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Stigall: Chappelle And Rock Restored A Pulse To Post-Election "SNL"

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- I joked the Friday after Donald Trump won the election, "I'll bet 'SNL' opens this weekend not unlike they opened after 9/11."

I wanted that to be a joke. Sadly, I wasn't far off.

Kate McKinnon, the breakout star of "Saturday Night Live" received an Emmy for her, at times, strikingly honest and cutting impression of Hillary Clinton. I've affectionately discussed and written about her performance a number of times.

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McKinnon spent most of the election cycle, prior to Mrs. Clinton's nomination, portraying her as inauthentic, unlikable, shallow, and starving for a position of power she felt she was due. It was an impression the audience lauded because it was the impression the audience already had of Mrs. Clinton.

As a fan of "SNL's" long tradition of skewering presidents, candidates, and elections since the 1970s, McKinnon represented a return to its roots. Mocking the powerful regardless of party and holding political elites accountable has always been one of the most important subconscious functions of the show.

It's a "return" to its roots because for eight long years, in interview after interview and column after column I've chronicled comedy and comedians almost universally refusing to take on President Obama. Repeatedly, they would proclaim him "too important," or "historic," or "serious." There was simply "nothing funny about him," they'd say.

This year, "SNL" eventually partnered McKinnon with Alec Baldwin just in time for the heat of Election 2016. Baldwin had honed a very funny Donald Trump impression. An impression so enjoyable and accurate, some liberals were concerned he was making the real Trump more relatable somehow.

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But McKinnon and the writers began to back off the truth of what was happening in the country. Which meant they backed off their portrayal of Mrs. Clinton. Ignoring the scandals, damning leaked emails confirming the "rigged" media/political system Trump often sited, and the investigations surrounding Clinton's time as Secretary of State.

"SNL" began to train their comedy focus exclusively on the "dangerous, reckless, racist," Trump while presenting Clinton as the inevitable victor before a single vote had been cast. Once again they decided fair, truthful comedy must take a back seat to their preferred narrative.

As the show neared the election, host Tom Hanks made a Halloween appearance as "America's Dad," looking into the camera and talking to the audience as though they were impetuous, ill-informed teens who might be tempted to make an irresponsible choice (Trump). But in the end, "Dad" was sure voters would "do the right thing" (Clinton).

"SNL's" last show before the election featured Baldwin and McKinnon dropping all comedy pretenses to make a final pitch to the country. Imploring viewers to look within themselves, find their humanity, and vote for the kind of country we want to be, they all but begged viewers not to vote Trump.

Hilarious, huh?

So, it would come as no surprise "SNL" opened as it did the Saturday after the election with McKinnon barely attempting the Mrs. Clinton impression the audience loved. Sitting alone at a piano singing a maudlin rendition of "Halleluiah," McKinnon encouraged the nation to not "stop fighting."

Are your sides hurting from laughing, yet?

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As for Baldwin, there was no sign of him or his fantastic Trump impression that night. We would later learn Baldwin just couldn't bring himself to reprise the role because "in order to do that effectively, you need to have at least some appreciation of the person ... for which Trump I have none."

Baldwin and McKinnon didn't just break character. In the end, they broke comedy rules. They poured kerosene on the comedy dumpster fire of "SNL" that's been burning for eight years. Just when I thought McKinnon was a firefighter, she turned out to be just another comedy arsonist.

McKinnon and Baldwin weren't only unfunny; they chose instead to defend the powerful. They were more interested in dragging their wealthy, corrupt candidate of choice across the finish line than they were making people laugh. Worse, when Clinton lost, they chose to sulk and cry.

Imagine "SNL" legends Akroyd, Chase, Carvey, Hartman, or Ferrell behaving this way. I can't.

Which is why I thank Dave Chappelle, the host of the post-election "SNL" and a guest appearance from "SNL "alumnus Chris Rock. The comedy titans portrayed two friends attending an election night watch party with their liberal, white friends.

If it turns out Chappelle and Rock had a seat at the table to write this it wouldn't surprise me in the least.

The sketch was unusually pointed in skewering overly confident, white liberals spiraling into near hysterics as the returns rolled in and Clinton's "inevitable" win slipped away.

Rock and Chappelle mocked their white friends as they lamented how "hard it is to get ahead in this country as a woman" and electing Trump was "the most shameful thing the country has done." The comedians of color barely needed to say a word for the audience laughs to flow.

The line of the sketch was delivered by Rock, encouraging his friends to get some rest because they'd have "a big day of sulking and posting on Facebook."

Chappelle and Rock have lived through the last eight years, too. I've no doubt they were proud of the first black president. But their careers and comedy itself have suffered at the hands of a politically correct culture that's tried to silence and shame them and their friends in the business. Certain words, thoughts, and points of view are being banned and shamed at an alarming rate.

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That, and I suspect black folks don't much care to hear from any liberal grievance group that claims President Trump will make things worse for them than the uniquely shameful past under which their ancestors suffered.

There's plenty to laugh at when it comes to Donald Trump. There's plenty to laugh at with liberals in an emotional spiral over his election. While Chappelle and Rock likely didn't vote for Trump, they're not quitting comedy to cry over his victory.

They decided they'd do their part to make comedy great again.

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