Kerry Washington signs on to host ‘SNL’ amid the show’s huge diversity controversies


Kerry Washington just signed on to host the November 2 episode of Saturday Night Live. Incidentally, November 2-3 is Daylight Savings, so remember to “fall back” y’all. Yay! An extra hour of sleep. Daylight Savings is the best holiday ever. Where was I? Yes, Kerry will host that weekend, which is noteworthy for several reasons. First of all, she’s only the ninth African-American woman to ever host in SNL’s history. And interestingly enough, this announcement came on the heels of a growing storm of controversy regarding SNL’s huge diversity problem.

It seems to have started when Kenan Thompson gave an interview to TV Guide, and he was asked about the lack of African-American comediennes in the cast for the past SIX seasons. Kenan seemed to blame the lack of black women on SNL on what he perceives as the lack of qualified comediennes. Rough:

When Saturday Night Live announced this season’s six new cast members, many were shocked to see that the sketch comedy show would be devoid of a black female cast member for the sixth year in a row.

In a world where we have a black First Lady and pop culture is defined by Scandal, Rihanna, Oprah, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce, this is beyond absurd. It’s downright embarrassing. And after years of portraying seemingly every black female celebrity from Mo’Nique, Maya Angelou and Jennifer Hudson, Kenan Thompson has finally thrown in the cross-dressing towel.

When asked what the show would do now when confronted with potential black female characters or celebrity spoofs, Thompson told, “I don’t know. We just haven’t done them. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe [Jay Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn’t really want to do it.”

Instead of blaming showrunner Lorne Michaels or the series, which currently only employs three actors of color out of 16 cast members (Thompson, Pharaoh and the Iranian Nasim Pedrad), Thompson blames the lack of quality black female comedians. “It’s just a tough part of the business,” Thompson says. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”

While Thompson’s refusal to help SNL continue to ignore its own diversity issues is commendable, blaming the problem on an absence of talented black females only perpetuates the problem. There are countless brilliant black comediennes working right now, many of whom would likely be thrilled to take part in such an iconic series (even if the quality has slipped over the decades).

In the 38 years SNL has been on the air, the series has only had four black female cast members: Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Maya Rudolph (2000-2007). Of the four, only three were repertory players (Hudson was only a featured player before being fired midseason). This means, there were large gaps in SNL’s history when there were no black women on the show at all.

Pharoah has recently spoken out about the series’ diversity problem, telling theGrio, “They need to pay attention” and add a black woman to the cast. Pharoah even suggested his pick, Darmirra Brunson, who’s currently on Tyler Perry’s Love They Neighbor. “Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.”

As to how the six new (all white) cast members are faring so far this season, Thompson says they’re doing just fine. “They’re all contributing in different ways I think. They’ve been doing great job so far. 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,” Thompson says.

[From TV Guide]

God, that’s so rough. As I was reading various articles about this issue, I came across this interesting piece of news about the hosts too – the only women of color asked to host the show in the past three years are “Gabourey Sidibe (April 2010) and Maya Rudolph (February 2012), Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara. And yet during this period, Miley Cyrus has hosted twice, as have January Jones, Taylor Lautner and Eli Manning.” Where are the Aisha Tylers? The Octavia Spencers? The Wanda Sykes? The Rosario Dawsons? The Mo’Niques? The Jennifer Hudsons? Hell, I would even enjoy seeing Whoopi Goldberg guest-host. Maybe Viola Davis could add some glamour and some realness too. But seriously though, how have they not asked Aisha Tyler to host?



Photos courtesy of WENN.

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46 Responses to “Kerry Washington signs on to host ‘SNL’ amid the show’s huge diversity controversies”

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  1. Tiffany27 says:

    Kenan Thompson isn’t funny so where does he get off saying black comediennes (sp?) aren’t ready?

    • inthekitchen says:

      Yeah, I was going to chime in and say they have had TONS of white cast members – men and women – who are not funny in the slightest…so…you know, what’s the diff?

    • Nanz says:

      Kenan Thompson is the worst. It’s embarrassing how bad he is. So, yeah. No room to talk.

