I’ve been a fan of Saturday Night Live since I was a child. I enjoyed watching the likes of Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and many of the other amazing comedians who’ve come through the show over the years. Also, non-Black comedians, like Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Chevy Chase and others have set the standard in their genre. In fact, I haven’t even touched the surface when it comes to the long list of talented people who got their start on SNL.
One current SNL cast member is Kenan Thompson, a modestly-talented Black man who apparently has good connections. Kenan is no Eddie Murphy, which is part of the reason that his career hasn’t grown beyond his regular appearances on NBC. But he’s getting a little more capable every year, like the kid who joined the varsity basketball team in the sixth grade. He’ll never be like Eddie, Chris, or even Tracy Morgan, which probably keeps him up at night.
Kenan was recently asked, by TV Guide, why Black women have rarely graced the stage for SNL. His response made you want to slαp him upside the head with a piece of raw bacon.
“It’s just a tough part of the business,” Thompson said. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”
When referring to the new members being added to the show, Thompson says, “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.”
Yes, all of the new members are White. So, if I am to hear Kenan correctly, he’s saying that a) SNL has no ability to find all the extremely talented Black female comedians who are out there grinding their rear ends off in hole-in-the wall clubs across America, or b) those women have such little ambition that they have no interest in auditioning for a highly-paid gig on Saturday Night Live that may lead to movie opportunities later on down the road.
Adding further insult to injury, Kenan feels that because SNL chooses “smart and talented” people for the show, this is part of the reason that Black women never make the cμt. So, in response to being asked why Black women are not present on the show, Kenan wants us to believe that a) SNL just can’t find them or, b) they don’t want the job, or c) when they apply, they are all unqualified, or d) they are not “smart and talented” like his wonderful White co-workers.
(In my non Dr. Boyce voice): ”Negro, get the f*ck out of here with that bullsh*t.”
OK, I’m going to be a professor again and try to sound intelligent; being inundated with ignorance can temporarily lower my IQ.
Let’s look at the facts like other Earthlings might see them: Black women have been consistently neglected by SNL over the years. According to TV Guide, after 38 years in business, the show has only featured four Black women consistently, with two of them (Yvonne Hudson and Danitra Vance) only being on the show for one year. This is an amazing statistic that only puts them four Black female members ahead of the Ku Klux Klan. In all seriousness, they should be ashamed, and the creator of the show, Lorne Michaels, probably knows this.
I find it odd that no one has pointed out the racial disparities at SNL over the years. Kenan’s response to this very serious question is also a reflection of his own ignorance and commitment to racial inequality. For a Black cast member to somehow assume that there is no Black woman on earth qualified to take a position that has been held by scores of Whites is nothing short of a PSA in favor of White supremacy. African Americans have long dealt with the stereotype that we’re less qualified, less ambitious, less prepared and less willing to work than White people, and it’s shameful to hear these words being uttered by a chubby, not-so-talented Black man.
Putting my harsh assessment of Kenan’s talent to the side, the point remains simple: Black people should stop watching Saturday Night Live, at least until they hire a Black female cast member. In fact, hearing Kenan’s remarks makes me want to ask my colleague, Russell Simmons, why he ended his popular show, “Def Comedy Jam.” The truth is that there should be other avenues to elevate and promote talented Black female comedians that goes beyond asking racially-exclusive organizations to give Black people jobs.
Kenan should apologize to all Black women for his unfortunate and sloppy remarks. SNL should also explain more thoroughly why Black women have rarely been good enough for the show. It’s not hard to argue that there is a race problem at SNL, since they’ve given us 38-years of proof that Black women are not welcome on the show. So, perhaps the network should come clean, admit that it’s time to grow, and replace Kenan Thompson with a Black woman. That’s what I would call “trading up.”
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money”.