The most recent episode of SNL, which aired on May 8, was already high on people's radar for booking Elon Musk as the host. The show's decision caused controversy, with several cast members speaking out about the Tesla CEO's debut on the long-running series.
Adding more fuel to the fire? Many social media users expressed their outrage with a sketch that aired on Saturday, featuring Elon, Kate McKinnon, Bowen Yang, Heidi Gardner, Ego Nwodim, Melissa Villaseñor and Mikey Day.
The segment, titled "Gen Z Hospital," highlighted popular slang such as "bestie," "no cap," "go off, king," "sis" and other vernacular. However, many online found the sketch to be offensive and a form of cultural appropriation for using African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
"Love the relabelling of AAVE and a few assorted BLACK LGBTQ+ phrases as 'Gen z' speak," one Twitter user wrote. "Love to see the erasure in real time."
Another Twitter user shared, "i hate how aave has been reduced to gen z / stan twitter language because those who have any knowledge about anything watch this and just feel gross about this subtle mockery of black people."
"the appropriation of AAVE by white people is gross, the mislabeling of AAVE as a 'Gen Z phenomenon' is also gross," someone else weighed in, "but on top of that, the SNL skit reads like they just pulled a list of terms from UrbanDictionary and sprinkled them in, not caring that AAVE has a defined grammar!"
Others simply didn't find the skit funny, with one person adding, "SNL's gen z hospital sketch might just be the worst thing I have ever witnessed. unbearable levels of cringe."
Following the criticism of the sketch, Michael Che issued a statement on Monday, May 10. The comedian revealed he wrote the skit, noting he "was stunned" by the response.
"I've been reading about how my 'gen z' sketch was misappropriating AAVE," he shared on Instagram, later admitting that he didn't know what the term meant before. "I had to look it up. Turns out it's an acronym for 'African American Vernacular English.' You know, AAVE! That ol' saying that actual Black people use in conversation all the time..."
"Look the sketch bombed," he continued. "I'm used to that. I meant no offense to the 'AAVE' community. I love AAVE. AAVE to the moon."
The Weekend Update co-host captioned his post, "if i could stop one person from calling everybody bro and bestie, im happy with that."
At this time, Michael is the only SNL star to speak out. The cast members who participated in the skit, as well as Elon, haven't publicly commented on the criticism. SNL has yet to publicly address the backlash either.
(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)