When Saturday Night Live announced this season's six new cast members, many were shocked to see that the sketch comedy show would be devoid of a black female cast member for the sixth year in a row.
In a world where we have a black First Lady and pop culture is defined by Scandal, Rihanna, Oprah, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce, this is beyond absurd. It's downright embarrassing. And after years of portraying seemingly every black female celebrity from Mo'Nique, Maya Angelou and Jennifer Hudson, Kenan Thompson has finally thrown in the cross-dressing towel.
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When asked what the show would do now when confronted with potential black female characters or celebrity spoofs, Thompson told TVGuide.com, "I don't know. We just haven't done them. That's what I'm saying. Maybe [Jay Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn't really want to do it."
Instead of blaming showrunner Lorne Michaels or the series, which currently only employs three actors of color out of 16 cast members (Thompson, Pharaoh and the Iranian Nasim Pedrad), Thompson blames the lack of quality black female comedians. "It's just a tough part of the business," Thompson says. "Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
While Thompson's refusal to help SNL continue to ignore its own diversity issues is commendable, blaming the problem on an absence of talented black females only perpetuates the problem. There are countless brilliant black comediennes working right now, many of whom would likely be thrilled to take part in such an iconic series (even if the quality has slipped over the decades).
In the 38 years SNL has been on the air, the series has only had four black female cast members: Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Maya Rudolph (2000-2007). Of the four, only three were repertory players (Hudson was only a featured player before being fired midseason). This means, there were large gaps in SNL's history when there were no black women on the show at all.
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Pharoah has recently spoken out about the series' diversity problem, telling theGrio, "They need to pay attention" and add a black woman to the cast. Pharoah even suggested his pick, Darmirra Brunson, who's currently on Tyler Perry's Love They Neighbor. "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."
As to how the six new (all white) cast members are faring so far this season, Thompson says they're doing just fine. "They're all contributing in different ways I think. They've been doing great job so far. They're all very, very smart and talented, so that's how it is. That's the kind of people I guess that get the job," Thompson says.