‘SNL’ Regular on Why the Show Has No African-American Women in the Cast

Oct 15, 2013  •  Post A Comment

One of the regulars on NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" offered an opinion on why the show seems to have a hard time finding African-American women to be cast members. TVGuide.com reports that Kenan Thompson essentially said there aren’t any funny ones to be found.

"When ‘Saturday Night Live’ announced this season’s six new cast members, many were shocked to see that the sketch comedy show would be devoid of a black female cast member for the sixth year in a row," Sadie Gennis writes on the website. "In a world where we have a black first lady and pop culture is defined by Scandal, Rihanna, Oprah, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce, this is beyond absurd. It’s downright embarrassing."

The piece points out that Thompson himself has played a series of black female celebrities, such as Mo’Nique, Maya Angelou and Jennifer Hudson.

"When asked what the show would do now when confronted with potential black female characters or celebrity spoofs, Thompson told TVGuide.com, ‘I don’t know. We just haven’t done them. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe [Jay Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn’t really want to do it,’" the story reports.

Gennis adds: "Instead of blaming showrunner Lorne Michaels or the series, which currently only employs three actors of color out of 16 cast members (Thompson, Pharaoh and the Iranian Nasim Pedrad), Thompson blames the lack of quality black female comedians."

Thompson is quoted in the piece saying: "It’s just a tough part of the business. Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."

Gennis writes: "While Thompson’s refusal to help ‘SNL’ continue to ignore its own diversity issues is commendable, blaming the problem on an absence of talented black females only perpetuates the problem. There are countless brilliant black comediennes working right now, many of whom would likely be thrilled to take part in such an iconic series (even if the quality has slipped over the decades)."

The show has had only four black female cast members in its 38-year history, the piece notes, listing Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Maya Rudolph (2000-2007).

"Of the four, only three were repertory players (Hudson was only a featured player before being fired midseason)," the report notes. "This means, there were large gaps in ‘SNL’s’ history when there were no black women on the show at all."

Gennis adds: "Pharoah has recently spoken out about the series’ diversity problem, telling theGrio, ‘They need to pay attention’ and add a black woman to the cast. Pharoah even suggested his pick, Darmirra Brunson, who’s currently on Tyler Perry’s Love They Neighbor. ‘Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on "SNL." I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.’"

Thumbnail image for Kenan-Thompson.jpgKenan Thompson

2 Comments

  1. Yeah, sure, I guess this means that Lorne Michaels has been a racist all along.
    This is just more of the pointless media bean-counting that has gone on everyday since Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. It was interesting for maybe 10 or 20 years, but now it’s nothing more than reflex action.
    Gotta count some beans…gotta count some beans…gotta count some beans. “Get me rewrite…”
    The media is also incredibly selective in its outrage. Remember when Jay Leno got pushed out at NBC in favor of another man of pallor, Jimmy Fallon.
    Where were the black male or female candidates for the Leno chair? Did Comcast/NBC hold an open recruitment process, as is required in most of corporate America for job openings. Even most major pro sports leagues have a requirement for open posting of top jobs so that there are clear opportunities for minority applicants to come forward.
    But that didn’t happen at NBC, for either Leno or Fallon’s replacement. And no one in the media made a peep about it, even though it seems a far more obvious vacuum than the periodic lack of a black funny girl on SNL.

  2. Since when does ‘Scandal’ define pop culture. I’m sure the ratings will reflect that a vast majority of pop culture consumers do not watch that show.

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