Just before midnight Saturday, Tom Hanks put on a denim shirt, a goatee and a red “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” hat, and in six minutes pulled off the best political sketch of the year — and it didn’t even feature Kate McKinnon or Alec Baldwin as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
After Leslie Jones picked a category titled “They Out Here Saying,” Kenan Thompson read the clue: “They out here saying that every vote counts.” Hanks buzzed in and answered in a tight-jawed drawl: “What is ‘Come on, they already decided who wins even ’fore it happens.’ ”
“Yes!” Thompson cried, as the studio audience cheered and the black contestants nodded in approval. “Man, the Illuminati figured that out months ago!”
Historically, the sketch has embellished black stereotypes and mocked white people’s political correctness. This time around, it found common ground between African Americans and rural white conservatives: a sense of disenfranchisement, a distrust of authorities and, more playfully, an appreciation of curvy women.
Under the category “Big Girls,” Thompson read this clue: “Skinny women can do this for you.”
“What is ‘Not a damn thing,’ ” Hanks answered, again to wild cheers from the audience and a high-five from Leslie Jones. “My wife, she’s a sturdy gal.”
“That is my man right there,” Jones said.
The sketch — written by “Weekend Update” co-anchor Michael Che and SNL co-head writer Bryan Tucker — was smart, funny and topical (a rare trifecta on SNL) and slyly illustrated that America’s problems are just as much about class as about race. In a campaign year that’s hinged on racial discord, partisan rancor and a deep suspicion of anyone who is “other,” the sketch was deliciously cathartic.
Tweeted MTV politics writer Ezekiel Kweku: “best analysis of the white working class and the presidential election I’ve seen this cycle.”
Tweeted former Jeb Bush staffer Tim Miller:
Tweeted actor and Fox News contributor Stacey Dash:
SNL sketches rarely stick their landings — they either end too abruptly or go on forever — but the punchline of “Black Jeopardy” raised it from clever observation to sharp commentary. The “Final Jeopardy” category was “Lives That Matter.” Jones and fellow contestant Sasheer Zamata looked balefully at Hanks, who froze as the audience laughed.
“Well, it was good while it lasted, Doug,” Thompson said.