It’s official: the HBO Max miniseries “That Damn Michael Che” has been renewed for a second season. Following a successful run of Michael Che’s first solo television project outside of “Saturday Night Live,” the streaming platform greenlit another chance to investigate the world through that damn Michael Che’s eyes.
True to his background, Michael Che’s show is a unique blend of sketch comedy and stand-up. In each episode, Che tackles a polarizing topic in American society and analyzes it through an interwoven narrative of sketches and interviews. He himself often begins the story, as if he were performing a standup routine in the interview chair, only for the narrative to branch off and take on a world of its own. Whether this is through the dramatization of Che hanging out with his friends, a sardonic public service announcement from the NYPD on how not to get shot by the police, or even a derisive take on a Covid-era corporate ad, this show provides everything you would want a sketch comedy show to give you without ever straying from its cohesive storyline.
Che’s ability to blend storytelling with comedy when analyzing complex subject matter including racial profiling, vaccine hesitancy and much more is responsible for the show’s success. “Michael’s comedic style is truly unique and his ability to convey provocative subject matter through a comedic lens is the reason why Season 1 of “That Damn Michael Che” was such a success,” Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content at HBO Max shared in a statement, “We look forward to working with him again on a second season.”
It’s arduous to avoid discussing the pandemic’s relationship with media today, however, “That Damn Michael Che” makes it impossible, with life in the pandemic interwoven with much of the show’s writing. The pandemic is utilized as a conduit for digging into deeper societal issues. In the first season, which aired on HBO Max in May, the show takes an intimate look at policing and public health through a racial lens, multiple episodes focusing on the innate relationship between race and healthcare in the United States. The show’s focus on vaccines is especially timely, tackling the issue of vaccine hesitancy among Americans.
With the country currently in an uphill battle against the new wave of Covid cases and hospitalizations caused by the Delta variant, Michael Che brings an interesting discussion to the table that, albeit separate from the current anti-vaxxer crisis, touches upon a longstanding issue in our public health system: “let’s just address the elephant in the room. There’s a lot of reasons why black people don’t trust this vaccine or any vaccine.” As Che and other characters discuss whether or not they plan on getting the vaccine, which ranges from absolutely not to a character going as far as to sell vaccines in barber shops, a 40s style film plays intermittently that focuses on the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Che connects vaccine hesitancy to Tuskegee in the opening monologue of the episode, and creatively uses it as a throughline to the end in which he himself becomes an unwilling guinea pig for a party of hopeful elites.
Michael Che is no stranger to controversy. The comic, known most prominently for his racially charged humor as a Weekend Update host on “Saturday Night Live,” often finds himself thrown into public discourse for insensitive and distasteful humor. Only a week after the announcement for his show’s renewal, Che found himself in yet another Twitter controversy for distasteful comments he made online. However, despite being a polarizing figure in comedy, for the most part, “That Damn Michael Che” avoids this tendency to overstep and offend. Che will make you squirm in between laughs every episode, and some material will most certainly not land for every audience member, but he manages to walk the line between supporting and subverting what the audience thinks they know to be true. Within the nervous Michael Che who is unsure whether or not he can trust the wealthy white friend who invites him to a vaccination party is also a man who works at NBC and has more than likely already been vaccinated. The show is just as layered as Che and the issues it attempts to represent, while simultaneously producing quality sketches from the minds behind this era of “Saturday Night Live.”
Season 1 of “That Damn Michael Che” is available now on HBO Max.
By Emily Frantz