Sherri Shepherd complains about the lack of black talent on SNL

Sherri Shepherd
Sherri Shepherd of The View is disappointed at the lack of black cast members on Saturday Night Live. Sherri, who’s not exactly on the Mensa waiting list, mentions something that has long been an issue with critics, but she does it in a surprisingly topical and relevant way. Shepherd points out that there aren’t even enough black people on the show to do an accurate spoof of her show, The View. There is only one current cast member who is black, Kenan Thompson, and he plays Whoopi when they do a View parody. Sherri’s presence is non-existent in send-ups of the daytime talk show. She blames this on Saturday Night Live casting.

Of the 90 or so actors to grace the “SNL” stage since its 1975 premiere, only eight have been African-American. And that’s an issue for “The View” co-host Sherri Shepherd.

In an AOL interview, she points out that there aren’t even enough African-Americans for a proper skit of her ABC daytime show. While Thompson portrays co-host Whoopi Goldberg, Shepherd’s character is simply left out of the sketch.

“Couldn’t they have gotten Maya Rudolph to play me?” Shepherd asked. “She is so awesome! They need more black people in their cast!”

“I agree with her,” Baron Vaughn, a black comic, told the New York Daily News. Diversity “doesn’t seem to be something that interests them.”

“Plenty of black people that I know have been on ‘SNL,’ and they haven’t been utilized to the best of their abilities. As much as I love Fred Armisen, there needs to be someone who can do a better Barack [Obama],” Vaughn added.


I agree that the cast of SNL is lacking in diversity and isn’t able to use their talent well. It often seems like the only use they’ve found for black comedians, both now and in the past, is as impersonating other people of color or as highly stereotypical black characters like Nat X, Ladies Man, and Eddie Murphy’s Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood.

What I can’t totally back up is the insistence that Saturday Night Live find a strictly black cast member to play Barack Obama. Obama has a multi-ethnic background, so demanding another cast member based solely on race makes no sense. Fred Armisen has been the go-to guy for black characters on the show, but he’s Venezuelan, German and Japanese. Armisen plays Prince, Obama, and this last weekend, infamously portrayed New York Governor David Paterson, all black men. He’s also played Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and he’s not Middle Eastern.

The same complaint has been made about the SNL cast’s lack of women. Now that Amy Poehler has left the show, the only full fledged female cast member is Kristin Wiig, the rest of the women on the show are “featured players” and all but one of them were just recently added. Kenan Thompson, currently the only black male cast member, is recruited to play any women of color needed for a sketch.

SNL casting says “Casting is an ongoing process at the show. We are constantly looking for new people. We’ve been auditioning every couple of months or so, and we’ve seen numerous African-American performers and continue to look.”

MAD TV was recently cancelled, and Keeghan Michael Key may be looking for a job. He’d give Armisen a run for his money on Obama, too. Key’s impersonation was spot on, appearance aside.

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38 Responses to “Sherri Shepherd complains about the lack of black talent on SNL”

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  1. Syko says:

    I think as long as we keep differentiating between black performers and white performers, racism is going to be alive and sick. Can’t we forget what color people’s skin is and just enjoy their performances?

  2. elisha says:

    MAD TV was finally canceled?! That show has always been terrible.

    LOVE me some Kenan! His Whoopie is hilarious! Maybe they could hire “Kel” too. 😆

  3. HEB says:

    Even though Fred isn’t black, I still think he does a good job–and there’s no one stepping up with anything better either. Its not as hilarious as their Hillary or Bill Clinton, but we don’t really have enough on Obama to make fun of yet.
    Sherri’s just jealous, if Whoopi weren’t on the show then Keenan would be playing her instead.

  4. bros says:

    keegan michael whatever was a terrible cast memeber on Mad, which is why you can now find him on the animal planet channel hosting the planet’s funniest animals. the black actors SNL has had have largely been terrible, besides tracy morgan, who was hit or miss usually. maybe it is the comedy genre that is dischordinant for black actors on skit shows, with the exception of dave chappelle, but his show was another genre all together. stand up comedy, now thats another story-

  5. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa says:

    I don’t care how many black or female people they have on the show as long as they can make it funny! I know that might sound rude to some people, and I do apologize if I’m offending anyone who’s all about the numbers. Also, to be perfectly honest – Keenan Thompson is not funny. He’s actually torture to watch. He just laughs through everything and spits out his lines. Everything he’s in makes me cringe! If they’re going for diversity, they shouldn’t settle for just anyone. Eddie Murphy, Tracey Morgan, Chris Rock, Tim Meadows – those guys all set the bar and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect new cast members to live up to it. I just wish they would drop Keenan though!! Kristen Wiig is hilarious and if they could find more people like her, then awesome. Again, though, no settling!! They should live up to the Jane Curtains and the Gilda Radners (did I get her name right?), and the Amy Poehlers and the Tina Feys – It’s just stupid to bring it downhill for the sake of diversity alone. And P.S. – Sherri Shephard has the intelligence of a sock puppet. Seriously.

