It’s no secret that I’m a big SNL fan. Even when the host is pretty mediocre, or worse – someone I’ve never even heard of – I tune in every Saturday night. That being said, this news story kind of bums me out.
In an interview with TV Guide, SNL cast regular Kenan Thompson was asked what the show would do after hearing that he was giving up the concept of cross-dressing for sketches that require a black female lead. Kenan answered the question not by discussing the lack of diversity on the cast, but by pretty much insinuating that black women weren’t funny enough to be on SNL. “It’s just a tough part of the business,” he said. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”
In the 38 years SNL has been on the air, the series has only had four black female cast members: Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Maya Rudolph (2000-2007) – and Hudson was fired midseason. Currently, the series has three cast members of color – Kenan, Jay Pharoah, and Nasim Pedrad, who is Iranian. The show added six new cast members this year, to try and fill the void that Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, and Jason Sudeikis left behind – all have already shown how talented they are, but as far as ethnicity, they don’t offer much change.
One might blame Lorne Michaels. As the SNL guru for 33 of its 38 years, Lorne is the one who scouts comedians and makes them go through a pretty rough audition process. As past cast member Jay Mohr stated, “I didn’t take it very seriously. The odds of getting on Saturday Night Live are zero. You could go to astronaut school, and you can learn how to get in a rocket and go to the moon, but there’s no “getting a stand-up on Saturday Night Live” school.” Mohr himself lasted only a few seasons, as a featured player.
Rachel Dratch, who was eventually hired, was told that they weren’t taking any women during her first audition – they chose Jimmy Fallon, Horatio Sanz, and Chris Parnell that year instead. “We’re not taking any women this year. But maybe next year,” she said. “I was at peace with that.”
Jay Pharoah had a few more positive statements to say about the issue: In an interview with theGrio, he said “They need to pay attention” and add a black woman to the cast. His personal pick is actress Darmirra Brunson. “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,” Pharoah said.
Here are a few more more-than-ready black female comedians we can think of, just to remind Kenan that he probably spoke without something that we call “common sense”. Seriously, Kenan. What Up With That. (Sorry – I had to. And warning – some of these videos are NSFW.)
Alycia has been ready for the stage since the age of 7. She writes the “Top 10′s” for the #1 radio show in Los Angeles, “The Steve Harvey Morning Show,” and has done extensive work for “The Parkers”, even becoming the first female “audience warm-up” person for the show. She has also been a featured comic on “BET’s Comicview” and was on Last Comic Standing, which – ironically – also aired on NBC. In short, this girl can write, produce, and act in front of an audience and get a bunch of laughs.
Known for being the first female host of Talk Soup (which was also one of her first gigs!) you might know Aisha best for her roles on The Ghost Whisperer, The Santa Clause 2 (and 3!) and numerous other television roles. She also voices Lana on the very funny show Archer. And Friends fans – she was the one who caused a bit of a rift between Ross and Joey when she played a super gorgeous female paleontologist.
She’s also extremely funny, and would make an excellent addition to the SNL Family.
Tiffany has been all over the place, and her impressive resume proves she’s ready for SNL. She has performed at The Comedy Store and The Improv, and also developed her own comedy show for inner-city high school students that promotes non-violence, called Chuckles Not Knuckles.
She’s made appearances on shows like Chelsea Lately, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, My Name Is Earl, and Def Comedy Jam – just to name a few.
As a semifinalist on Last Comic Standing, Erin has made it big in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas. She’s a fan of interacting with the audience, and is super quick (and hilarious) on her feet.
Erin has performed stand-up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, and is also a writer. She’s currently co-hosting a candid new talk show called Exhale, which airs on Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s ASPiRE television network.
Like many of the other talented women above, Marina has a long resume of shows she’s appeared on: Wanda Syke’s Herlarious, Showtime’s Women Who Kill, Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show, The Jay Leno Show, and Chappelle’s Show just to name a few. While starting as a stand-up, she also pursued a MFA in acting at Syracuse University.
In short, there’s no shortage of funny, black women. Saturday Night Live just needs to do a better job recruiting them. And while I won’t miss Kenan dressing up like a lady, I will miss many of the amazing opportunities that will be lost on the show based on the absence of (at least one!) strong, talented black female cast member.
Image Credit: Examiner (featured)