As though waking up groggy and dry-mouthed every Sunday morning wasn't bad enough, we now have to collectively contend with a separate, Saturday Night Live-induced content hangover every week. If we're not opening our eyes to a terrifying, free-form rant from Kanye West, we're being asked to contend with a question of ethics in comedy. The best case scenario involves Ariana Grande getting upset enough with Pete Davidson to release a new single, and even that's exhausting in its way. Sometimes you just want to wake up, order the greasiest food imaginable, get some sort of smoothie to theoretically balance the scales, and watch shitty old movies in bed all day without grappling with a news cycle borne out of improv comedy.
The good news this week was that, beneath all of that, there was a genuinely funny and incisive sketch involving Lil Wayne, who also performed two Carter V songs on the show, and Future, an unexpected guest. The bit was called "Permission," and while the conceit was pretty straightforward, it worked brilliantly. Alongside SNL cast members Kenan Thompson, Chris Redd, and Pete Davidson, the two rap icons starred in a rap video that gleefully took the piss of modern, mainstream hip-hop conventions, turning every throwaway line about someone's ass into a celebration of consent. "Shake that bootie (if you wanna) / Drop that bootie (it's your choice)," and so on. You get it. Here's the bit:
Weezy gets some good lines in ("Before we talk bootie / Talk emotional connection / Before we get emotional / I'm putting on protection"), but the highlight is Future making it rain behind the coatcheck, throwing his cash into a jar for the Women's Rights Fund. It was surprising, far from self-serious, pertinent without seeming preachy. It was a comedy moment! It was incisively satirical! It was everything an SNL sketch is supposed to be!
Yesterday morning at NPR, Rodney Carmichael contended that there was a sadness to the joke. "The irony, of course, is that the comedic skit is likely the closest any major rap stars have come to engaging in a conversation about consent in the year of #MeToo," he wrote. "An SNL spoof is about as progressive as it gets in 2018." I'd argue that it's less an irony and more the reason that the sketch was funny in the first place, though he's fundamentally right. On the surface, the beatification of XXXTentacion won't let up, 6ix9ine is still inching towards stardom, and so on and on and on and on.
But comedy is the perfect vehicle for this conversation. Done with the hilarious precision of "Permission," it can be incisive without getting lost in the weeds. Without Future and Lil Wayne—elders, basically—the sketch wouldn't have any heft, but their presence drives it home. There's no reason why, when done properly, an SNL sketch can't open up mainstream culture a little.
Anyway, when you're done giggling at Davidson as Uncle Butt, watch Weezy's two performances below. He played "Uproar" and "Can't Be Broken."
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