Weekend Update co-host Michael Che—both on Saturday Night Live and in his standup—has a knack for walking a comic premise to the edge. On last night’s James Franco-hosted episode, Che stepped out of his reliably funny anchor role and into the sensible sneakers of “A White Woman Named Gretchen.” In the introduction to the short film, Che, explained, “Sometimes I’ll tell a joke that offends a marginalized group and I’ll get a lot of mail about it, mostly from super-liberal white women.” So, donning a blonde wig, lots of scarves, and reading HuffPo and Lena Dunham (but not engaging in “whiteface” or bothering to shave his mustache), Che strode out of the SNL studios and into the proving ground of Sunday brunch.
The bit plays out in a knowing series of confrontations, as the suspiciously burly and deep-voiced Gretchen nonetheless experiences the many pitfalls of life as a privileged, well-intentioned white woman. The premise of the film seems to want things both ways—Che claims to gain an understanding of what those women occasionally pissed off at his humor go through, while his Gretchen schools said women on the finer points of, for example, why Cardi B is actually a deceptively progressive role model, or why getting excited about the upcoming royal wedding is problematic. (“Look, I don’t mean no disrespect, but the monarchy is literally the patriarchy.”) Still, it’s liberating to watch the newly enlightened Che tell of a manspreader on the subway, and stare down a smugly mansplaining white guy with a firm, “Yo, your masculinity is mad toxic right now, my nigga.” In the end, he at least concludes that the desire for equality, respect, and bottomless mimosas are for all people.