Snoop Dogg grins at the camera. “I’m not high right now, but whoever gave us this show must have been!” He’s in a TV prop bed with his co-host, Martha Stewart, who can barely keep herself from laughing while her strange bedfellow speaks.
For that reason—its simplicity, its lack of surprise, its baseline humor and sense of fun—it is the perfect television pregame for what will surely be 24 hours of the antithesis: anxiety-inducing television starring two larger-than-life public figures with diametrically opposing brands decidedly not putting aside their differences over a drunken plate of fried chicken.
Yes, a so-called battle over whose fried chicken is the best was the ostensible dramatic reasoning for the premiere episode of this delirious cooking show, as if anything could mask the true reason for this show’s existence: an hour’s worth of weed jokes made at Snoop Dogg’s expense.
Granted, at this point making fun of how much weed Snoop Dogg smokes is perhaps as lazy as making fun of Seth Rogen’s smoking habits—indeed, Rogen shows up on Potluck Dinner Party, too. And, yes, Snoop and Martha’s odd friendship is also the stuff of legend by now.
It was “OMG Snoop and Martha?!?!?!” funny when the rapper first appeared on her daytime show in 2008—basically two election cycles ago; how the world has changed—and she bemusedly blogged about the new “Snoop-guistics” she learned thanks to his appearance: “He and his posse add ‘izzles’ onto the ends of words. It’s kind of a code, or a way of communicating so that others won’t know what they’re talking about. Example: fo shizzle is how they say, for sure.”
Both of their publicists deserved raises for that 2008 pairing. It was perfect brand synergy for both parties.
For Stewart, who has long combatted the perception that a brand built on perfection and class corresponds to rigid stuffiness (not to mention the sexist assumption that a woman determinedly controlling an empire is a tyrannical bitch, not merely a good boss), it proved that she was in on the joke of being Martha Stewart—that she didn’t take herself so seriously.
Snoop Dogg reaped the same benefits—the benefits that come from winking at his own image—but also widened the reach of his charms. Few celebrities are as charismatic or have as much brand acumen as Snoop Dogg. Thanks to the Martha appearance, those who already loved the “Snoop” persona gained a wider appreciation for that, while others, guided by Stewart’s impeccably lotioned hands, were introduced to his broad appeal.
Throughout the years that followed, Snoop and Martha would continue to cook together and capitalize on their sporadic unions for maximum social media frenzy, not to mention use our fascination with the pairing as fodder for many a late-night TV story.
As their friendship progressed, so did their admiration and appreciation for each other, and so did the intelligence of Stewart’s weed jokes and Snoop’s ability to deliver a scripted punchline—all culminating in Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, which launches with the teleprompter’d gem, “Because when you mix the best of high society with the best of high society, you never know what’s gonna pop up.”
And so here we are, years into this largely for-cameras-only friendship, watching Stewart, “the Queen of Cuisine,” and Snoop, “the King of Cush,” each preparing their own fried chicken recipes while special guests Seth Rogen, Wiz Khalifa, and Ice Cube move things along with banter, like a Today show cooking segment booked by a producer tripping in the recovery room after getting their wisdom teeth removed.
“This is the weirdest group of people ever on a stage together,” Rogen laughs, which would be true, except, as we learned from Snoop and Martha’s history together, it kind of isn’t. Still, all hope VH1 has in this show succeeding is tied up in us at least thinking what Rogen says is true, and being freaking delighted by it.
If nothing else, though, everyone on stage is delighted by it. Things kick off with Snoop mixing a cocktail, the in-studio audience singing along to “Gin and Juice” while he mixes it, and Stewart, at least in appearance, getting rather drunk while the rest of the group is very clearly already high. (Rogen spends the brunt of the episode with his head down snickering hysterically.)
It’s all, apparently, part of the new, amazing TV gimmick of getting celebrities wasted while on camera, one that has been staunchly championed by our patron saints Kathie Lee Gifford and Andy Cohen. It works here, too. While scripted within an inch of its life, the show has more the organic feel of an actual party you’re a fly on the wall for than, say, those awkward and stilted group-hosted talk shows and Food Network competition series.
They rib each other for their methods of preparing fried chicken. Stewart’s, naturally, is a meticulously recipe’d endeavor that requires three days of preparation, which Snoop scoffs at: “My meal is gonna take 12 minutes and we’re ready to eat!”
He makes fun of her buttermilk bath. She makes fun of him not knowing what a buttermilk bath is. He references the hood a dozen times. She brings up the fact that she was in prison.
It’s mindlessly, shamelessly orchestrated fun, right up to Snoop gathering the crew to say grace, with Rogen barely able to stifle his stoned laughter as the organ kicks in and Snoop gives a sermon about “fried chicken that will make your fingers glisten.”
Things kind of come to a screeching halt when a game is introduced in the show’s final act—a ploy to extend what should be a half-hour show to a full hour—but is mercifully saved by Stewart’s shocking revelation in a round of Two Truths and a Lie that she has been struck by lightning three times: “It does make you stronger. Going to jail does not make you stronger. Only lightning makes you stronger.” Noted, Martha.
Might it be silly to note that, on the eve of Election Day, here we have two highly successful people with very strong and even more distinct values coming together and enjoying—savoring, even—the things that they have in common, such as a love for cooking and a love for using each other to build their respective brands?
Perhaps. But these days everything is an election allegory, and this one is that everyone brings their own recipe to the potluck dinner table—both literally and figuratively—and life is better when we make a few jokes about it and eat fried chicken.