How Dave Chappelle’s Saturday Night Live Skit With Chris Rock Came Together With Neal Brennan’s Help

Dave Chappelle has been making a lot of headlines as of late, many of them surrounding his recent appearance on Saturday Night Live. While there was talk of boycotts ahead of his hosting gig and some backlash in the aftermath, it’s easy to forget that SNL was the same show that gave Chappelle his big television comeback following Donald Trump's election in 2016. After said appearance, Chappelle was praised for being the country's voice of reason at an uncertain time, and making us laugh in the process. As it turns out, his Chappelle’s Show writing partner Neal Brennan was a huge part of said episode, having written the rather bold election sketch with Chris Rock. He recently revealed to CinemaBlend what was going on behind-the-scenes during the creation of the memorable episode. 

I spoke to Brennan about his new Netflix comedy special Neal Brennan: Blocks, immediately following Chappelle’s most recent SNL appearance. He revealed that Chappelle felt more comfortable bringing Brennan along for his big comeback, and despite the touchy nature of politics at that time, there were no parameters surrounding what he was allowed to write:

I wrote the first time Dave hosted when Trump won, so 2016, I wrote for it… It's kind of an open door policy. Like, if I have an idea, I can go. We'll write it with [Colin] Jost… he (Dave) was like, ‘can you come work on it?’ because he hadn’t, you know, he hadn't done a show in, I don't know, a dozen years, at that point? So I think it was like just making - it was kind of a big comeback moment, so I think he just wanted to make sure that things were tied together… I wrote a good sketch, the sketch that Chris Rock was in where they were all watching the election and, yeah, I didn’t, I didn't feel in any way encumbered.

The sketch in question was one of the most talked-about things to come out of the show, second only to Chappelle’s monologue about giving Trump “a chance.” You can watch it here:

Chris Rock’s appearance in the episode was a surprise to the audience, but he and Dave Chappelle have been friends for some time. They even do comedy shows together, and one of the Rock/Chappelle shows made recent news over jokes about being attacked on stage.

As for Neal Brennan, he’s been working with Dave Chappelle since they were kids, and they came up in the comedy scene together. He worked on Half Baked and Chappelle’s Show, but when the latter project ended, he realized he didn’t want to be beholden to somebody else for his career. This is when Brennan began to work his way up in the world of stand-up comedy. He must be at a pretty solid place in the industry if he has an “open door” invitation to write for SNL. (Well, as long as Gabriel Iglesias’ prediction about the show potentially ending soon doesn't pan out.) 

It’s crazy to think that stand-up was a later-in-life career decision for Brennan, as Neal Brennan: Blocks (opens in new tab) is absolutely brilliant, and his previous special, Three Mics, is one of the funniest on Netflix. You can check them out right now. If stand-up isn’t your jam, not to worry, as there’s plenty more new Netflix TV shows and Netflix movies coming for the rest of the year. Brennan is also on tour, so be sure to check out whether or not he’s coming to a city near you. 

Jeff McCobb
Senior Video Producer

Jeff is a film buff who is ridden with gratitude that he gets to spout opinions about them for a living. He currently resides in Los Angeles, where he spends his time complaining about Los Angeles.