    • lisa says:

      the overall show is even less funny than kenan, i cant really feel badly for someone for not being associated with that suck fest. it’s high profile i guess, but lots of people on it go on to nothing.

  2. Patricia says:

    I was enraged when I saw the all white new cast. How boring and silly if this show is trying to portray the US through comedy. I’m glad others are taking note that there is a severe lack of diversity on this show.

    • HH says:

      There is a lack of diversity in network television, period. Yes, you have Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy (all thanks to Shonda Rimes). The diversity issue, however, is a reflection of those with true power in Hollywood. A vast array of white, middle-aged men. Let’s be honest, when they approve shows, scripts, plots, actors, actresses, etc. they give approval on what they relate to most. If actors and actresses were put into roles strictly for the sake of diversity, I think there would be inauthentic and/or inaccurate plot lines. Think about it in the opposite instance. Tyler Perry. Yes, he has white characters in his scripts, but typically they are minor roles with less character development. He can’t write life through the lens of a white male/female. I want to see diversity throughout the ranks of Hollywood. Different races, genders, and sexuality producing, writing, directing, etc. That would make for a far richer entertainment experience from on the couch to the box office. Whew! Long-winded for an SNL post.

  3. gilly says:

    Aisha Tyler would be the only reason I’d turn the TV on to watch SNL again. At this point, its just stale, but AT would fix it.

  4. bns says:

    Now they’re just going to add a token black woman, though.

    The majority of the cast will still be white and they’ll add a black person or an asian person to keep the media off their backs. Pathetic.

  5. blue marie says:

    Good for her, I will probably tune in to watch just for her.

    And I’m not making excuses because the cast should be diverse, but let’s face it SNL hasn’t been good for years. I honestly think they need to pack it up and go home. But then again I grew up in the days of In Living Color, which was way funnier.

    • LadyMTL says:

      I loved that show, I still crack up whenever one of my friends blurts out “Homey don’t play that!”

      As for SNL, it hasn’t been consistently funny for a long time. They’ve never been particularly diverse either, so I long ago gave up on watching on a regular basis.

    • MonicaQ says:

      In Living Color and Mad TV were all better.

      • Aras says:

        This times infinity.

        Kenan should be lucky that SNL is so bad, that way his “talent” isn’t a stand out. Were he of age during the Mad TV or In Living Color eras, he wouldn’t have ever made the cut because he simply is not funny.

      • TheOneandOnlyOnly says:

        While I generally agree, you’re forgetting the early mid 90s with Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, then Will Farrell,Cheri Oteri, etc. some pretty funny stuff.
        What’s interesting is that those on the right accuse SNL of always ripping Repubs, etc., and going soft on Pres. Obama, but when it comes to putting shall we see diversity into practice, SNL behaves pretty much as expected – the imputed “liberalism” is affectation when it is a question of ratings, money, and the bottom line.
        Yes,when I saw the new cast, my first thoughts were “they are all white, really, in New York city.”

  6. Lucy2 says:

    It amazes me they never asked Octavia to host, she was very high profile during her Oscar season. And Aisha too! She’d be great.
    I understand they can’t put someone out there who isn’t “ready” but I think they need to look a little harder.

  7. Spooks says:

    Jennifer Lopez is a woman of colour? I didn’t know that.

    I agree that the cast should e more diverse, but I do like the current cast.

    • pretty says:

      and Sofia Vergara is ‘woamn of color’..? how…? that’s like saying gisele bundchen is woman of color.. lol

      • YoungHeartOldSoulNewView says:

        SMH exactly! All Hispanics or Latina/os aren’t “of color.” There are white Hispanics. Both J.Lo and Sofia fall in that category. Gisele is Brazillian but white. Charlize Theron is African but white. C’mon now.

    • Aras says:

      You’re making too much sense! 😉

      Apparently, as soon as a white Latino or Hispanic person makes the jump into U.S. markets, they are “of color.” Sofia Vergara is white in Venezuela. Jennifer Lopez is white in Puerto Rico. Gina Torres is Afro-Cuban. Zoe Saldana is Afro-Puerto Rican/Dominican.

