The 39th season of Saturday Night Live premeired on September 28 with six new cast members. For years, SNL has been criticized for its lack of diversity but it seems they didn't get the memo. All six SNL newbies are White and only one is a woman! This week TVGuide.com talked to cast member Kenan Thompson about the sketch comedy show’s habit of snubbing minorities, particularly women of color. Thompson, who joined the show in 2003, made the following statement:
"It's just a tough part of the business. Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
Since the interview was published, Thompson has been under fire, but I’m not sure he deserves to take all the heat. After all, he has no say over whom the show casts each season. (What’s up, Lorne Michaels?) And Kenan did say that he refused to impersonate another black woman, as did cast-mate Jay Pharaoh. (A protest, of sorts.)
Now, without sounding like a stereotypical angry black woman I must ask, “What the hell does Thompson mean when he says we’re not 'ready'?”
I get it. SNL covers pop culture news and politics, all from a white patriarchal perspective. I will even stick out my neck and admit that “Black” comedy is different from standard “White” comedy. But does that mean that Black women lack the ability to entertain predominately white audiences?
Comedy is an art and not an easy one. To do it successfully, an individual has to be intelligent. Is Thompson suggesting we lack the social intelligence to resonate with “the masses”?
As a Black woman, I do believe that people of color, especially women of color, have to go above and beyond to prove that they can do it. And whatever “it” happens to be, they have to be that much better at it than their competition. Although he may have used the wrong words, maybe this was what Thompson was alluding to. So it seems the producers of Saturday Night Live haven’t found a Black woman who stands out. But is that really true?
On today’s The Talk, Julie Chen made a great observation when she stated, “In Living Color and Mad TV found them… they’re out there.” And yes, they are out there. There are no open auditions for SNL. Comedians can send videos, but SNL’s producers contact those they are interested in, so this is out of the hands of hopefuls. Jay Pharaoh mentioned Darmirra Brunson as a candidate. Other names floating around on social media are Jessica Williams (The Daily Show), Issa Rae (Awkward Black Girl) and Nichole Byer (Girl Code). These are some seriously funny women!
So, I think the better question is… When will Saturday Night Live be “ready” to accept the fact that Black women are hella funny? It is 2013 and darn it, I wanna see a Scandal spoof and a Beyoncé impression not done by Maya Rudolph!