A dimly lit stage. A piano. And Kate McKinnon in a Hillary Clinton wig and white pantsuit, singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
The Saturday Night Live cold open on Nov. 12 didn’t go for any laughs. Alec Baldwin and his dead-on impression of Donald Trump were nowhere to be found. This was an elegy, pure and simple.
I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
McKinnon, who frequently and brilliantly impersonated Clinton over the course of the US presidential campaign, played and sang Canadian singer-songwriter Cohen’s beloved anthem “Hallelujah,” including the closing verse above. Cohen died Nov. 10 at the age of 82.
The only dialogue at the end of the song came from McKinnon: “I’m not giving up and neither should you, and live from New York, it’s Saturday night.”
Mention of Trump’s name had to wait until show host Dave Chappelle’s monologue. The enigmatic comedian offered his signature raw humor and bracing commentary about race (sample: “I haven’t seen white people this mad since the OJ verdict; I watched a white riot, in Portland, Oregon, on television the other night”).
Reminding the audience that black Americans haven’t always been welcome in the White House, Chappelle talked about a party he attended at the White House in October. The event was organized by BET, the Viacom-owned parent of the Black Entertainment Television cable network. Chappelle spoke in all seriousness at his pride at seeing the White House filled with so many people representing some of America’s historically disenfranchised citizens.
“I’m wishing Donald Trump luck and I’m going to give him a chance,” he said in closing, “and we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”
There were a handful of other political nods in the episode, including a lukewarm sketch about an election night watching party that turned out differently than expected and a red-hot performance of “We the People” by musical guest A Tribe Called Quest.
And as a consolation for anyone mourning Clinton’s loss, and what may be the end to a fabulous run for McKinnon’s portrayal of her, there also was this.