    • cloud&feather says:

      “of color” is usually used in the United States to describe any person who is not white. So yes, both Lopez and Vergara are women of color according to the usage of the term.

      Even if it doesn’t make sense. Which…it doesn’t.

      • Bubbles says:

        But they are white, aren’t they? Is Penelope Cruz also a woman of colour?

      • cloud&feather says:

        @Bubbles: If you’re the type that uses that term, then no, Penelope Cruz wouldn’t be “white” to you, most likely.

        Usually when some people say someone “looks white” they make a clear distinction between who is actually white and who just looks like they might be.

        “Of color” doesn’t mean you have dark skin. Your skin can be any color.

        It just means you’re not white (Caucasian).

        From the wiki: “People of Color typically refer to people of African, Asian, Hispanic and/or Latino, Pacific Islander and Native American heritage. It may also be used to refer to mixed-race people.”

      • pretty says:

        wow penelope cruz is not white? let’s just dump all those dark haired, tanned skin south europeans to ‘people of color’ as well. hah ah it’s just funny..

      • cloud&feather says:

        @Pretty: Well, that’s what the term is used for. I didn’t make it up and I don’t even use it. I’d rather just be called a woman, without an attachment to it. eta: I know nothing about Penelope Cruz, so I looked it up after reading “southern european” and she would be considered white, unless you run into the same idiots I’ve talked to who claim Spaniards and Italians are not white.

        But yeah…smh. Reminds me of the one drop “rule.”

        I guess some people just like their neat little categories.

      • INeedANap says:


        Hispanic/Latino is an ethnicity, not a race. It’s why you have to designate a race/mix of races in the US Census when you say you are Hispanic/Latino.

    • Reese says:

      Are you kidding me?
      Wait, so now Sofia and Jennifer are white because you deem them not dark enough to be women of color? I am Mexican and much darker then they are, but saying they aren’t WOC because they are not as dark as me makes no sense. To be native Hispanic or Native American usually comes with dark skin. Mine is incredibly dark, my sister who shares the same blood as me is much lighter. I would never not call her a woman of color just because some people would look at her and say “well, she is too light to be a REAL WOC so we will just call you a white Mexican, even if you have no euro blood in you” it’s happened before and I find it offensive. Just like I feel right now with people trying to take away part of Sofia’s/Jennifer’s identity. They are not white, they are not super dark but they sure as hell are not white women.
      When POC enter Hollywood many times they fall prey to whitewashing, being made to wear lighter make up or have lighter hair etc. JLo was MUCH darker young in her career. But as time went on the more time she spent in Hollywood the lighter she became. I say the same thing happened to Beyoncé too.
      They are WOC. Penelope is European and while she is darker skinned than most white actresses, if you want to argue she isn’t WOC I won’t argue back. I will have to stand up for Sofia and Jennifer however. JMO..

      • Spooks says:

        I just asked because, as someone who has never been to the US and is pretty young, so not familiar with the term, I thought the term women of colour is, well, about colour.

      • Reese says:

        It’s ok Spooks, my comment wasn’t exactly meant for you. Some of the posts around here have been bugging me so I spoke up.

      • Aras says:

        It seems that you may be reacting in part to what I wrote:

        “Apparently, as soon as a white Latino or Hispanic person makes the jump into U.S. markets, they are “of color.” Sofia Vergara is white in Venezuela. Jennifer Lopez is white in Puerto Rico. Gina Torres is Afro-Cuban. Zoe Saldana is Afro-Puerto Rican/Dominican.”

        And it looks like you’re missing the biggest part of that statement–“the U.S. market.” If this were Colombia, Sofia Vergara would not be called a woman of color. She’d be a white woman in Colombia based on the classifications there.

        I mean, let’s really look at it. The many classifications that would fall under “Latino”/”Hispanic” in the U.S. would be be split into “white,” “mestizo,” “indigenous,” or “Afro-[insert nationality here].” So, no, it’s not whitewashing. It’s speaking to the ways in which classifications differ in the U.S. versus in South America or Central America or Spain.

