Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
Phew, you guys! Turns out what we thought was a dearth of diversity on television these days is actually just a totally normal, accurate reflection of talent in the real world, to put it in Kenan Thompson's words. Long-time SNL regular Kenan Thompson told TV Guide that the lack of black, female performers on the show is due to the lack of black, female performers in the world: "It's just a tough part of the business...Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready." And, while Thompson himself isn't the arbiter of who gets a coveted audition for the show, it's pretty flabbergasting that anyone could actually take this defense of a show that has only cast four black women in its entire history. Maybe Thompson has internalized this philosophy from years of hearing it parroted by producers every time auditions roll around? Needless to say, his comments — whatever the motivation — have left the good people of the Internet quite puzzled:
Although others remain unfazed and un-fussed:
Others still rose to the occasion with casting suggestions for Lorne Michaels — The Hairpin in particular has some good ideas, and we're sure our commenters will be more than up to the task. SNL has every right to maintain a certain standard of quality, but it's both dubious and unrealistic to suggest that recent years of auditions haven't yielded a black woman who could cut it (and yet they seem to have no trouble coming across white men who fit the bill). As Jezebel points out, SNL deals in pop culture references, and that repertory should by default include famous black women. Producers seem to be of the opinion that having white people impersonate people of other races (with a few notable exceptions) is often viewed as distasteful and inappropriate by audiences. Whether or not you agree with that as an opinion, the truth is that it's a type of controversy most shows would prefer to avoid entirely. The result is that black women are either just ignored as a subject matter or simply portrayed by Thompson himself.
This isn't about tokenism or filling a quota; it's not even about dictating how black women should be portrayed in comedy, or the fact that black comedians are often shuffled into a pretty discriminatory box on network TV. What we have here is simply a logical flaw. SNL clearly doesn't want people of one race being portrayed by people of another. SNL clearly wants to build jokes around impressions of famous people with wide name recognition. Therefore, SNL is willingly opting out of a hugely profitable and potentially hilarious stock of material by not hiring black women. The show's producers and casting directors would do well for themselves to find acceptably awesome black comedians to fill those roles. If they're honestly trying and still haven't found a single candidate in auditions, well, someone in the casting department just isn't doing their job.
SNL has done some great stuff to debunk the old stereotypes that women can't be funny; Tina Fey and Kristen Wiig have pretty much put that argument to bed. Why can't they make the same strides with regards to race? Black, female comedians do exist, and they are working and becoming famous and having great success. Beyond just fielding the Michelle Obama impressions in a P.C. way, a more diverse cast (and not just black women but performers from a variety of backgrounds) might be just what SNL needs to get out of a rut. (TV Guide via Jezebel)