday Night Live alum to host in this young 40th season, but, as Bill Hader’s episode showed us, that doesn’t guarantee a strong night. Since we can’t just choose Prince’s killer performance to stand in for the best sketches of the night, though, here are the three least-worst non-Prince moments.
Chris Rock didn’t waste time talking about what it means to return to SNL for the first time in 18 years, or what it was like to be part of the cast in the early ’90s. (He already did that, pretty definitively, on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast a few years ago.) Instead, he jumped straight into seven minutes of stand-up centered around thorny topics turned hilarious — stuff like the Freedom Tower/the “Never Goin’ In There Tower” as a terrorism target, the paradox of needing a gun to prevent him from gun nuts, and the true evil of the Boston Marathon bombing. Give Chris Rock a chance to remind you why he’s one of the biggest comedians of all time and he’ll happily oblige. (Emphasis on “happily” — Rock looked like he was having an absolute blast throughout his set.)
Bobby Moynihan, Beck Bennett, and Kyle Mooney star as ridiculously courteous bank robbers in this pre-taped segment, arguably the night’s funniest moment. The crew shows up with automatic rifles and the typical gruff commands, but they end up taking care of the elderly and the thirsty, educating the youth, and helping the manager polish her style game. It’s a silly premise that plays out brilliantly.
“Women in the Workplace”
Chris Rock had to perform in an alarming amount of duds (let’s not speak about “The Couple”), and flubbed an almost alarming amount of lines. But at least he got to join this nutty installment of “Women in the Workplace”! Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong stole the sketch as Donna Fingerneck and Jodi Cork, a pair of awkward Nineties video hosts who say things like, “Have you ever accidentally offended a diverse person so much that you walked into a closet and stayed there the rest of the day, even though every time someone got their coat, they saw you in there?”
The hosts then throw to a pair of “unpaid actors,” played by Rock and Vanessa Bayer, acting out uncomfortable workplace situations. Rock’s character, in a Nineties sweater for the ages, takes the training clip off script and makes a Sade reference in the process. Bayer, as Rock’s hairsprayed coworker, tries to keep up by deploying some casual racism followed by an attempt to “out-diverse” her new boss.