“And we’re told the suspect remains at large, but authorities now believe they have a credible description of the perp,” said her co-anchor, host Phoebe Waller-Bridge. “The suspect, described as a white male …”
“Woo!” Kenan Thompson interrupted. “Love it!” Nwodim shouted. Waller-Bridge and another co-anchor, played by Alex Moffat, looked confused. “I’m sorry, what are you two celebrating?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing. We’re just glad that we know what the criminal looks like,” Thompson replied. He leaned toward Nwodim, dropping his voice to a hushed tone: “And he ain’t one of us.”
“You know what I’m saying?” Nwodim agreed with a smirk. “You know what I’m talking about?”
Waller-Bridge attempted to continue the newscast, noting that viewers should call the police with any information. “Yes,” Thompson said. “Help us catch this white criminal.”
Moffat’s anchor then reported on a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme targeting wealthy Miami residents. “That’s one of y’all, for sure,” Nwodim said as Moffat detailed the “egregious white-collar crime.”
“It’s right there in the name,” Nwodim teased. But her glee turned to disappointment when the screen flashed to a photo of the suspect. “And look at that,” Moffat said smugly. “He’s black.”
The competition escalated from there, with Moffat visibly allowing that a Fort Lauderdale Cracker Barrel vandal would mean a loss for his and Waller-Bridge’s makeshift team, and Thompson responding to a report about a shopper attacking a man who stepped on his Nike Air Jordan sneakers with a tight-lipped grimace. Even the station’s weatherman (Chris Redd) got in on the game while tracking the path of a hurricane dubbed Chet. “Now that’s a white man’s name if I’ve ever heard one,” he said with a grin.
The kicker, which found Waller-Bridge and Moffat conceding defeat after a report about “a man dressed as the Joker,” concluded the sketch with a timely chef’s kiss that added “Mid-Day News” to a roster of sharp racial sendups from SNL’s increasingly diverse writing staff. (In a tweet, senior writer Bryan Tucker credited Redd, Nwodim and SNL co-head-writer Michael Che — the first black person to hold that title — with writing “Mid-Day News.”)
As “Saturday Night Live” incorporates new voices both on-screen and behind the scenes, the show’s ability to subvert racial stereotypes in unexpected ways has led to some of its strongest sketches, often overshadowing — or elevating — SNL’s political humor.
One obvious example is “Black Jeopardy,” the recurring sketch that quizzes characters, played by carefully chosen guest hosts, on black culture. When Tom Hanks hosted ahead of the 2016 presidential election, SNL tweaked the sketch’s typical clueless white person format, instead tapping Hanks to play a MAGA hat-wearing conservative who could relate to many aspects of black culture — to the surprise of his fellow contestants. (The sketch has amassed nearly 44 million views on YouTube.)
“Black Jeopardy,” created by Che and Tucker, pushed its racial humor to a new level last year, tapping host Chadwick Boseman to appear in character as Black Panther. The Marvel superhero drew laughs as he unpacked the nuances between African American culture and that of his fictional sub-Saharan African nation.
When comedian and former SNL scribe John Mulaney hosted in March, the standout sketch (with apologies to “Bodega Bathroom”) was “Cha Cha Slide,” a four-minute masterpiece that, at first glance, looked as if it would riff on the inherent awkwardness of a white guy attending a predominantly black wedding. Instead, the sketch revealed, little by little, that Mulaney’s character, “a software engineer from Indianapolis,” may have been the blackest person at the event, at least in spirit.
The sketch, penned by Tucker and writer Sam Jay was made even funnier by the fact that it cast Mulaney — who once joked about getting “arrested with a one-hitter at a Rusted Root concert” — as a Howard University alum who pledged a black fraternity and knew even the unofficial steps to DJ Casper’s classic dance single.
Jay, one of seven writers who joined SNL in 2017, told Vice News that year she wanted her work on the show to incorporate themes the show had overlooked in its four-decade-plus history, such as the “urban culture stuff that they may not necessarily have their pulse on, gay culture … just who I am,” she said. Bowen Yang, the gay Chinese American comic who was hired as a featured player after writing for SNL last season, has already brought queer culture to the show in memorable ways from the “GP Yass” skit he co-wrote last year to his lively turn as a tariff expert for the Chinese government — the latter of which brought the phrase “trade daddy” into our lexicon.
Of course, as the impeachment inquiry against President Trump builds, the pressure is on for SNL to smartly lampoon the chaotic state of American politics. That these sketches break through the noise and find longevity amid a continual onslaught of forgettable celebrity guest stars points to an audience who want more than just regurgitation of last week’s news.