Appearing via video chat on Thursday’s Tonight Show, Chris Rock couldn’t say if he’s going to see former Saturday Night Live alum Jimmy Fallon around the 30 Rock hallways next week. There’s been plenty of SNL news of late, what with the show settling on just which celebrity ringer will be its hopefully-long-term Joe Biden, the announcement of three new featured players to the already overstuffed and underused cast, and the very fact that Saturday Night Live is—in some fashion—going to put the “Live” back into the comedy equation starting next Saturday. Still, it’s emblematic of just how much we’re living in the show-biz upside-down that Rock, returning to host for the third time since leaving the show back in 1993, honestly doesn’t know whether he’ll be in the studio or trying to inject some energy into the Season 46 premiere from his house.
“I have no idea,” Rock shrugged to Fallon, who is himself currently rattling around NBC HQ doing the Tonight Show without an audience, “You might see me around the building.” What Rock definitively does know is that, um, he’s hosting the show, the on-the-mend Megan Thee Stallion will definitely be the musical guest, and—that’s pretty much it. Telling Fallon about his time spent at “Camp Chappelle,” Dave Chappelle’s government-sanctioned, COVID-tested, wristband-mandatory Dayton, Ohio comedy shows, Rock can only hope that NBC is as stringent about pandemic protocols as is Dave. Still, as Rock stated, all the precautions are worth it to perform in front of even a responsibly sparse live audience, since, like the old days comedy club crowds just happy to be in out of the rain, in-person audiences now are just so desperate to be there that they’ll laugh appreciatively at anything.
Not that Rock’s been idled without a touring schedule. Telling Fallon about his central role in Fargo’s COVID-delayed fourth season, Rock—who plays 1950s Kansas City gangster/entrepreneur Loy Cannon—called his conflicted Black businessman “the best role I’ve ever had.” Well, maybe next to the talking ear of corn in Pootie Tang, a movie whose small but loyal following includes, according to Rock, an especially emphatic Kanye West. West, says Rock, told him recently that the 2001 cult comedy “is the most important movie of the 20th century,” which, apart from being off a century, is an assessment only future AFI lists will decide. Still, Rock wasn’t taking any chances when Fargo creator Noah Hawley first pitched the role of Cannon to him, telling Fallon that, even though Hawley claimed he wrote the role with Rock in mind, he was certain that, in the season’s long gestation period, he was going to get replaced. “Hey I bumped into Don Cheadle at a party,” and “I ran into Chiwetel at Whole Foods,” were apparently the nightmare scenarios that Rock imagined hearing every time he picked up the phone. But, as our own Danette Chavez states in her review of Fargo’s ambitious new season, it sounds like Hawley made the right call after all.
Fargo returns for its fourth season on Sunday, September 27, while the Rock-hosted Saturday Night Live returns on Saturday, October 3—in some form.