Watch “SNL” Offer One Wary Man “5-hour Empathy”
A concise and perfectly-cast sketch
Saturday Night Live has a long and impressive history of commercial parodies, beginning in the era of the Bass-o-matic and continuing on past Colon Blow through to the present day. Last night’s episode opted for a new entry in this storied tradition; it was one that landed pretty well, owing to a trifecta of perfect casting.
The product at the center of the sketch was “5-hour Empathy,” which offers its customers the ability to become temporarily aware of the country’s history of structural racism and injustice. What happens when such a product is offered to someone who wants to look like they care about such things — but doesn’t really want to grapple with anything uncomfortable? Cue the increasing levels of discomfort in this particular sketch.
That the sketch works as well as it does can be attributed to the casting. Beck Bennett as a guy who’d rather be thought of as woke than actually do the work? That works. Kenan Thompson’s increasingly incredulous voiceover keeps the stakes escalating, and Heidi Garner as Bennett’s slightly oblivious wife does a fine job as well.
The central joke at the heart of the sketch is a fairly basic one, but the permutations it goes through over the course of 2 minutes and 15 seconds. The sketch’s length doesn’t hurt, either — this makes its point, builds to a terrific moment of physical comedy and then segues to what comes next.
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