SNL’s Black Out Has Kenan Thompson Spazzing Out

Kenan Thompson, one of the rare black comedians to grace the Saturday Night Live (SNL) set, says his days of dressing in drag on the show are over. However, that doesn’t mean black women will be playing their own roles on SNL in the future. According to Thompson, sisters can’t bring the comic heat. “It’s just a tough part of the business,” he said, in an interview with TVGuide.com. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”

For its recently launched 39th season, SNL brought in six new featured players – five white men and one white woman. The best reaction to this came from tvline.com, saying, “The underwhelming Tim Robinson was allowed to stick around for Season 38, so it’s not like Lorne Michaels & Co. couldn’t afford to take a gamble and test out an up-and-coming black female (or two) in the interests of broadening their comedic horizons.”

There have only been four black women to get weekly SNL shine in the show’s 38-year existence. Not one has been seen since Maya Rudolph’s departure in 2007.

Danitra Vance was the first African American woman to become an SNL regular in its eleventh season (1985). She’s not to be confused with Yvonne Hudson from season six, who first appeared as a recurring extra for season four (1978-1979), season five (1979-1980), and was eventually hired full-time in 1981. Vance was the only SNL cast member to have a learning disability. A dyslexic, Vance, according to Al Franken's book, Live from New York: The Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, was the first and only lesbian cast member hired. She is best remembered for the sketch "That Black Girl," (a spoof of the 1960s sitcom That Girl). And for her character Cabrini Green Harlem Watts Jackson, a teenage mother who kicked knowledge to the hood on the do's and don'ts of being pregnant.



Ellen Cleghorne, SNL's third black female cast member from 1991—1995, was the first to stay with the show for more than one season.

Despite a few spots of diversity, SNL has been a rough place for sisters. Once they get there, it’s even tougher to stick around. Before her passing in 1994, Vance reflected on her one-year stint on SNL with frustration over being forced to play the same stereotypical roles waitresses, nurses, secretaries, unwed, welfare-dependent mothers, slaves and Aunt Jemima-style maids. She left the show at the end of 1986.

Recently, SNL announced that Kerry Washington will make her debut as host on Nov. 2, a move greeted with praise from Scandal fans. But the news has popped off a firestorm of opinions and a closer look at the exclusive hiring practices of the iconic show.

Thompson did his best “Uncle Tom” impersonation by defending the obviously discrimatory actions by SNL, probably because their hiring practices aren’t much different from any job in America. African-Americans are typically rarely seen in large numbers among elite careers, film roles and positions of power. And equally qualified African-American women in particular, have always been snubbed on jobs in favor of their male counterparts.

Racism, coupled with sexism, is part of the American way. Voting rights is one glaring historic example. Though certain states granted women voting rights, it wasn’t until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 that all women who were U.S. citizens were awarded the right to participate in national elections. Today, look no further than the billion-dollar business of college athletics for more echoes of inequality. In Dr. Richard Lapchick’s annual college sport race and gender report card, released in 2011 by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), he discovered that White men hold 90 of the 120 president positions (75 percent) and 101 of the 120 athletic director positions (84.2 percent) at FBS schools. And the corporate world is no different than an episode of Mad Men. Women are striking gold in the ranks of America’s biggest companies, but they’re still having trouble getting the platinum jobs. According to Bloomberg, women only make up 4 percent of CEOs at large companies — a figure that’s barely moved in the past five years. On top of that, 10 percent of S&P 500 companies don’t even have women on their boards, according to data from non-profit Catalyst.

Saturday Night Live's testosterone, caucasion-heavy lineup is a reflection of the times, but don't think Thompson's blind views mirror the opinions of others on the show. Fellow African-American cast member, Jay Pharoah, didn’t throw smoke screens when criticizing the show's continuous failure in hiring a female black cast member. “They need to pay attention,” he said in an interview with The Grio, before boldly throwing comedian Darmirra Brunson’s name into the mix. “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.”

But too often, odds beaters like Pharoah's co-worker, Thompson, who has been fortunate enough to build an impressive career hurdling racial prejudice in comedy, don’t do anything to put the onus on the employers. Perhaps they fear retribution or being “blackballed.”

“It’s one of those things that’s hard,” Pharoah continued, in a mild attempt to defend Thompson. “Some people choke up. Some people burn their bridges by saying things they shouldn’t say either. You just have to be very political about your delivery, what you say, and your performance. You’ve got to be on point. Everybody has to like you and want you to win. If they don’t like you, it’s a wrap.”

But Thompson, in explaining the lack of dope African American women comedians by saying, "They just never find ones that are ready,” sounds like a 70s cat in black face, double-spying for “The Man.” SNL employs only three actors of color out of 16 cast members (Thompson, Pharaoh and the Iranian Nasim Pedrad). So Keenan's words can be likened to a NFL owner rationalizing the absurdly low numbers of African American NFL coaches. It’s that type of inaccurate portrayal that can discourage young sisters listening and watching from becoming comedians. Wanting us to believe that the reason why we don’t see impersonations of Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce on NBC’s longest-running sketch comedy series is because black women aren’t qualified. It's such an oldschool and biased viewpoint that Thompson’s comments have only added gasoline to the flame.