  6. kitty says:

    Ditto on what Syko said.
    Note to SNL
    Work on making the show funny first, before you worry about the actors racial ethnicity.
    and also, Kids in the hall was an incredibly funny show which used almost no female actors and used the men dressed as women to bring the extra funny.
    I think this show should just go quietly into the night, i doubt many would miss it…

  7. bros says:

    also, sherri shepherd needs to shut her mouth anyway. she’s complaining because she gets left out of the view impersonations. no one is missing out. she’s ineffectual and useless compared to whoopi, and ugh, even Star was more interesting than her. she has a problem with yabbering. when did SNL casting decisions become her business?

  8. LeoLo says:

    Sherri needs to understand that she was left out of the Skit for the View because they had already met their quota for stupid in that skit.

    It had nothing to do with race but it had everything to do with the fact that if they wanted people to laugh at HER they only needed to have repeated word for word the usual specialness that comes out of her mouth.

    SNL has been wasting talent of ALL RACE AND SEX for years now. They need to stop recruiting the crap sketch guys from UCB and get out on the stand up circuit like they used to.

    Stop wasting money on horrible musical guests as well and return to the original format where the special guest was a comedian.


    SNL needs to do a lot of research.

  9. Chun Li says:

    Ummm bros…didn’t Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock start out on SNL?

    I think Armisen does a good impression of Obama, and I don;t really think this woman’s opinion is relevant.

  10. yeepers says:

    I am stunned at the assumption that blacks aren’t capable of sketch comedy look at in living color or any other sketch show with minority actors. The problem that sherri addresses is that there seems to be no diversity in theses sketch shows. Instead we get someone put in fake looking make up as a perception of what the person is supposed to be like. In addition like one said, if minority actors are featured often is in stereotypical contexts. Yes these shows should be funny but there should be more diversity in characters that don’t streamline scenes to stereotypical foder and crappy pancake make up. This is a multicultural society why is it that tv doesn’t understand that. Why not celebrate diversity by showing more colors and variety on tv? and talking about race doesn’t necessarily mean that one is perpetuating racism, besides by ignoring it we are only passively condoning it.

  11. Phat girl says:

    Sherri needs to shut up already. The real reason why SNL is not funny anymore is not a lack of black talent but rather a lack of “talent” period.

  12. elisa says:

    I wonder what Phil LaMarr and Debra Wilson (formerly of MAD tv) are doing nowadays? They’d be good, Phil’s UPS guy was hilarious…

    and I really like Bobby Lee too. SNL doesn’t have Asians, they need some!

  13. anastasiabeaverhausen says:

    Fred Armison is amazingly talented and whenever he is “doing” a character, he IS that character and that counts a lot mroe than being the same skin color. I think he does a dead-on Obama impersonation.

  14. Amy says:

    I think there is a lack of black talent on “The View.”

  15. duderino says:

    “of the 90 or so actors to grace the SNL stage since its premiere in 1975, only 8 have been African-American…”.

    That comes out to about 11% of the cast members. Know what the percentage of the population of the US is black? 13%. So, SNL isn’t really far off after all.

    Not that it matters. Get funny actors, regardless of race, sex, or age, and make a funny show. Imposed diversity won’t make it better.

    I’m a musician – should I make sure that my band has one black, one white, one asian, one latino, one gay person, one middle-easterner, one Democrat, and one Republican? That will guarantee us success, for sure!

  16. IMO says:

    He can play a middle-eastern, a blak or whatever- because we have evolved and don’t see people only by their color or their ancestor’s DNA.

    Does a white American needs to be of German descendant to parody a German?

    No, because it DOESN’t matter.

    He is a comedian. As time passes by, there are going to be more people with different kinds of background and it’s ridiculous and problematic to demend that only people with 100% of a specific origin would play that character.

    Actors should be judged by their performance, not by their grandparents’ DNA.

  17. khia213 says:

    Why am I willing to bet that no one here would be this tolerant of the reverse if black actors starting insisting they play Queen Elizabeth or Marilyn Monroe? Hell, even discussing a black Jomes Bond caused a huge ruckus on the web.

