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There Is No Good Reason for SNL Not to Cast a Black Female Comedian

Saturday Night Live needs a black female cast member. There are exactly zero non-racist excuses for the lack of diversity on network TV in general, but SNL‘s diversity mandate is uniquely pressing because of the show’s explicit goal: to spoof, at large, a pop culture whose mainstream is driven, in part and undeniably, by the work of black women (Oprah, Rihanna, Beyonce, Shonda Rhimes, Kerry Washington, more).

But SNL has only ever had four black female cast members in its almost 40 years on the air (in comparison, they added five white male cast members this year alone); as a result, black women in pop culture are avoided whenever possible, and black women in general are most often represented by the black male cast members in embarrassing, retrograde Big Momma drag.

And, whatever the comedian’s gender, to be black in mainstream comedy still means fighting against a lot of people who think your skin color makes you part of a monolith. So Kenan Thompson’s tossed-off words to TV Guide about black female characters (“I don’t know. We just haven’t done them”) and black female comedians (“They just never find ones that are ready”) feel especially lame and indoctrinated, especially in light of the prolific, excellent work of many such comedians (a reminder of Sasheer Zamata’s endlessly funny “Tie” video). Below, also, is a video written and directed by Zamata and starring Nicole Byer, who she performs with at UCB: this sketch, “Be Blacker,” is a solid, sharp, and cuttingly funny reminder of how deep and wide this problem really goes.


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