The NBC sketch comedy show recently held two showcases — one in Los Angeles and one in New York — to find African-American women to audition for the live variety show.
The show's lack of diversity, which has been repeatedly criticized in recent months, was mocked in the Nov. 2 episode hosted by Scandal's Kerry Washington. The entire first sketch was built around the concept that, presumably because of the lack of African-American women on the show, Washington would have to play several African-American celebrities, including Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce, all in the same skit.
The sketch was a winking reference to Kenan Thompson's comments about the lack of women of color on SNL. In an interview with TVGuide.com in October, Thompson blamed the show's diversity issue on a lack of quality black female comedians, rather than on showrunner Lorne Michaels or the series. "It's just a tough part of the business," Thompson said at the time. "Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
In the 38 years that SNL has been on the air, the series has only had four African-American 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 have been large gaps in SNL's history when there were no African-American women on the show at all.
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