Saturday Night Live has picked up on current political events in the USA. The comedy series opens this week’s episode with a fictional Minnesota morning show with two Black anchors, played by Ego Nwodim and Kenan Thompson, and two white anchors, played by Kate McKinnon and Alex Moffat.
They begin their weekly news review by discussing the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer on trial for the murder of George Floyd. The defense has tried to pin the cause of death on Floyd’s alleged drug use, while the prosecution has presented evidence that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen directly connected to the knee-hold on his neck. The jury is still out, the verdict has yet to be spoken.
You can watch the video below, and then I’ll walk you through the language they use:
In the SNL Cold Open, Nwodim’s character says that watching the trial has brought back “so many bad feelings” from last summer. McKinnon comments, “Sounds like we all agree there’s no way that Derek Chauvin walks away from this”. But Nwodim and Thompson disagree. “Well…,” Nwodim and Thompson say, looking unhappy. Nwodim adds, “Let’s just say, we’ve seen this movie before.” McKinnon insists, “But after all the protests that happened last summer, there’s no way this doesn’t go the way we hope.” Nwodim turns to Thompson, and says, “I don’t know what she’s talking about.”
McKinnon acknowledges that “skepticism of the legal process is valid… Historically, police have gotten away in other cases like this.” “Historically?” Thompson asks incredulously. “She means every single time,” Nwodim says.
As they argue, Nwodim pointedly uses her colleague’s “Nordic-sounding” last name. Intending to pick his words carefully when talking about the sensitive subject of race, he starts in: “To quote Thomas Jefferson…” “That’s a bad start,” Thompson responds. (Jefferson has been most discussed in recent years, not as the author of the Declaration of Independence, but as a slaveholder.)
McKinnon asks the show’s Black weatherman, played by Chris Redd, to join in the discussion. “Man, don’t put me into this mess!” Redd says. “I’m still in hot water for being in that Paul Pierce video,” a reference to the former NBA player-turned-sports-analyst just fired by cable news for posting a racy Instagram Live movie. In Redd’s opinion, “It’s an open and shut case.” But the anchors don’t agree on what that means for the outcome of the case.
“For the sake of our city,” says McKinnon, “I hope justice is finally served.” They can all agree on that hope. “The last thing we want is another riot.” But then Thompson says, “And I think we can all agree that no matter how bad things are, destroying property is never the answer.” The Black anchors seem to see that differently. “I wouldn’t say that.” “There’s insurance.” “I just think protest should be non-violent.” “Well, thank you for that little note, Craig!” “Yeah, you’ll be sure to tell the others, Craig Matthew Juergensen!”
“At least we agree on the stuff”, says Moffat. If so, Nwodim says, they can all begin major reforms, “and we start with reparations” – proposed payments to the descendants of slaves for the lasting systemic socio-economic impact of slavery. “Now, wait just a minute…”
The news team, seeking harmony, moves on to other big stories from the week. McKinnon says, “More sad news this week. Unfortunately, we lost royalty yesterday.” “Yes, the rapper DMX died,” Nwodim adds. McKinnon’s anchor explains that she is talking about “the prince.” “Girl, Prince been dead,” says Nwodim. Moffat explains that she means Prince Philip of England. “Meghan Markle’s boyfriend??” Thompson asks.
Looking for even one news item to agree on, the team lands on Matt Gaetz, the US Senator currently accused of sex trafficking with a minor. While they seem to all agree that he is toxic, Redd comes to Gaetz’s defense, saying “17 is not all that young”. “That’s why you’re in trouble!”
With that, they give up all pretense of trying to agree on anything. They drop the mic with the show’s opening catchphrase, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”
.What is your impression: Is this funny or serious? What makes you say that?
Where do the anchors agree, and where do they differ? How come?
The list below contains the phrases used by the anchors to create common ground and to clarify their differing points of view.
Who says what, and in which context? Which phrases get laughs in that context, and why? Which would you use, in which of your contexts?
(repeat): “…”? – She means “…”
Wait, so what are you trying to say?
Propose common ground
This has been (highly emotional) for everyone, I’m sure.
There is no way that…
And I think we can all agree that…
We can’t deny that…
The last thing we want is…
Let’s just say,…
That’s all we’re saying.
You can at least admit…
At least we agree on…
Sure did. Yep. No doubt about it.
Hopefully. That would be nice. God willing.
Of course not.
You know, that’s fair.
Agreed. I’m with you there.
Amen to that.
Can’t deny that. No argument there.
I’m not saying that.
I don’t know about that.
That’s a bad start.
I wouldn’t say that.
(Sarcastic tone) Well, thank you for that little note.
I don’t know what she’s talking about.
For who(m)? When?
Now, wait just a minute.