In October, a firestorm of sister fury was unleashed all over Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson when said the reason there were no black females at SNL is because they couldn’t find any that were ready.
Why would he say that?
Then we remembered that SNL players rarely criticize the show, tried to retract and clean it up. Sort of like a Mafia of funny. You say anything slick and you're out of the family.
There were calls for a boycott of the show and also criticisms of Thompson’s personal brand of comedy as well. Thompson, to his credit, was also quoted as saying he and fellow cast member Jay Pharaoh would not dress in drag during skits anymore in the same interview. Thus forcing creator and producer Lorne Michaels to find a black female cast member in a passive aggressive way. Not because he wanted to, but because he had too. Bad racist press and infighting on a staff is never a good thing.
This week that all began to change. On Monday, it was announced veteran comedienne Sasheer Zamata would join the cast starting January 18, making her the first black female on SNL since the departure of Maya Rudolph in 2007. While the blogosphere exploded with praise for the move, there were some who wondered what types of characters she would portray because of the show’s dearth of black writers. At the start of the season, SNL employed 25 writers, five of them were women and only one was African American.
Earlier this year, Scandal star Kerry Washington hosted SNL and was only the 8th woman of African descent to host the 38-year-old show. The characters she played during her skits (a nagging girlfriend, Oprah, Michelle Obama, a sassy assistant and an angry Ugandan beauty queen) were stereotypical and largely unimaginative. Some blamed Washington for her portrayal of the characters. However, an artist is only as good as their material. You simply cannot pour syrup on a pile of excreta and call it pancakes.
But apparently, Michaels and crew were already planning on remedying the issue. Yesterday it was announced that LeKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, both African American women, would join the show as writers starting January 18, along with Zamata. Tookes and Jones were discovered after the show’s recent audition for African American female talent in New York City and Los Angeles. This was the first wide range, proactive, well known attempt in the history of the show to find African American female talent in particular.
Tookes is an actress and comedienne who has performed at the iO West improv and sketch theater in Los Angeles. And Leslie Jones, also an actress and comedienne, has performed at the Just for Laugh’s Festival in Montreal and the Aspen Comedy Festival as well. Her comedy special Problem Child aired on Showtime in 2011.
Though these two hires are a step in the “write” direction (pun intended), it remains to be seen whether or not these women will be utilized in a manner that is funny, yet not disrespectful and dismissive of the plight of black women in America.
The Shadow League will be tuning in on January 18 to give our support. But they had better be funny. There are countless conservative pundits and on air demagogues who will certainly make this into a political issue if given the chance to do so. But we’ll wait to judge. Good luck ladies. The world is watching. Knock ‘em dead.