        I watched a lot of novelas when I was in college, and it was very clear how the classifications worked.

  8. ashley says:

    I’ll be tuning in for kerry,love that lady. Eminem will be the musical guest,so awesome.I just watch snl when they have guest that i like,yeah they need a black comedian on their having keenan dressing in drag all those years is pathetic.

  9. Hautie says:

    Isn’t SNL known for sh*t pay? Like really low pay.

    Even when you turn into one of their “stars”… the pay still sucks.

    Why would a successful black female comedienne, take a huge pay cut to be a cast member?

    I could see if they came in and signed up for a handful of shows. But a girl needs to eat. And buy shoes! And successful comedienne’s make decent money on the road. Without all the back stabbing that goes on behind the scenes at SNL.

  10. Marianne says:

    I dont think they’ve asked Aisha Tyler to host cause she’s not really that famous. Besides past SNLers, they tend to pick people that are either super famous or are big at the moment.

  11. Brittney says:

    When it comes to the lack of black female HOSTS (separate issue from cast members), I think the blame partially lies with the industry itself. SNL hosts are almost always there to promote a specific, high-profile project… Yes, women like Octavia have definitely starred in high-profile films and still been overlooked, but I think a large part of the problem is that Hollywood itself doesn’t give starring roles to enough women of color.

    Actors of color have really risen in the ranks over the past decade, but they still don’t get the screen time that their white counterparts do, and when it comes to women in particular, it’s just embarrassing. We need more huge roles for them, and this controversy stems in part from that sad fact.

  12. Lee says:

    Aisha Tyler – yes, yes, yes!

    Also, I feel like this shouldn’t be limited solely to the lack of black women comediennes. What about Asians, Hispanics / Latinas, Indian Americans, Middle Eastern performers, etc? Racial diversity on television (in this case SNL) is a huge problem overall.

    • Janet says:

      Exactly my sentiment! What about Chinese people or Indians? There are 2 billion of both ethnicities in the world and none are talented enough to be on SNL…seriously?

    • Reese says:

      Agreed. I agree with Keenan wholeheartedly that more Black Americans should be on SNL, but I do have a problem that when people want more diversity on a show/film their first instinct is “ok we we will simply add more black people”, and problem solved? Diversity doesn’t mean just Black and White. There are so, so many other cultures the are just as under appreciated in Hollywood as the African American community, some even more so. I’d like to see someone ask for more Aisian, Hispanic, middle eastern and dare I even request Native Americans? So far I have really yet to see that. All I see are blacks being requested for more diversity, and while they certainly should be and I’m happy they are, they are far from the only culture we should be looking for or supporting to become more prominent in Hollywood.

  13. nicegirl says:

    AISHA TYLER ftw! what the heck is going on, SNL? fix it!!!

  14. GirlyGirl says:

    “Kenan seemed to blame the lack of black women on SNL on what he perceives as the lack of qualified comediennes.”

    Whaa??!? SNL is about as funny as cholera

    As long as the ‘comedienne” can (a) read a teleprompter, (b) doesn’t roll her eyes at each lame script & (c) keep telling Lorne Michaels “it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever done” she’ll do fine.

  15. dee kay says:

    Has Lucy Lieu ever hosted? She is famous for film and TV work and does comedy, action and drama. If she has not yet hosted she is past due.

  16. Vera says:

    So sick of people putting down black women. Knock it out of the park, Kerry!

  17. themummy says:

    This really bothers me, in general. I’m a white girl and I am disturbed at the very obvious and seemingly overt exclusion of women of color in TV–not just SNL, but in general. I would LOVE to see Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Wanda Sykes, Frieda Pinto, or hell, even Eva Mendes (she annoys me to no end on a personal level, but that is neither here nor there) host SNL, just to name a few. We need to see Asian women, Latina women, Indian women, etc.

    It seems strange to me how white-centric we still are in this country despite the fact that we white people are no longer the majority (not that it was justified when we were the majority!!!!!). It’s just gross.