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.