Quick Rant: Is S.N.L. racist? I’m just asking


Ellen CleghorneI’m not the only one to think this, right? I know others have thought this before. I know others have written about this before, but still, it goes on. From Garrett Morris to Eddie Murphy to Chris Rock to Kenan Thompson, SNL has always tossed in the token African American actor just enough to escape critisism. But its always been obvious to me: Lorne Michaels, you’re kind of a racist, right? I know there’ve been rare seasons where African American actors have overlapped: Tim Meadows and Chris Rock, Eddie Murphy and Ellen Cleghorn, and if we’re stretching it, Maya Rudolf and Kenan Thompson. But overall, African Americans have been highly underappreciated on this 30 year plus show.

What got me going was watching Make Em Laugh, PBS’s extensive 4 part documentary on comedy. Tonight’s was all about satire and In Living Color was give due tribute. And sadly it was the first time blacks took on pop culture in that format on TV. C’mon, African Americans make up 13% of our population. Is it so hard to have not 1 but 2 black actors on a show with a staff of 15? In this day and age with a black president, Lorne Michaels has been caught without an actress to pull off Michelle Obama. What do you want to bet he’s scrambing to hire only the 3rd female black cast member in 34 years as we speak. And I’m betting she just gets Michelle and the occasional Oprah spoof. Sad. Shame, Lorne.


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9 Responses to “Quick Rant: Is S.N.L. racist? I’m just asking”

  1. Kelly Says:

    I had heard a couple of weeks ago that they were trying to get Maya Rudolph to come back to play Michelle. Minnie Ripperton’s high yella daughter to play dark n’lovely Michelle. I guess that goes with Venezuelan/German/Japanese Fred Armisen playing Barack.

    Hire some damn black folk SNL!!! Kel, of Keenan and Kel fame, ain’t doing nothing right now.

  2. Jamie Says:

    I’m not sure. Calling them racist seems a little harsh, but you’re right, it is fishy. Is there a shortage of AA comedians in Improv?

  3. Derek Giromini Says:

    Way to steal my question, Jamie. 🙂

    Yes, let’s take a Freakonomics approach here. I’m not saying SNL is just giving us token performers for the sake of seeming equal, but I have assumed that improv comedy is still largely populated with whites.

    The 13% argument is not worth arguing, except for the fact that SNL has had even fewer Hispanic, South Asian, or East Asian performers in their long run. Now, *that* is significant.

    • m000se Says:

      hey derek, great point. i really enjoy shows like Mad TV or Living Color who are way more diverse. now i’m really mad that they’ve never had an asian actor or for that matter only one openly gay actor.
      I’m pretty pissed now. Lorne Michaels has to go.

  4. Derek Giromini Says:

    Forget Lorne Michaels. SNL has to go.

    The show’s format has outlived itself. What draws more attention are the filmed and edited Digital Shorts. And NBC itself is eroding the show’s significance by stripping the sketches and putting them on Hulu.

    The live performances have worsened over time. While I realize they may be furiously rewriting up to air time, I just expect better blocking than what I’ve seen the last couple of seasons. I mean, at this point, they are just staring at the cue cards. And, why are they furiously rewriting?

    I’m not so much concerned about diversity as quality, because I think if NBC, Lorne Michaels, or Broadway Video gave two craps about quality, the show would just have a diverse cast by nature. It would also likely have a more diverse writing staff, which is more significant. Even if you do have a few tokens in the cast, what’s the point if you can’t write anything that works with them? It’s like all these screenwriters in Hollywood who write such terrible child characters.

  5. Michael Says:

    Hmmm, that’s a tough question, but I loved Eddie Murphy, he was a mega star on the show and he left to become a famous movie star. Chris Rock was hilarious and he left to become a famous movie star. Tim Meadows was hilarious and he left to become a famous TV star, though it didn’t work. Tracey Morgan was hilarious and he left to become a famous TV star playing a famous TV star on a show about a famous sketch comedy series similar to Saturday Night Live.

  6. GiGi Says:

    I agree I am with you on lorne michaels being a racist, I remember when I was a child watching eddie murphy acting very stereo typical in how black people should act, like the “mr robinson episodes” oh and who could forget the “Buckwheat” episodes” that right there alone let you know that show was using old sterotypes from the 30s and 40s on how black actors were protrayed. I agree with the token black actor too, they wont even hire a black woman to play a black woman on TV, they used tracy morgan and keenan to play “whoopi and star jones and sherry” from the view all who are outstanding remarkable brilliant black women! they use white men to play black leaders like “Rev Jesse Jackson” and our beloved president Obama, instead of hiring more then one black person to play in their stupid skits, they rather “put black face on a white actor “isnt that called a menstral show” I have even seen them put darker make up on a light skin black, SNL also makes skits that have alot of stereo type undertones in them, like the one about the “ex con” doing a scared straight type of thing. I actually feel sorry for Keenan because he was a bright and up and comming child actor that could have made more of a career rather then being stuck on a dead end show that is owned and operated by a racist. oh and does anybody remember when Martin Lawrence got banned from the show for life? if so what was it for? and was there any other black actors or any white actors ever banned from the show?

  7. BlitzKrieg Says:

    This is total BS. First of all SNL is probably the most Liberal program on the air, and really, who cares about a person’s race? ITS NOT RELEVANT. eLLEN GLEGHORNE DID NOT GET ALONG WITH THE REST OF THE CAST AND CREW OF SNL AND THAT IS WHY SHE WAS FIRED, NOT BECAUSE SHE IS BLACK. THAT IS SUCH A LAME EXCUSE. SNL has hired many talented minority performances who were good becuse of their talent and not their race. Have we come to a point in America where race and gender is more important than a persons qualificastions? This is total BS and the person who posted it is full of BS as well. I know that in my life I have been denied employment not beause I wasn’t qualified, but because I didn’t fill a racial quota, and that is not fair. Slavery wasn’t fair, but two wrongs do not make a right. SNL isn’t racist by any means, they’ve had wonderful talented performances of all races and genders, Eddie Murphy wouldn’t have had a sucessful career on tv and movies if it wasn’t for SNL who hired him because he was talented and very funny and not because of his race. Everyone should be hired based on their qualifications and the only people who say we should emphazise diversity are the ones who are in comfortable jobs bt they would be the first ones to cry if they lost their jobs to someone who was less qualified and who got hired just because they were a minority and were less qualified.

  8. VisitingThisPlanet Says:

    What disturbs me about SNL is not the number of cast members who are people of color, but rather how they are used in the sketches. Kenan Thompson is a very fine comedic actor, but his skills go well beyond that. Yet SNL usually uses him as a stock black character. Rarely, he gets a chance to be simply an actor, a person playing a role. One time that Kenan played a role that did not rely on his African American identity – a victim of wrong-headed “help” by school friends – his performance was so good and dramatically rich that pathos overwhelmed the joke. Maybe that’s why black actors aren’t given more central, pathos-inspiring roles: the (white) society at large cannot grasp the reality of African Americans as human beings. Sometimes – quite often, really – it feels like SNL is reinforcing racial stereotypes and pigeon-holing their black actors.

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