    No one is asking for diversity for diversity sake. If it’s an all white show, so be it. But if SNL is determined to keep doing sketches that portray black or Latino charactors, they need to hire black and Latino actors.

  18. Razzell Dazzell says:

    LeoLo, now that was funny! Sherri, please, create a funny show of your own, let SNL do what they do, if they hire more African Americans fine, if they don’t, fine….we want the funny…okay!

  19. NotBlonde says:

    Khia213 is right.

    Sherri Shepard has a point in that SNL has always been a fairly white show. I don’t think they’ve ever had more than two “ethnic” cast members at any one time on the show. The point isn’t to just put random black people on. The humor just isn’t there for black people. Tracy Morgan did a bit where he was Lamont Bond and said that he didn’t want dogs and he couldn’t swim and NO ONE laughed. Meanwhile my mom and I were cracking up. Will Forte even did a bit where he pointed out the two black people in the audience.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that Saturday Night Live is a show for white people, run by white people. And that’s fine. But don’t do sketches where there are black people and you don’t have black people in your cast.

    For the record: I think Fred Armisen is brilliant in his impressions. He does a dead-on Barack Obama, his voice is strangely perfect. I have no problem with Fred Armisen playing any character of any race because he’s so mixed that you can’t really tell what he is anyway. But I also don’t have a problem with Darrell Hammond playing Jesse Jackson in BLACK FACE. I’m surprised no one brought that up. They actually tan him a bit and put a nappy wig on him. But he’s funny when he does it and it works. I dunno…it’s a weird situation.

  20. J-Lin says:

    Khia and Not Blonde said it perfectly.

    I’m so proud this country elected Barack Obama, but now many think racism has disappeared.

    If the show wants to portray a diverse group in America, they should have a diverse cast to do so.

  21. bros says:

    so notblonde, i dont get it. in one breath you say its a white show for white people and if they are going to do sketches that parody black actors or latinos or asians they have to get actors who are all those things? its a freaking comedy show-anybody can play any body. thats the whole point. you dont have to get all matchy matchy with it. then in the next breath you say its funny when darrell hammond plays jesse jackson. according to your earlier logic, he shouldnt even be doing that impression. either the sketch doesnt happen or they have to get kenan thompson to do it. that doesnt make sense either. there’s more to an impression of someone than mimicking their skin color. kenan is not a skilled impressionist, no matter how much his skin matches jesse jackson’s. the point is that hammond is the man for the job, black or white, because he gets the mannerisms, voice, etc.

  22. Spike says:

    The whole racial blindness argument is stumping me. Why shouldn’t SNL have good black and latino cast members? I think the “blacks aren’t good comedians” argument is bogus. I’m with yeepers, elisa, phat, khia and not blonde.

    I think Keenan has been hanging on by a thread by a long time. He, Horatio Sanz, and Finesse Mitchell were fired in 2006.

    It has been the same with women and their casting. Wasn’t Tina Fey the first female head writer in their history? After 25+ years.

    SNL is also supposedly going through a creative renaissance. For pete’s sake, they’re based in NYC. There’s really no excuse for them not scouting the scene and coming up with some fresh talent. They need to broaden their horizons.

  23. bros says:

    no one said blacks arent good comedians. i said the SNL genre might not be the best venue.

  24. Heidi says:

    That is one ugly ass pic of Sherri. I cant stand that womans ignorance!

  25. mel says:

    SNL was at its best back in the late 70s when Richard Pryor was on the show. I will have to say that it lacks talent and I really dont have a favorite character that I enjoy watching anymore.

  26. Hmm says:

    I think the argument that black comic actors are just not good at sketch comedy is laughable considering the most famous alum from SNL is Eddie Murphy. Sherri may not be a member of MENSA

  27. Hmm says:

    continued..but she is making a valid point. Don’t tell me that SNl cannot find one funny black woman instead of having the black male characters dress up as black women. It’s 2008 and SNL should reflect the diversity that is America, and you don’t have to substitute quality for diversity. But then again this is a show that didn’t know how to use Chris Rock so what can you expect.

  28. Judy says:

    I wonder just how many black people are lined up looking for jobs with SNL? DOes SHE know?? Hell no she dosn’t she is not the brightest bulb in the lamp for sure and every time she opens her mouth she gets dimmer.

  29. Clancy says:

    If Fred’s dad wasn’t black, then his families milkman damn sure was.

