When Saturday Night Live returned from its brief hiatus on Saturday, April 2, there was no question what the show was going to comment on. The whole week leading up to the new episode was dominated by one topic only: Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars. So of course SNL packed in all the jokes it could about the moment.
First-time host Jerrod Carmichael was the first to broach the subject in his stand-up set monologue at the top of the show. Carmichael expertly danced around the Oscars slap moment by never actually bringing up Will Smith or Chris Rock by name, simply referring to the incident as “it” throughout his set. “I’m not going to talk about it,” he said right away, before explaining the swift fatigue he experienced from the constant discussion, hot takes, and thinkpieces over the preceding six days.
Carmichael joked that SNL showrunner Lorne Michaels asked him to talk about “it” because “the nation needs to heal,” which the comedian promptly made fun of and then brought back at the end of his set when he asked Barack Obama to give his opinion on the matter, because (again) the nation needs to heal.
Obviously, SNL had to do a sketch about the big moment, too. The show’s “Seat Fillers” sketch imagined how awkward it must have been for the Oscars seat fillers who were near Smith in the moment. Carmichael and Kyle Mooney played Smith fans who quickly began to recoil from Chris Redd’s Smith after witnessing the slap.
While the rest of the episode remained pretty neutral, Weekend Update was decidedly opinionated. Colin Jost and Michael Che went back and forth with jokes about Smith. Jost ridiculed the Academy’s reported decision to ask Rock if Smith could stay at the ceremony, the veracity of which has since been called into question, and Che defended Rock’s joke about Jada Pinkett Smith by claiming it was not widely known that she had alopecia, despite her publicly speaking about the condition often in the press and on social media.
The slap dominating SNL’s return episode should come as no surprise to anyone, since it was without a doubt the defining pop culture moment of the week. And honestly, it’s still top of mind over a week later, so don’t expect the sketch comedy series to be completely done with it just yet.