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Washington played Michelle Obama, causing President Obama (Jay Pharoah) to remark, “I feel like it’s been years since I’ve seen you!” (Maya Rudolph was the last person to play the first lady, when she hosted in February 2012.)
Washington was also called upon to play Oprah Winfrey and then Beyonce (though that impersonation never materialized) during the cold open. A voiceover apologized to Washington for “the number of black women she will be asked to play.”
“We make these requests because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent — and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman on the cast. Mostly the latter,” the voiceover said. “We agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future, unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.”
The real Rev. Al Sharpton (who has a show on sister network MSNBC) showed up to finish off the cold open, asking, “What have we learned from this sketch? As usual, nothing.” (Read a more detailed recap of the cold open here.)
Washington’s monologue played up her role on ABC’s Scandal, in which she plays political fixer Olivia Pope. Before helping a slew of castmembers with urgent problems, she showed a picture of her character with President Grant (Tony Goldwyn).
“I’m so proud in 2013 to be on a show that has the courage to cast a white man as the president,” she said.
Later, she and Pharoah unleashed a parody of Ylvis’ “The Fox.” Instead of imagining what sound a fox makes, it tackled the question “What does my girl say?” with Washington playing a jealous girlfriend going through her boyfriend’s phone and asking about the women in his contacts list.
Washington, Pharoah and Kenan Thompson teamed up for a political talk show with the premise that African-Americans will support President Obama no matter what — even given the current Obamacare snafu and NSA scandals.
Were the guests upset that the NSA has been wiretapping U.S. citizens?
“I thought white people would be more excited about their phones being tapped, considering how much they like The Wire,” said Pharoah’s character.
SNL also tackled Obama’s political problems during Weekend Update, with a depressed German chancellor Angela Merkel ( Kate McKinnon ) discussing how embarrassed she was that Obama eavesdropped on her phone calls. (They were quite depressing, apparently.) [Editor’s note: The name of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been corrected from a previous version of this story.]
The show continued its trend of launching experimental segments at the end of the episode, with two ice cream patrons making a joke that inexplicably sends the store’s employees into an existential crisis.
SNL is in reruns next week and will return Nov. 16 with host and musical guest Lady Gaga.
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