    Sorry, the man is blacker than Colon Powell!

  30. D says:

    Please don’t believe the hype. There is a very good reason that the people commenting on the lack of funnny minorities, think that fred is funny and theres no need for any diversity, they are all lonely, home on a Saturday night and bitter. Ofcourse there needs to be more blacks, latinos and chinese, because this is America, and funny comes in all shades, too bad Lorne has a plain jane audience, and a plain jane cast. With Tina Fey jumping the ricktey rack ship for a new shiney one, the writing for this show will be even worse. Lets here it for Mcgrubber, the falconer and the dumb downer girl….waa waa!!

  31. Shay says:

    lol yea that’s the right idea. Let’s ignore the fact that they don’t often hire black people and when they do they don’t use them in many skits.

    I’m surprised SNL is even still on. I’m mad that MADtv was canceled I watched that instead.

  32. Ron says:

    There is a reason SNL does not have Sherri in it’s skits and it’s not the lack of black cast members.

    How did that woman end up on national television anyway. Babs is getting the heimers……

    Cast funny, regardless of race

  33. Debby says:

    I really think that people that has made it in the business should really stop talking about race and not enough of!!! I am sure that they know people with some talent and not sharing info on how to get on t.v. or in the movies or be a co host on a the view!! Well from all that i read about when the view was picking and choosing for someone to replace i heard that Sheri was kicking and screaming because Whoopie had gotten the part… wow is that some kind of way to get your way in the t.v. so, i feel that if people start kicking and screaming to get on t.v. maybe that will work(she did it).
    SNL is never gonna have a lot of african americans, because people has gotten smarter from the time that Eddie Murphy was made a D*** FOOL playing STYME and the ingorant black, that really made me and a lot of people mad, but it was SNL’S funny!!!!Who want to be on that show anyway, they really Make fun of people with color, THAT IS THERE FUNNY remember that!!Oh yes please Sheri, i don’t need to hear from Barbara, saying anything about you not kicking and screaming, to be on the show(i don’t believe her after what she did to Star Jones). One thing i do know is that you sure don’t, need talent to be on that show any more because, Everyone talks at one time and no manners at all, the horney divorce jokes and the fast eating when there is food you should really stop eating like that. (WELL I GUESS THAT IS FUNNY to them like the skit from SNL with Eddie Murphy) Think about it for a moment!

  34. Rocco says:

    Everytime Sherri speaks is a waste of ABC’s budget and the time of thousands of daily viewers. In my opinion, Sherri has way too much of an emotional personality to express what she means on television. Each day I watch, I am almost shocked how the panel can still not grasp the fact that when they all speak at once, I CAN NOT UNDERSTAND. I do have to say thank you to Whoppi and Barbara who seem to realize this.

  35. Hoboken1 says:

    Sheri is funny but no matter WHAT the topic being discussed on The View, she brings race into it. They’re all one trick ponies on that show. All Elizabeth (that yapping chuihuahua) talks about is kids, being pregnant and being conservative. Joy laughs at her own jokes which is the sign of a bad comic. Who even knows what Barbara is saying with her multiple speech impediments. On today’s show she couldn’t pronounce Mary Tyler Moore. Hilarious. Whoopi is good but I hate when she comes into a segment she’s not part of and pulls some stupid sight gag like walking off with a prop. Sheri just needs to be better informed about current events and history in general. I thought she was great on Everybody Loves Raymond. Sorry to get off topic.

  36. I love sherri sherpherd.

    She announced on the view today that malcolm jamal warner is going to play her husband in her new show.

  37. Lillian says:

    She’s right. There aren’t any black female characters, and that’s pathetic. There are plenty of black female comics to select from, yet they’d rather have a black man play a black woman. To add insult to injury, they hired a new black male, so now they have TWO black males, but still NO black female.

    And as far as the Obama character, President Obama may be biracial, but he’s socially black. There are biracial BLACK MEN who could play him well like that YouTube guy.

    But I guess that Maya Rudolf, the biracial daughter of the late great Minnie Ripperton is as black as we’ll get in the female category.

    I can’t even think of any black female hosts except Gabby, who was awful, and Janet who is…Janet. But there are lesser known white hosts, and as well should be more black actresses.

    It’s a shame because I love SNL. I never liked Mad TV. I wish In Living Color would return.

  38. Lillian says:

    People like “Syko” MUST be a beneficiary of racism. Only a beneficiary would state that the observation of racism keeps racism alive. That is some foolishness worthy of the Sarah Palin award.