Two words, guys: Wheelchair Jimmy.
Fine, a few more words: This weekend, Saturday Night Live announced that 2014’s first show will be helmed entirely by Drake, playing the role of both host and musical guest. Pulling double duty on SNL is a big deal for any artist, but it’s especially notable for a rapper; only a handful in SNL history have done so before, including M.C. Hammer (in 1991), Queen Latifah (in 2004), and Ludacris (in 2006).
All three of these rappers have one thing in common: previous acting experience. Ludacris hosted after receiving good notice for his work in films like Crash and Hustle & Flow. Queen Latifah had 117 episodes of Living Single under her belt, not to mention an Oscar-nominated turn in Chicago. Hammer had… the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon Hammerman, which starred its namesake as a mild-mannered “guy named Stanley” who transforms into a superhero when he puts on a pair of magical dancing shoes. Seriously. (I didn’t say they all had good acting experience.)
And Drake, of course, also fits this mold. Long before he started going by his middle name, Drake was known as Aubrey Graham — one of the original stars of Degrassi: The Next Generation, a.k.a. the greatest Canadian export since The Kids in the Hall. Drake played Jimmy Brooks, a basketball star who’s one of the most popular kids in school. He’s also a bit of an amateur rapper himself:
Alas, even homies and playas aren’t immune to tragedy. In Degrassi‘s fourth season, Jimmy gets shot in the back by a disgruntled classmate and is relegated to a wheelchair until he has an experimental stem cell surgery in season 7. (Everything has happened on Degrassi, guys.) In the meantime, as Degrassi became less of a series of after-school specials and more of a surprisingly self-aware teen soap, Drake had plenty of chances to flex his skills in scenes dramatic (confronting Spinner for his part in the shooting), comic (“Manny Santos, my how you’ve grown”), tragicomic (that whole episode about how his disability is cramping Jimmy’s… below-the-belt style), and none of the above (remember when he and Spinner started a t-shirt company for some reason?). And all the while, there was more rapping:
One could hardly blame Drake for trying to get people to ignore his semi-embarrassing past after his transformation from Canadian teen star to widely acclaimed rapper. Yet against all odds, Drake actually embraces his Degrassi years — going so far as to perform a dance called the “Wheelchair Jimmy” in some of his shows.
So clearly, the guy’s got a great sense of humor — and he’s capable of onscreen hilarity as well, as demonstrated via a surprise cameo in one of this year’s biggest comedies. An SNL hosted by Drake means an episode characterized by cool confidence, wry self-deprecation… and, most importantly, Degrassi jokes galore.
In other words: On Jan. 18, Saturday Night Live is going to go there.