This past weekend’s Saturday Night Live episode was a moment to remember in TV history. The show’s first-ever South Asian American host, Aziz Ansari, deftly took on Trump, racism, and Islamophobia in nine minutes, during his opening monologue. Ansari has been tackling these important topics for years in his stand-up routines based on his personal life, in op-eds for the New York Times about his Muslim parents and race in Hollywood, and in Master of None.
But the SNL monologue on the day after the inauguration, on the same day as the Women’s March, gave him a unique and especially timely opportunity to speak truth to power. Ansari asked President Trump to speak out against Islamophobia and the “new, lower-case KKK movement” in his appearance on the show that Trump can’t seem to stop watching and tweeting about.
Ansari was hilarious in most of the sketches in which he appeared, including “Bedroom,” “La La Land Interrogation” and “Five Stars” — why the heck hasn’t this Emmy-award winning comedian been on the show already? Oh, right, the SNL‘s 40+ year track record of racial disparity in selecting its hosts. Here’s hoping to seeing him on the show again, along with more talented entertainers of color. Read the full transcript of Aziz Ansari’s SNL monologue online, and watch video of it embedded at the end of this post. Here’s an annotated collection of some of those memorable lines delivered by Ansari in his wide-eyed and mischievous stand-up style.
1. “Pretty cool to know, though, he’s probably at home right now watching a brown guy make fun of him though, right?”
It was pretty cool for many reasons to have Aziz Ansari host the first SNL show of the Trump administration. Not least among them was the chance that Trump, who has been known to publicly criticize the show, would be watching. Trump can select a white male-dominated cabinet, but he has no choice when it comes to who speaks out against him and his supporters on the streets or on TV. Just as Dave Chappelle was the SNL host America needed in the aftermath of the November 8 election day, Ansari was the SNL host America needed the day after the inauguration, to administer therapy and empowerment in a televised stand-up comedy format — unifying the country in a way that the President didn’t.
2. “Yesterday, Trump was inaugurated. Today, an entire gender protested against him.”
On Saturday, Women’s March protests in all 50 states and in cities across the world brought out millions of protesters on the first day of Trump’s presidency. In the U.S., more than 1 in every 100 Americans is estimated to have attended a protest on January 21. Ansari circled back to the power of this showing on the nation’s streets in his closing remarks, stating at one point that “Change comes from large groups of angry people.” Watch a clip of this serious moment:
Did you catch Aziz Ansari last night talking about the #WomensMarch?
“Change comes from large groups of angry people.” pic.twitter.com/IRUZbGDtJu
— #AllofUs (@TimeForAllofUs) January 22, 2017
3. “If you think about it, Donald Trump is basically the Chris Brown of politics.”
Chris Brown didn’t take kindly to the analogy between him and Donald Trump, a comparison in which Ansari likened some Trump voters to Chris Brown fans (“Hey, man! I’m just here for the tunes…I just like the dancing and the music. I don’t condone the extracurriculars.”). Brown’s Instagram response referring to the comedian as “Aladdin” didn’t really help his case. At GQ.com (which also featured a piece on Ansari’s patriotic suit), Rohan Nadkarni wrote about why this insult by Brown just doesn’t work:
Anyway, Aladdin is a great character, the movie is legendary, and Aziz and Aladdin have nothing in common other than their skin color. (Seriously, Aladdin was even voiced by Steve from Full House.) That Brown would reach for the lowest hanging fruit is pretty exemplary of the gulf that exists between him and Aziz on the thoughtful celebrity scale. On one hand, you have a domestic abuser who thinks the best way to avoid a comparison to a racist demagogue is with a racist comeback. On the other, you have a comedian who has developed routines around themes of feminism who also thoughtfully picked apart Trump in an op-ed for The New York Times.
4. “There’s like this new, lower-case KKK movement that started — this kind of casual white supremacy.”
Following the November election, Jaweed Kaleem wrote for the Los Angeles Times about Trump’s win bringing “white pride” out of the shadows with hate incidents like beatings and “Make America White Again” graffiti with a swastika. The individuals interviewed for the article included white nationalist Richard Spencer, yep that Richard Spencer. In a key part of his monologue, Ansari talked about those supporters, the ones who came out of the racist closet after the election and needed to go back to pretending. He called this group the “lower-case KKK”.
5. “You want to end Islamophobia? Honestly, just change that music.”
Ansari used his monologue to critique Hollywood as well, pointing to “that scary-ass music from Homeland,” the kind that plays in TV and movies when a Muslim character is praying, as a factor contributing to Islamophobia. He suggested that changing the music up in TV and movies (to something more like the Benny Hill “Yakety Sax” theme song) will change people’s attitudes. In an interesting article at the Washington Post, college professor Hussein Rashid expands on Ansari’s comments about “the azan, the call to prayer, as a soundtrack for violent acts.”
Perhaps one of the most egregious abuses of Hollywood portrayal of Islam is its use of the azan, the call to prayer, as a soundtrack for violent acts. The call to prayer is a beautiful sound when it is performed well. Unfortunately, this part of Muslim beauty is used as the ambient sound for violence on TV, in movies and even on the radio.
Muslims find it painful to hear the sound they love tied to the violence they abhor. Non-Muslims find it basically impossible to approach what Muslims find beautiful if they hear it connected to what we all find ugly.
6. “What the hell has happened? I’m sitting here wistfully watching old George W. Bush speeches?”
Given Trump’s divisive and hateful rhetoric and actions, expectations for U.S. presidents in the post-Obama era have quickly dropped way down low. Ansari wistfully looked back at President George W. Bush, who was at times incoherent but not an open racist or bigot. In fact, just a few days after 9/11, Bush visited the Washington Islamic Center to speak out against people who were attacking Muslim Americans, saying “That’s not the America I know.” Standing in his socks, in front of a tiled prayer alcove, he read a passage from the Koran and condemned Islamophobia. Here’s a clip from the speech Ansari referred to when he said “He guided us with his eloquence!”:
7. “Change doesn’t come from Presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people.”
This wasn’t a punchline, and it’s repeated here for emphasis. Ansari ended his monologue on a serious note, and he used his prime time on center stage at SNL to send this message to the audience on Day 1 of the Trump administration, hopefully setting the tone for the next four years. If we the people can focus our anger, change is possible!
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