“Saturday Night Live” threw a curveball by taking a break from hammering President Donald Trump in this week’s cold open and instead focusing on another powerful man who has been accused of wrongdoing: R. Kelly.
Only hours before the show, the R&B singer had been released from Cook County (Illinois) Jail, where he was being held for failing to pay child support. The 52-year-old also pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of criminal sex abuse last month. Amid all these legal troubles, he gave a bizarre interview last week to CBS’ Gayle King in which he “increasingly lost control over his emotions,” as The Washington Post’s Elahe Izadi reported. During the interview, he continued to deny these allegations while screaming and crying. He also said he couldn’t pay child support because “so many people have been stealing my money.” His performance prompted questions as to why he gave the interview in the first place.
“SNL” took aim at the interview, recreating it with Leslie Jones as King and Kenan Thompson portraying an extremely stupid version of Kelly, who thinks that houseplants are cameras and believes the words “cult,” “accountant” and “Big Mac” all begin with the letter Q.
The show’s Kelly asks King to “just call me ‘Victim,’” but she declines the offer, instead just jumping in: “Why exactly are you doing this interview?”
“Because people think that I’m some kind of a monster. I’m here to remove all the doubt,” the show’s Kelly exclaims. “My lawyer was telling me ‘no,’ but my ego, my ego was telling me ‘yes.’” (This is a reference to his hit song “Bump N’ Grind,” which contains the lyrics “My mind is telling me no, but my body, my body is telling me yes.”)
When confronted by King about allegations of keeping an harem of young girls in a sort of cult, Thompson’s Kelly searches for empathy: “Look, I made a lot of mistakes in my life. Maybe I can’t read or write or math, but I’m still a person. I put on my pants one sleeve at a time, just like everybody else.”
From 2005 to 2012, Kelly slowly released a 33-“chapter” R&B opera titled “Trapped in the Closet,” about a one-night stand gone awry. Throughout it, Kelly sort of speak-sings the story, generally in the same melody – though calling it such is a bit of a stretch. The absurdly gaudy piece of music has been long been one of pop culture’s most gleefully mocked projects, and “SNL” certainly didn’t hold back. Thompson’s Kelly does the same speak-singing at various points throughout the “SNL” interview – such as when the Jones’ King asks about “Surviving R. Kelly,” the recent Lifetime documentary in which many of the alleged victims spoke about the abuse they say Kelly caused.
He does stop, though, to address the docuseries.
“These people made a six-part documentary about me. Six. That’s almost 10,” he says. “And not one of them said a nice thing about me. They made me seem like I was the devil. I’m not the devil! And even if I was, you can’t think of one nice thing to say about the devil? I can. Nice horns, gives good advice.”
The sketch picks up steam toward the end, when “SNL’s” Kelly asks when the interview is set to begin, to which a beguiled King informs him it’s already begun – leading to this darkly funny exchange that references a VHS tape that reportedly shows Kelly engaging in sexual activity with minor.
“Where are the cameras?” Thompson’s Kelly asks.
“There’s literally one right in front of you,” comes the response from “SNL’s” King.
“Do y’all just keep your camera out in the open like that?” a shocked Kelly responds. “Boy, y’all some freaks.”
Finally, the show’s King asks what the alleged victims’ motivation for accusing Kelly of sexual assault would be, if it weren’t true.
“You can start a rumor about any celebrity just like that,” Thompson’s Kelly explains. “All you gotta do is push a button on your phone and say, ‘R. Kelly did this to me’ and then attach a video of me doing that thing, and people will believe you. It’s scary!”
Then, while yelling and crying, he explains why he wouldn’t have committed the heinous crimes he’s accused of: “How stupid would it be for me, R. Kelly, with all the crazy, illegal things I’ve done in my past, on tape, and gotten away with, scot-free, to do it again? How stupid do you think I am? … Think for a minute. Use your brains. Why would I do those things for 30 years. I gave y’all ‘Trapped in the Closet,’ ‘Feelin’ On Yo Booty” and ‘Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number’ and so many other clues!”
Perhaps the best joke, though, comes at the end when “SNL’s” Kelly attempts to yell the iconic, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!” Only he yells it into a house plant.