Doing what it does best, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” chose satire as its weapon of choice as it took on itself and the show’s highly publicized struggles with diversity, addressing the issue in the program’s cold opening this past Saturday night, Nov. 2, 2013. You can see a video of the opening below.
Meanwhile, in an article about “SNL’s” diversity issues David Bauder of the Associated Press spoke to the man who runs “SNL”: “Founding producer Lorne Michaels, who is still the show’s top executive and generally keeps the casting process mysterious, said he’s well aware of the issue and is on the lookout for black women as potential cast members. ‘It’s not like it’s not a priority for us,’ he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday night, Oct. 31, 2013. ‘It will happen. I’m sure it will happen.'”
Later in his article Bauder writes, “Michaels said ‘SNL’ is particularly interested in sketch comedy experience, a different skill than stand-up. He also wants to make sure that a new cast member has some seasoning and won’t be overwhelmed by the pace and attention. ‘You don’t do anyone a favor if they’re not ready,’ he said.
“Two of the black women who were on the show — Danitra Vance and Yvonne Hudson — lasted only one season each during the 1980s, although Michaels said that wasn’t necessarily an indication they weren’t ready. The third black woman cast member, Ellen Cleghorne, was on from 1991 to 1995.”
Here’s an excerpt on the subject of “SNL” and diversity that ran on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013, on NPR’s afternoon news show “All Things Considered.” Show co-host Robert Siegel is interviewing NPR’s TV critic, Eric Deggans:
ROBERT SIEGEL: But does the lack of diversity on “Saturday Night Live” make it any less funny?
DEGGANS: I think it narrows the range of things they can talk about and make fun of on the show. For example, Maya Rudolph used to play the first lady and they can’t do the first lady anymore since she left the show in 2007. And Kenan Thompson, a black male cast member, has wound up playing a lot of women on the show. … Now, Kenan has said that he’s grown tired of doing this. He’s not going to play women anymore and, you know, people have felt that it’s kind of played into this historic problem that black male comics have had where they’ve been sort of pressured to put on dresses and play female characters. So it’s become a problem for the show and people have been talking about it.
Later in the interview:
SIEGEL: “Saturday Night Live” is just one show. There [are] plenty of TV shows out there with mostly white casts. Why is it such a big deal?
DEGGANS: Well, this is important because “Saturday Night Live” sets the cultural conversation in a lot of ways. So the way it makes fun of politics or society is the way we talk about politics and society. And what’s also important is that we’ve seen people who break the mold come along on “Saturday Night Live” and bring in something really exciting.
Eddie Murphy came and he brought comedy rooted in black culture to “Saturday Night Live” and he revitalized the show and he made it feel funny and relevant again. And I think that having a black woman who is really talented could also achieve that.
And then, finally, you know, “Saturday Night Live” is America’s comedy farm team.
People like Will Ferrell and Tina Fey have gone on from the show to conquer Hollywood, do great movies. And if black women aren’t a part of that pipeline, they don’t get to reach those heights in the same way.
Here’s the cold opening from this past Saturday’s “SNL” (following the pre-roll commercial NBC has on the clip):