Twitter was raging shortly after his words were posted. Media pundits, “black” publications, and even black comedian/actress Aisha Tyler, co-host of The Talk and the new host of Whose Line is it Anyway?, jumped on Thompson keeping her tweet brief, saying, “yeah he’s dumb.”

Either Thompson really believes his crap, or he is suffering from another well-known black problem: African Americans who become territorial and selfish when they ascend to positions primarily awarded to white people.

The thought brings up comedic memories of 2001's Not Another Teen Movie, where a black actor played by Deon Richmond (Rudy Huxtable’s friend “Bud” on the Cosby Show) is the only African American at an all white college party. When he sees another black guy pouring himself a beer, Richmond's character runs up to him and says, “What are you doing here?” The guy replies, “What do you mean?” Richmond responds, “Well. I’m supposed to be the only black guy at this party.” The dude looks at him with total understanding, hands Richmond his beer and says, “my bad…peace out brother,” and exits the party. Richmond responds, “It’s ok. Honest mistake.”

Funny, but once the drunken effects are laughed off; it becomes a sobering and sad reflection of how African Americans have a tendency to interact. Many ignore the fact that other qualified blacks are being overlooked and shut out of the same opportunities that they now have the power to elevate fellow brothers and sisters to.

Hopefully Thompson gives further clarification as to what he was getting at. It’s just surprising that he would go down this old dusty, dirt road littered with stories of discrimination, hate and ignorance. When prominent blacks like him respond to obvious discrimination with such conformity and acceptance, it makes it easy for the people that hold hiring clout to deprive great comedians a chance to share their talents. Yes, SNL has the right to hire anybody it wants. They just need to wake up and keep it real with themselves and the rest of us, telling the truth about why they won’t hire black comedians so the problem can be rectified. Does Lorne Michaels even know he has a problem?

Because in 2013 nobody is buying the excuse that “blacks can’t” anymore. And unless people put pressure on these companies to hire fairly, and give a true representation of America’s deep ethnic diversity, the cats calling the shots won’t be moved to steer away from the same old program. And they'll use the same, age old excuses to justify disproportionate hiring practices of blacks, particularly in the mega-money, high-profile fields of sports and entertainment.

Some execs will argue that “America” doesn’t buy black. But when it comes to comedy, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and most recently Tracy Morgan have proved this theory to be hogwash.

In 1980, when Murphy first blew up, he had a deal with Paramount and his own TV production company, Eddie Murphy TV Enterprises Ltd. The black comic industry was excited about the possibilities of having a rare African American voice with creative autonomy.

During a 1987 press conference for the classic movie Beverly Hills Cop II, a 26-year-old Murphy announced the existence of the "black pack," a clique of successful black comedians made up of Murphy, Robert Townsend, Arsenio Hall, Paul Mooney and Keenen Ivory Wayans. All of these guys supported each other’s projects and were making waves.

Despite the fact that Murphy also appointed his life-long buddies, Mark Corry and Clint Smith, VPs of his company, some still accused him of not doing enough to help bring other blacks into similar positions of power. Murphy then caught flack when he hired Mark McClafferty, an influential white television executive, to be company President.

According to a 1988 LA Times article, one black producer argued: "Murphy has the power to change this industry, but to do so he must develop institutions and utilize qualified and professional black talent. It's great that he's opened doors for his friends, but he hasn't really put them in the power positions. He's got to do more than just hire (white) people who can get their calls taken by the powers that be."

Being a black in a position of power can be a double-edged sword. When you don’t do anything, you get blasted and when you do, people say you should of done more. Still, racial inequality should never be accepted. And if powerful and privileged people like Thompson continue to bend over for “the system” and diss other brothers and sisters in the process, then the problem will continue.

But maybe he really does think black women just aren’t funny. Maybe he wants to keep the door open to performing in cross-dressing skits. Either way, in understanding his God-given opportunity to be one of the “lucky” or “chosen” ones, Thompson missed a rare opportunity to move beyond his non-threatening demeanor as an overweight, black comedian, who nobody really takes seriously. He could have shed some light on a foul situation that most people accept and ignore. He could have explained how black America needs heroes, comedians and people in all walks of life for young folks to identify with. It’s the moment of truth that my dad always told me about: When an African American has the chance to improve the life and opportunity of his brethren, he must grasp it and once he does, he will gain the support of other blacks who have been waiting for a hero to bring attention to continued race discrimination, which turns into frustration and financial hardships.

We have proven under insurmountable odds that we are a race overflowing with intelligence, resilience and talent. Eventually, someone will step up and force SNL to address three decades of discrimination and suppression of black genius. Even if Kenan Thompson wants to keep his hamburger to himself.



Related Articles


  1. Hello! This really is my 1st visit to your site! We all are a team associated with volunteers and starting a brand new initiative in a neighborhood inside the same niche. The blog provided us beneficial information to be effective on. A person have done a highly skilled task.

  2. It’s a shame an individual don’t have a give money button! I’d certainly contribute for this brilliant blog! We suppose at the moment I’ll pay for book-marking and including your RSS feed to be able to a Google account. I actually count on fresh updates in addition to will speak about this website with my Facebook party. Chat soon!

