In 39 years Saturday Night Live’s cast has only included three Black women and currently has none — unless the men are in drag. This was apologized for in jest during the Nov. 2 airing, in which Kerry Washington guest starred.
Due to the stale weekly comedy show’s lack of diverse casting, Kerry had to play every Black female character and needless to say, it looked exhausting.
The episode was a direct response to serious backlash against SNL, sparked by Keenen Thompson‘s remarks that “it’s just a tough part of the business… Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”
Immediately, the internet was flooded with lists of Black female comics who could join the cast, mostly naming Issa Rae ( Awkward Black Girl ), Wanda Sykes and Sommore .
However, no one seems to be discussing whether any of these women have ever auditioned for SNL or if they even want to be on the show, or any show where they have very little creative control.
What Do Black Female Comedians Think?
In an interview with Roland Martin , Sommore spoke with fellow notable Black female comedians Kym Whitley and Loni Love ( Real Talk ), who all responded to Keenan’s comments and SNL’s “Black lady problem.”
“It depends on what he means by ready,” Kym led off. “And I just say this because Saturday Night Live is just not, you just go on there and act or you just do a skit. You gotta write, you gotta direct your skit…”
Sommore followed stating, “I’m a stand up comedian. I don’t do sketch comedy… There’s just different styles of comedy… So I don’t know too many Black sisters that are doing that type of comedy. But like you did say, Debra [Wilson]… Debra is very very talented. If we are all given the opportunity to do it, we could easily do it. I could see anyone of us on this phone doing it.”
“I do stand up,” she continued. “I don’t see Keenan busting down no stages neither. He can’t do what I do. Just like he feels like I can’t do what he does, I know for a fact that he can’t do what I do.”
“SNL ain’t been relevant since Jim Belushi (1985),” Loni blasted. “It’s on every week… It’s not funny… They need to find some Black women to put on there to make it funny. You can’t count Maya Rudolph because she was half white. The last real Black person they had on there was Ellen Cleghorne and Ellen Cleghorne was horrible. I’m sorry. That’s why you don’t even see… We don’t even know where Ellen is no more. She just gone.”
Sommore also mentioned that in an SNL behind-the-scenes documentary, Black comedians had a tough time getting skit approvals. “I know for a fact that what White people think is funny, [Black people] don’t think is funny.”
Worried About the Wrong Things
Show producer Lorne Michaels addressed the issue on Thursday stating, “It’s not like it’s not a priority for us [to cast a black, female comedian]. It will happen. I’m sure it will happen.”
So Black women will be pacified with their one Black female comedian on SNL… someday. Isn’t that great?
Danielle C. Belton at Clutch Magazine voiced concern that SNL is missing out:
“…the problem is SNL has to ignore not just black or Latino culture – they’ have to ignore popular culture. They have to ignore reality.
They have to pretend it is still 1984 and Ronald Reagan is president and Madonna is the biggest star and it’s no-big-deal if they have no one to parody Michael Jackson.
They have to exist in a time before hip hop took rock music’s mantle as the number one American brand of music. They have to live in a time before NBA players wore baggy shorts.
And all that makes the show markedly less hip and funny. Because young black, white and Latino people – their audience – are often watching and consuming a diverse array of media.
They are complaining about Lil Wayne rapping on a horrid Paris Hilton song, mocking the fact that Rihanna can’t be bothered to show up for her tour dates and twerking badly along with Miley Cyrus.
They’re watching “The Daily Show” and “Key and Peele” on TV while waiting until the next day to see if the SNL clips were any good on YouTube.
They all like to make fun of “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta’s” Stevie J., get into shows with diverse casts like “Glee” or “American Horror Story” while live tweeting award shows.”
If SNL isn’t keeping up with the times, why the hell is it still on? More importantly, why are people of color still watching, even later on via Youbtube, to see if maybe — perhaps — possibly it was funny? And exactly how long can SNL withstand being behind and why should we save them?
Why are we still hoping to be included where we are not wanted, when we regularly share funnier and more relevant content from Youtube than SNL puts together with a bigger budget?
Give me Key and Peele every Wednesday night in the middle of flipping back to American Horror Story: Coven over a rarely enjoyable Saturday Night Live any week!
Focusing Energy Where It Belongs
We need to move on; move on and support the shows with diverse casts and stories, especially those that we can only see online — e.g. Awkward Black Girl , Black&Sexy TV ‘s The Couple , DormtainmentTV ‘s antics, and for Latinos — East WillyB ; move on and create more shows that depict women of color the way they want to see themselves, not just how men see them.
Stop caring about how or when SNL is going to benefit itself by adding some sprinkles of diversity to shut us up.
Forget making SNL better. Where is the next In Living Color ?