A sketch about “the first black man to boo Jackie Robinson at a baseball game” probably sounded like a funny idea in the Saturday Night Live writers room. But in execution, the premise was a swing-and-miss on this past weekend’s SNL.
With comedian and former SNL writer John Mulaney hosting for the third time, Saturday’s show was entertaining with some ambitious sketches such as “Airport Sushi,” an ode to New York’s LaGuardia Airport and the hassles we face as travelers. Unfortunately, the Robinson skit was one of the most disappointing of the night with lackluster jokes and a concept that simply didn’t come across as funny.
In the sketch, Kenan Thompson plays Terence Washington, a black man and lifelong Brooklyn Dodgers fan who just isn’t impressed by Jackie Robinson. Maybe that’s because he’s envious of the Dodgers star. Terence fancies himself a ballplayer who could have broken baseball’s color barrier if not for an enlarged heart and frequent heart murmurs.
OK, it turns out Washington is jealous because his wife said Robinson was handsome.
Despite white fans sitting with him at the ballpark celebrating Jackie Robinson’s speed and skills, Washington denounces Robinson as a selfish player.
“Baseball ain’t about hot-doggin’,” he says. “Like the saying goes, ‘Slow and steady wins the baseball game.'” That’s… not a saying anyone else has heard before.
“All I want is to be able to enjoy the game and boo people just like everybody else,” Washington says. And there is where the heart (not the enlarged heart) of this sketch probably lies. Some fans just want to go to a ballgame so they can boo a player or team. We could be seeing that a lot this season with the Houston Astros. So eventually, the fans in Washington’s section come together to boo Jackie Robinson because… black players should be booed just like white players?
The whole sketch seems even less funny with attempts to examine the inherent joke. But maybe we can all agree that Kenan Thompson is so good at pulling off someone delusional about his skills because he has that twinkle in his eyes, that wry smile as he’s saying something ludicrous. If this skit almost works, it’s because of him. Should we join each other in cheering Kenan?