The female cast of Saturday Night Live is a true comedic powerhouse. They are a group of smart, ambitious, driven, hilarious women. But, if you saw the ladies in the May issue of Cosmopolitan, those words wouldn't be the first ones that came to mind. Rather, you might think "sexy," "fantasy," and "coquettish" instead.
To be sure, the women look absolutely gorgeous. However, in this sleepover-themed spread, the female cast trades its comedic chops for sexual subtext. At the same time, the shoot gives a very limited definition of what sexy means: A mostly nude Sasheer Zamata is at the center, while Aidy Bryant's body is entirely covered — by sheets in a group picture, and again in her individual Q&A by a large bunny head.
The larger issue, however, is how regressive the shoot feels. For a long time, some (very vocal) men have claimed that women simply aren't funny. Indeed, prior to Zamata's hire, Kenan Thompson said black women just "aren't ready" for the late-night comedy team. Some women make the argument that by acknowledging that attitude, we only give credence to it. But, for others it's a huge problem, and one that deserves attention. Still, several SNL cast members disagree.
"I'd like to think that we are past the point of debate over how funny women can be," Nasim Pedrad said when Cosmo asked her if she felt a responsibility to "raise the bar for women in comedy." Nöel Wells had a similar response: "There is one in a thousand people who thinks that, and 999 people know better. It's not even worth addressing [...] I don't think it's worth it." Even Bryant has an answer prepped for the naysayers: “You’re wrong," she told them. "All you need to do is watch Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, or any of the girls in the cast right now. You’re a damn fool if you think girls can’t hang with guys on the funny front.”
Still, it's difficult to ignore the fact that seven out of the 10 of the highest-paid TV comedians are men. (And, we should note, it's poignant that Cosmo released the feature on Equal Pay Day.) We doubt we'd ever see the show's male cast collected together for a sexy shirtless shoot. In fact, Jay Pharoah and Kyle Mooney both tout magazine features in which they're photographed in a comedic, yet stylish way. It's disappointing that Cosmo couldn't do something in the same vein.
We're glad to see the women of SNL have built such successful careers for themselves. But, the sad truth is the comedy industry is still not a level playing field. The female cast members have allowed themselves to be portrayed as one-dimensional. Women are funny. But, this shoot fails to highlight their comedic talent, and isn't that the reason why we fell in love with them in the first place?