Dave Chappelle‘s third time hosting Saturday Night Live proved to be fruitful for NBC, as the episode hit a season high in ratings over the weekend.
The episode tallied a 0.9 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 4.8 million total viewers, according to live + same-day Nielsen data. In any other season, those numbers wouldn’t be anything to bat an eye at — but for Season 48 they’re pretty good.
The first five episodes of Season 48 have averaged around 4 million viewers, as the show struggles to bounce back with audiences after a major cast exodus prior to the start of the season. Even Amy Schumer couldn’t lift the sketch comedy show out of its ratings slump, managing a 0.79 demo rating and 4.3 million viewers when she hosted on Nov. 5. The week prior, Jack Harlow’s double duty as host and musical guest drew a 0.76 in the demo and just 4.1 million total viewers.
Despite a season high, Chappelle’s recent episode couldn’t compare to the last time he hosted SNL in 2020. That show got 9 million viewers and a 2.6 demo rating — which was a record high at the time and also scored him an Emmy.
The announcement that Chappelle would be back to host once again was met with criticism, which was fueled even further by a controversial monologue that included commentary on Kanye West and antisemitism.
His comments drew the ire of the Anti-Defamation League, whose national director wrote on social media: “We shouldn’t expect @DaveChappelle to serve as society’s moral compass, but disturbing to see @nbcsnl not just normalize but popularize #antisemitism,” said a tweet from the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt on Sunday. Why are Jewish sensitivities denied or diminished at almost every turn? Why does our trauma trigger applause?”
At the start of his routine, Chappelle unfolded a small piece of paper and read from it, saying, “‘I denounce antisemitism in all its forms. And I stand with my friends in the Jewish community.’ And that, Kanye, is how you buy yourself some time.”
In typical Chappelle fashion, he didn’t stop there, toeing the line as he continued to joke about the topic.
“I don’t think Kanye is crazy, he’s possibly not well. I’ve been to Hollywood, this is just what I saw. It’s a lot of Jews. Like a lot. There’s a lot of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, doesn’t mean they run the place. You might go out in Hollywood and you might start connecting some kind of lines and you might adopt the delusion that Jews run showbusiness. It’s not a crazy thing to think but it’s a crazy thing to say out loud,” he said.
As he closed out his set, Chappelle, who didn’t address his own trans jokes that landed him in hot water with his last special, highlighted the difficulty talking about such subjects in today’s environment.
“It shouldn’t be this scary to talk. About anything. I’m getting sick of talking to a crowd like this. I hope they don’t take anything away from me. Whoever they are,” he added.