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Chris Rock, Prince's unforgettable 'Saturday Night Live'

Comedian and actor Chris Rock -- seen here

Comedian and actor Chris Rock -- seen here at the BET Awards in June -- hosted "Saturday Night Live" on Nov. 1, 2014. He last hosted 18 years ago. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Kevin Winter

Somewhere in the land, someone is still howling over Chris Rock's opening monologue on "Saturday Night Live" -- if not in laughter, then in anger. Someone else is just now recognizing Prince's eight-minute performance for what it was: Historic, exciting (visually, musically), and one of the more memorable musical guests in recent "SNL" history.

It was a night, in other words, to remember.

Rock opened with a monologue that was characteristically Rockian, in subject matter and context (current events), and -- while absent anything blue or beepable -- still pushed right up against a line that's drawn to keep audiences from thinking too hard about painful stuff, or at least thinking at all about subjects considered far too taboo to make jokes about on a commercial broadcast show.

Jokes, in other words, about Jesus, Christmas, gun control, 911, Martin Luther King Jr., the Freedom Tower -- the Freedom Tower?! -- and this particular subject that one would normally assume could never and should never be a setup for a punchline: the Boston Marathon bombing.

Forget the too-soon rule; what could a punchline possibly be here? Rock found it.

My reaction: It was a terrific monologue for the most part, rare for "SNL," and while Rock has told these kinds of jokes many times in many other places before, he set out to do exactly what he wanted to do -- stir up the rage, get people talking, or arguing, or laughing, and in some measure, make certain Prince's highly anticipated performance didn't completely obscure his first "SNL" hosting gig in 18 years.

By the way, Rock got exactly eight minutes for his opening monologue too -- maybe a coincidence, maybe not, but still a very long monologue. Did the Boston bombing joke work? You be the judge, but I thought it was a long setup for a punchline that was merely OK -- and inoffensive (some may certainly disagree.)

On 911 jokes. Oh, man -- It will forever be too soon for those. Nevertheless, this is what Rock does and while what he did here will for many skirt issues of taste or appropriateness, he's a comedian and a performer: That's exactly what he's supposed to do. Why come on and do another bland, dull opening monologue? We've had enough of those over the years. He took some risks, and for the most part, succeeded. 

Meanwhile Prince, with his new band, Third Eye Girl -- or more accurately, 3RDEYE GIRL -- played a medley of new songs "Cloud," "Marz," and "Another Love" from the new albums. Eight minutes? No one gets eight musical minutes on "SNL," but Prince did and while 3RDEYE GIRL may not be the Revolution -- Prince's great old band -- it's a heck of a band, nonetheless.

Prince and "SNL" have a long history: His first time on the show, considered a huge deal at the time, was in 1981, but that moment was swamped by news of cast member Charles Rocket's utterance of the "F" word. (Prince was last here in 2006.) Plus, Fred Armisen famously (or maybe in Prince's mind, infamously impersonated him) over the years.

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