Dave Chappelle is emerging from his comedy bunker to, of all things, host this week’s Saturday Night Live. This has been public since before Tuesday, but given the results of the election, it’s especially important. The show’s only halfway-decent material lately has been takes on the campaign season, and with that reaching a dark conclusion, it needs something else—anything else. And given Chappelle’s controversial career decisions over the years (like walking away from Chappelle’s Show), it’s amazing to consider why he agreed to do this.
It’s obvious why SNL would want Chappelle: He’s a legend. But lately, it’s mostly been going middle-of-the-road and without risk. In particular, its attempts at minority inclusion have often been a beat off or a step behind. (Remember when it had to scramble midseason to add a female black cast member?)
Chappelle is famous for being an unapologetically black comedian, and his sketch show was not only ahead of its time, but of this one. Take the Clayton Bigsby skit, in which Chappelle plays a blind white supremacist, or the episode where Chappelle uses Wayne Brady to lambast how mainstream audiences want to see black comedians and neuter his comedy. His often excoriating humor, in the age of Trump, should be coveted. The timing of his appearance on SNL, in that sense, couldn’t better. Plus, SNL‘s ratings are about to lose its boost from the election, and its brand of comedy has become worse and worse and worse.
And so, as one of the most important sources of humor of this century attempts to provide SNL with a much-needed shot in the arm, I got to thinking: What other dream can come true? Here, then, is a list of my dream SNL Jewish hosts.
1) Mila Kunis
How has she not hosted yet? She’s an underrated comedic talent— and an A-lister. Imagine her playing a Russian-American taking her square, WASPy boyfriend home to her family in Brighton Beach. The family yells at each other in Russian a lot, and she mistranslates for the boyfriend. “Grandma likes you!” She’s an obvious choice, but not a bad one.
2) Nick Kroll
Interestingly enough—and perhaps best for him in the long run, but Kroll didn’t make the cut as an SNL cast member when he tried out in 2008. But no hard feelings, right? He’s currently playing a full Broadway schedule with John Mulaney in Oh, Hello on Broadway. Imagine: Mulaney shows up, and the two play George St. Geegland and Gil Faizon on the most famous TV sketch show of all time. Let’s revitalize SNL with material popularized on a successful contemporary sketch show.
3) Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson (not one of them, both of them, together, always and forever)
If anyone says modern comedy that attracts millennials (ugh, that word), it’s the Broad City gals. They’re honest and a little bit crude, but most of all, they’re utterly sincere, which is what SNL needs most of all.
Skit idea: During the Trump presidency, Ilana runs a future feminist underground utopia. The river flows with male tears. Babeland gift cards grow on trees. She welcomes Abbi, a refugee from the world above. Hillary Clinton makes a cameo, her first since losing the presidential election. Arm in arm, they somehow end the tyranny above, probably with the power of Beyoncé.
…This is just turning into a fantasy.
Oldies but Goodies
1) Barbra Streisand
Another obvious choice but no, Babs has never hosted (though she did make a very short cameo appearance in the ’90s). It’s not too late, Barbra! Don’t try to argue that you want to stay hip; you just had Tom Hanks host for the ninth time. If anyone doesn’t go out of style, it’s Babs. And if a recent off-Broadway show (Buyer and Cellar) can become a hit based on Barbra’s mystique (and impersonating her), late night TV can handle her. She’s an oversized personality. She lights up any room (or screen or theater). Maybe SNL needs to embrace shtickiness instead of cutting it out but not using anything interesting to fill its place. If you don’t want to get experimental, lean into traditional.
Skit idea: The ghosts of Judy Garland and Ethel Merman come to her in a dream (hilarious impersonations ensue). And unlike the last time they all got together, Barbra sings lead and they tell her that she’s the GOAT.
2) Mel Brooks
He should really just take over SNL as show-runner for a season (he’d still kill it at 90). But hosting would be a good start.
Brooks recently hosted a watching party for Blazing Saddles, and proved he still has it: “Boxers or briefs?” he was asked. “Depends,” he replied. Like Chappelle, Brooks is known for ethnic humor, and risk-taking. Imagine if NBC aired something like The Producers. They wouldn’t. But it’s nice to dream.
Imagine: Carl Reiner shows up and he and Brooks just have a chat (they still hang out in real life). That is literally all that we need. End scene. Or imagine a “2000 Year Old Man” installme
3) Jerry Stiller
His son appeared as a cast member in Season 14. Why can’t Dad have a shot?
One of the show’s current problems is that its cast can’t make something from nothing— but he can. Give Stiller mediocre material and he’ll elevate it with his energy. It would be like having your Jewish grandpa yell at you from the TV, and it just might work.
Episode idea: Stiller hosts the episode that comes out closest to December 25. There are skits about everything seasonal—Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (yes, he’s in that one, too), winter solstice, and of course Festivus, but Christmas is never mentioned. Through Jerry Stiller, SNL can wage the war on Christmas, with Stiller as its leader. That’s taking a risk.
A Girl Can Dream (AKA They’re dead)
1) Zero Mostel
SNL began in 1975, and he died in 1977, so a near miss. But imagine how amazing he would have been. The man had an amazing physicality (does SNL even do physical gags anymore?), and a general ability to both bring out the best performances in others and sort of seem above it all in a way that was too cool for school. Not bad for Tevye.
Imagine Mostel as John Belushi’s weird foreign uncle, who is training John in the ways of comedy. (If Mostel can be brought back from the dead, so too can Belushi). They do impersonations of each other and Mostel is shticky while Belushi does backflips. That’s all it would take.
2) Sigmund Freud
The man looked like George Burns with a beard; he just reads as comical. Besides, some of his ideas were hilarious.
Also, in his opening monologue, he could analyze Lorne Michaels and utterly break him down into a crying wreck (“You are afraid you’ve destroyed your own legacy over the last decade, and also you fantasize about your mother.”) Maybe SNL tearing itself down is what we need most of all.
Skit idea: Freud is an art critic who interprets every piece he sees to be about sex (except for something really obvious, like Courbet’s “L’Origine du monde”). Boom.
3) Emma Goldman
Sure, she wouldn’t be comedic in the traditional sense, but SNL used to be unafraid of experimentation: Andy Kaufman did his Mighty Mouse bit on its very first episode, after all.
And her opening monologue would be fire. Why? She would just get out a soapbox and talk about why the entire premise of her appearance is a sham. Call it post-modern absurdist comedy!
Skit ideas: The current cast of SNL does through a regular episode of skits, most of which are based on its regular sub-par material. Goldman consistently refuses to play her role, and instead turns to the camera and urges the audience to break off the shackles of their oppressors. Towards the end of the episode, she gets arrested. For real.