The 44th season premiere of Global‘s “Saturday Night Live” delivered a number of memorable moments, ranging from surprise guest star Matt Damon’s brutally hilarious impression of embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to cast member Pete Davidson’s hilariously candid “Weekend Update” bit about his relationship with Ariana Grande.
However, easily the most shocking moment in the show came after the cameras had turned off, when musical guest Kanye West launched into a bizarre diatribe — while wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap — griping that “SNL” producers were trying to muzzle his free speech, denying that he’s in “a sunken place.”
While TV viewers saw the show end as West performed a musical number, People reports that what we didn’t see was the impromptu speech West gave to the audience while onstage with the cast and host Adam Driver (who, according to according to TMZ, reportedly “walked off stage after he awkwardly stood in the corner”).
“Actually, blacks weren’t always Democrats. It’s like a plan they did to take the fathers out the homes and promote welfare. Does anybody know about that? That’s the Democratic plan,” West told the stunned audience, with Variety reporting that “cast members appeared embarrassed and two performers gently shook their heads in unison as he spoke,” while “the audience was quiet and booed him at least twice.”
In fact, an eyewitness tells Variety, “The entire studio fell dead silent” during his speech.
“And what this shows is we can’t be controlled by monolithic thought. You can’t always have when you have a black subject matter like Cosby that you have to have a black comedian talk about it,” West continued, motioning to “Weekend Update” co-anchor Michael Che to add, “You know what I mean?”
He then launched into a spirited defence of the president. “It’s so many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’ Well if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago. We don’t just make our decisions off of racism. I’ma break it down to you right now: If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies,” he continued, eliciting boos from some members of the audience.
“But this man is a builder,” West said of Donald Trump. “And when I said I’m running in 2020, all my smart friends talked so much s**t about me. And when I saw that man win, I said, ‘See, I told you. I could have been there.’”
At this point, a member of the audience yelled, “F**k Trump!” This prompted West to say, “Now you got a situation where we need to have a dialogue and not a diatribe because if you want something to change, it’s not going to change by saying, ‘F**k that person.’ Try love. Try love. Try love. Try love.”
He continued: “You see they laughing at me. You heard ’em, they scream at me, they bully me. They bullied me backstage they said, ‘Don’t go out there with that hat on.’ They bullied me backstage. They bullied me. And then they say I’m in a sunken place. You want to see the sunken place? Okay, I’ma listen to y’all now.”
He then removed his MAGA hat and then put it back on. “Or I’ma put my Superman cape on, which means you can’t tell me what to do,” he added. “Follow your heart and stop following your mind. That’s how we’re controlled. That how we’re programmed. If you want the world to move forward, try love.”
He concluded: “Thank y’all for giving me this platform. I know some of y’all don’t agree. But y’all be goin’ at that man neck a lot, and I don’t think it’s actually that helpful. I think the universe has balance. 90 per cent of news are liberal. 90 per cent of TV, L.A., New York, writers, actors, rappers, musicians. So it’s easy to make it seem like it’s so, so, so one-sided. And I feel kind of free. I thought this country said I couldn’t be me.”
Someone in the audience then called out, “I love you, Kanye!” This prompted the most Kanye-esque response ever. “I love me, too!” he exclaimed before launching back into his song. Watch:
A member of the studio audience shared video of West’s rant — and that audience member just happened to be Chris Rock. In video he shared on his Instagram Story, Rock can be heard outright laughing at West’s remarks, at one point audibly muttering, “My God…”
Rock wasn’t the only person to comment about West’s off-script speechifying; check out more Twitter reaction below, with comments both supporting and decrying his words — including an opinion from Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera:
Despite the controversy, West seemed to think his “SNL” appearance went well — so well, in fact, he tweeted that exec producer Lorne Michaels “agreed that I would host before the year is out. Need to set a date. Gonna be sooooooooo lit.”
On Sunday, West received a Twitter shout-out from his favourite president, who lauded West for “leading the charge” while taking his usual shots at the “no longer funny” show: