‘SNL’: Michael Che’s Brittney Griner Joke Stuns Audience

SNL Michael Che Jokes About Brittney Griner (Credit: NBC)

This weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live was praised and panned on social media for controversial jokes by Michael Che and host Woody Harrelson.

Harrelson kicked things off with a rambling opening monologue about a COVID-19 conspiracy to force people to “stay locked in their homes” unless they took drugs supplied by “cartels.”

The Champions actor said he learned about the evil plot three years ago, in the “craziest script” he’d ever read.

“So the movie goes like this: The biggest drug cartels in the world get together and buy up all the media, and all the politicians, and force all the people in the world to stay locked in their homes. And people can only come out if they take the cartels’ drugs and keep taking them over and over,” Harrelson said to complete silence from the studio audience.

The actor added that he “threw the script away,” prompting many Twitter users and news articles to accuse him of floating vaccine conspiracies. Though anti-vaxxers praised him on social media.

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Later on SNL, the audience did react when Michael Che fired off a joke about WNBA star Brittney Griner on the “Weekend Update.”

“It was announced that Brittney Griner has signed with the Phoenix Mercury for one year. Unfortunately, the WNBA pays less than a Russian prison,” Che said to both laughter and groans from the audience.

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The comedian dropped more zingers about “Koons” not being safe in Florida, and convicted sexual predators Harvey Weinstein and R. Kelly being guilty of “loving too much” — adding, “A player’s gotta play. Am I right ladies?”

Despite being a punchline on SNL, Griner was honored Saturday night at the NAACP Image Awards. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and wife Cherelle Griner received a standing ovation when host Queen Latifah welcomed them on stage.

“As we gather here tonight in the spirit of overcoming adversity, I want to take this moment to recognize someone who has done just that,” Queen Latifah said.

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Griner then urged the country to continue to push for the release of Americans jailed overseas.

“It feels so good to be here, especially with my beautiful, amazing wife and with all of y’all here today. I want to thank everyone,” Griner said. “Let’s keep fighting to bring home every American still detained overseas.”

On Feb. 17, 2022, Griner was arrested at Moscow Airport.

The WNBA star traveled to Russia to play in the off-season and make extra money, but was detained on drug charges after customs officials said they found vape cartridges with hashish oil in her luggage.

Griner said the oil was legally prescribed in the U.S. to address chronic pain.

She was convicted and sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony, before returning to the U.S. on Dec. 8. Her release was part of a prisoner swap for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, negotiated by the Biden administration.