I like Kenan Thompson a lot. He’s probably my favorite actor on “Saturday Night Live” right now. But what the heck was he thinking when he spoke to TV Guide about diversity on “SNL”? The show hasn’t had a Black woman on the cast for six years, despite having numerous other performers of color, including Thompson, Jay Pharoah (who is Black), and Nasim Pedrad (who is both Iranian and a woman). Yet when asked why “SNL” hasn’t cast a Black woman, Thompson suggested that there just aren’t enough funny Black ladies:
“It’s just a tough part of the business. Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”
Look, I understand Kenan Thompson is not personally tasked for the casting. That responsibility falls on the casting department and executive producer Lorne Michaels. Alas, Thompson’s excuse-making is indicative of a problem within their casting, which he appears to have been naive enough to accept. When the casting department doesn’t find Black women who are ready for prime time, methinks they’re not looking hard enough. “Saturday Night Live” has had four Black/half-Black women cast members in the past four decades, most recently Maya Rudolph, who left the show six seasons ago. I realize there are a ton of white dudes in comedy (my husband is a white dude in comedy, and yeah, there are a lot of white dudes) but this “the-pipeline-is-dried-up” excuse is lazy. Currently, I can think of two Black funny ladies off the top of my head who are hilarious: Franchesca Ramsey (Chescaleigh) and Erica Watson. And I’m not even living and breathing the comedy community every day like these people are. It’s 2013, people. Funny Black women aren’t hiding under rocks.
Perhaps Lorne Micheals, etc. thinks it’s enough to have Kenan Thompson slap on a wig and play Black female characters like Whoopi Goldberg or Raven Symone in sketches, as he has done for years. (And to be fair, plenty of other male cast members often played women even when there have been many women on the cast.) But interestingly, Thompson noted that his Black co-star, Jay Pharaoh, doesn’t want any part of that. When asked about who could or should play Black women on “SNL,” Thompson gave a revealing answer:
“I don’t know. We just haven’t done them. … Maybe [Pharoah] will do it or something, but even he doesn’t really want to do it.”
Interestingly, Pharoah spoke publicly recently about the lack of Black comediennes on “SNL” himself. Last month, I noted how the comedian told The Grio in no uncertain terms that “Saturday Night Live” needed to cast more women of color AND he even suggested someone, a lady named Darmirra Brunson:
“[People in the casting department] need to pay attention. Her name is Darmirra Brunson … Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.”
Hmm, “like they said they were going to do last year.” So Kenan Thompson’s been told there aren’t enough funny Black women and Jay Pharoah’s been told “we’ll get to it later.” Interesting.
Casting has already been done for this current season, which added six new cast members. They were five white men and one white woman. White dudes in comedy won again.
So, you’re on notice for next year, “Saturday Night Live.” People are watching.
Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.
[Image via Getty]