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WATCH: SNL sends up the Virginia blackface scandal

‘But it was the Eighties!’

February 10, 2019

3:24 PM

10 February 2019

3:24 PM

For the first time in what seems like decades, Saturday Night Live turned their sights on the Democrats – and delivered what Cockburn considers one of their best sketches of the season.

‘State Meeting’ takes place in the Virginia State Capitol, where an African American ethics committee chief (Kenan Thompson) addresses a room of mostly white colleagues to check whether they have ever worn blackface. Unsurprisingly, many of them have – and they ask whether their excuses for doing so are good enough.

‘I have a question,’ asks Beck Bennett’s state senator. ‘What if your blackface was just part of your costume as a black person?’

‘Does it count if you did it all the way back in the Eighties?’ asks another state senator Barbara (Cecily Strong).

‘No, of course not, it was funny and cool in the Eighties!’ says her colleague next to her (Mikey Day).

‘Nope, nope, I’m gonna stop you right there there Phil,’ says Thompson, ‘it DOES still count and it was NEVER funny or cool.’

The sketch continues along these lines, the highlight coming when Halsey, the mixed race host, chips in: ‘I have a question – what if you’re half-black?’

‘Huh, OK, well, I mean it’s still offensive,’ says Thompson, ‘but I guess if you’re biracial there’s a different connotation.’

‘Oh, no no no,’ Halsey’s character responds, ‘not biracial, I mean, one year my costume was to be both Michael Jacksons, so I only did half-blackface.’

‘That is an awesome idea,’ says Strong, as Alex Moffatt’s senator adds ‘I’m doing that next year.’

The episode on the whole didn’t spend too much time scrutinizing the president or the right – its cold open slot instead focusing on the Jeff Bezos dick pic scandal. The show’s version of Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press was much more faithful (and funnier) than its recent jabs at Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.

One of the night’s only duds was a Charlie’s Angels-esque skit about the women of Congress, which earned new congresswomen Abdah Omar and Rashida Tlaib their first SNL impressions. Obviously the writers went easy on them – so the sketch fell flat.

For all its coastal elite, liberal posturing, SNL does its best work when it avoids the most obvious joke, and demonstrates that it’s not afraid to look inwards. Their ‘Election Night’ sketch with Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock showed this, as did the ‘Translator’ skit with Scarlett Johansson. ‘State Meeting’ was a step in the right direction – Cockburn hopes there’s more where it came from.

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