November 1st, 2013
12:23 PM ET

Kerry Washington hosting 'SNL' during diversity debate

As "Scandal" star Kerry Washington readies to host "Saturday Night Live" this weekend, chatter about the show's lack of diversity continues to build.

After cast member Kenan Thompson told TV Guide the late night show has had difficulty hiring black, female comedians because many of those women just aren't ready and the talent pool is limited, there has been much said about "SNL's" lack of racial and gender diversity.

New York Times writer Jason Zinoman recently wrote that the show may want to focus more on inclusion than taking the time to find a seasoned, black female comedian who is "ready" for prime time. Thompson's refusal to continue to dress in drag to portray famous, black female characters leaves a void, Zinoman said, though there will be some relief for that this weekend, he noted.

"When Kerry Washington hosts this week, the show will have someone who can credibly play Beyoncé for the first time this season," he wrote. "There hasn’t been a cast member to portray Michelle Obama for her husband’s entire presidency."

The show lost its last African-American female cast member in 2007 when actress Maya Rudolph left after seven seasons. Jerry Minor, a black comic who was part of the cast for the 2000- 2001 season, told Salon he thought the show would have gotten more diverse in the 13 years since he was on the show.

Since "SNL" debuted in 1975, there have been 15 black cast members, 4 of them women. Minor, who remembers his time on the show fondly, said he believes the cast diversity issue is a result of "executives not paying attention"

“When you don’t have enough people of color with their views, people get in a vacuum, and they don’t even think about it,” Minor said. “I had to make a concerted effort, and still have to make a concerted effort in my writing and ideas I come up with to include women."

soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. JC

    It was hilarious and was the first time I have seen a bit that honored the irreverence of the first season and cast in I don't know how long......felt like I was watching Akroyd, Chase and Jane Curtain (in black face)

    And the "up yours" message from Lorne Michaels to an over sensitive, ignorant and silly populace and people who make something out of nothing was very Smothers Brothers.

    We really need to get over ourselves!

    November 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Agrav8td

    I don't think I know of any truly funny women comedians – black, white, chinese, etc. I think the last truly funny woman comedian I heard was Rosie O'Donnell, back when she was just a comedian. She's not black, but she's gay – does that count?

    November 4, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      Love the comment. Why can't they just be talented? Why do they have to be black funny or gay funny or female funny? Just silly, silly, silly

      November 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. CR

    SNL has ceased to be the heavy hitter show that it once was. Regardless should it be hounded or sanctioned because it doesn't feature the black 13.1 percent proportion of blacks in the US on it's show? It is unfortunate also that many black comics made their reputations by ridiculing other comics (Wanda Sykes, Woopie, etc.) albeit other races don't 'hose' blacks. Maybe SNL just can't find a black comic that doesn't do that. In my city we have shows like "Black News" and "Basic Black"... but no "White or Asian News" or "Basic Asian" or "White News". Lately, I have noticed that the CNN agenda has clearly pivoted to including black presenters, interviewers and guests about about 60% of the time (often much more when I watch). This is no coincidence. So, just take some of the funny ones from CNN and send them the SNL; issue settled!

    November 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Angie

    I am deeply disappointed in the skit content on SNL with Kerry Washington. Every skit does not have to be a black stereotype theme just because she is black(well most of the skits). If this is how the skit will go once a black woman is permanently cast, then I would prefer that SNL remain the same minus a female comedian.

    November 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. darryl

    Lack of diversity is an understandable argument, but it shouldn't be defined as a lack of black women. There's no shortage of diverse talented comedians out there as is shown by some of the most popular stand up comedians currently performing. Shows like snl, many films in Hollywood, and other forms of predominantly white America will eventually change on it's own as viewers or consumers begin to realize America isn't accurately depicted by all white communities. People will favor more culturally diverse depictions of American life. So all white networks, BET, and other racially divided entertainment will be less appealing and have to respond to changing demands. Fortunately, as racism and many prejudices still exist, they are slowly becoming the minority and like the white nationalists, they'll soon be looking for little pockets of the country that they can call their own to imprison themselves from a changing world. This is applicable to all colors of the culturally challenged segment of our society.

    November 3, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Deshawn

    Preferential treatment is necessary to correct the historical injustices as depicted in Django, Lincoln, and Twelve Years a Slave. America was born in sin and e v i l , enslaving others, and reparations must be made by seizing the earnings of that segment and re distributing it to the oppressed and downtrodden until the economy is stimulated. Now under OBAMA there will be JUSTICE!

    November 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |

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