Aziz Ansari Will Be The First South Asian Saturday Night Live Host

Photo: David Livingston/Getty.
Saturday Night Live just tweeted that Aziz Ansari will host the show on January 21. Ansari is such a force in comedy that this news doesn’t even feel like a big deal, but it is. Ansari is the first South Asian to host SNL, ever. And according to Teen Vogue, he’s the first Asian to land the gig in almost 17 years.

SNL has been engaged in an uphill battle to bring some diversity to its long list of hosts. Only about 10% of SNL hosts are people of color or biracial, according to data compiled by Indiewire. For over 41 years, SNL has reflected the whiteness dominant in mainstream comedy and throughout Hollywood in general.

South Asians, and Asians in general, are often the butt of American jokes. Last year, Chris Rock ruffled a few feathers as Oscars host when he make a quip about two Asian boys he brought on stage. There have been multiple critiques of Kunal Nayyar’s character Raj in the Big Bang Theory. His inability to talk to women, his thick accent, and his excessive nerdiness feed into more than one stereotype about Indian Americans. Kevin G from Mean Girls is also positioned as aggressively sexual and inappropriate, suggesting that he has not assimilated to American culture.

On the same day that Steve Harvey comes under fire for joking that Black and white women don’t date Asian men, Ansari is walking a different path for South Asians in comedy. Ansari is at the head, not the butt of the joke.

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