  3. Hey there! I am aware this particular is kind of off-topic, but I’d figured I would ask. Would you end up being interested in exchanging hyperlinks or maybe guest writing a blog post or perhaps vice-versa? My blog will go over a lot associated with the same topics while yours, and am believe many of us could greatly gain from every other. If you take place to be interested, please shoot me an mail. I look forward in order to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the method!

  4. Do a person have a spam concern on this website; I actually also am a tumblr, and I planned to understand your situation; many involving us allow us some good methods, and are looking to be able to trade methods with some others, why not shoot us an e-mail if curious.

  5. I am planning to start the blog soon, but I am just a bit lost on every thing. Would you suggest starting up with a free system like WordPress or get for a paid alternative? There are so a lot of choices around that I am just completely confused. Any recommendations? Thanks a lot.

  6. I have to be able to voice my passion regarding your kindness giving assistance to those people that will really should have guidance on this kind of important matter.

  7. I seriously love typically the theme/design of your web site. Do you ever work into any browser match ups problems? A small quantity of my blog target audience have complained about the site no longer operating correctly in Explorer yet looks great in Apple safari. Do you have any kind of ideas to help repair this problem?

  8. It is simply incredibly generous along to provide openly precisely what exactly a lot of people would’ve advertised for an ebook in order to end up making several cash because of their end, mainly given that you might have tried out it in the function you wanted.

  9. My personal developer is trying to be able to convince me to maneuver to. net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea because regarding the expenses. But he is trying no less. We have been using Movable-type in several websites for concerning annually and am stressed about switching to an additional platform. I use heard excellent things about blogengine. web. Is there an approach I can transfer most my WordPress posts with it? Any help would get appreciated.

  10. Hmm, it seems like your current site ate my initial comment (it was incredibly long) so I imagine I’ll just sum that up the things my partner and i had written and point out, I’m thoroughly enjoying the blog. I as effectively is an aspiring blog site writer, but I’m even now new to the entire thing. Are you experiencing any tips for newbie blog freelance writers? I’d appreciate it.

  11. Some us know almost all in relation to the compelling channel you present powerful methods on your blog and consequently strongly encourage contribution coming from other ones on this kind of subject while our individual child is actually discovering some sort of great deal. Have entertaining with the portion involving the year.

  12. Do a person have a spam concern on this website; My partner and i also am a tumblr, and I desired to realize your situation; many involving us allow us some wonderful methods, and are looking in order to trade methods with some others, why not shoot myself an e-mail if curious.

  13. Woah! I’m enjoying the template/theme of this website. Really simple, yet effective. A new lot of times it is extremely hard to get of which “perfect balance” between excellent usability and visual elegance. I must say you have done a very very good job with this particular.

  14. “Great article and right to the point. I don’t know if this is in fact the best place to ask but do you folks have any thoughts on where to get some professional writers? Thank you ??”

  15. I just want to tell you that I am just all new to blogging and absolutely liked your web-site. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You absolutely come with good article content. Appreciate it for revealing your web-site.

  16. Good job on this article! I really like how you presented your facts and how you made it interesting and easy to understand. Thank you.

  17. This web site is really a walk-through for every one of the details you wanted about this as well as didn?t understand that to ask. Glance below, and you?ll most definitely uncover it.

  18. After study a few of the post on your site currently, as well as I genuinely like your method of blogging. I bookmarked it to my book marking internet site listing and will be checking back soon. Pls have a look at my website too and also let me know what you believe.

  19. Can I just claim what an alleviation to find somebody that actually recognizes what theyre speaking about on the web. You certainly understand just how to bring a concern to light and make it crucial. Even more individuals need to read this and also recognize this side of the tale. I angle think youre not a lot more prominent since you most definitely have the gift.

  20. There are absolutely a great deal of details like that to consider. That is a great indicate raise. I provide the ideas above as basic inspiration however clearly there are inquiries like the one you bring up where one of the most important point will certainly be working in straightforward good faith. I don?t recognize if finest techniques have emerged around things like that, but I am sure that your task is clearly recognized as an up for grabs. Both boys as well as women really feel the influence of just a moment?s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  21. Place on with this review, I really think this web site requires much more factor to consider. I?ll probably be once more to check out a lot more, many thanks for that information.

  22. Hello! I simply would love to provide a big thumbs up for the wonderful info you have here on this message. I will certainly be returning to your blog for more quickly.

  23. Aw, this was a really good blog post. In concept I wish to put in composing like this additionally? taking some time and real initiative to make a great write-up? yet what can I say? I put things off alot and also by no means appear to obtain something done.

  24. Aw, this was a really nice article. In idea I want to place in writing like this in addition? taking time and also real initiative to make an excellent write-up? however what can I state? I hesitate alot and also by no means seem to obtain something done.

  25. Can I simply claim what a relief to find someone who really recognizes what theyre discussing on the net. You certainly know just how to bring a problem to light and also make it crucial. More people require to read this as well as recognize this side of the story. I angle think youre not extra prominent since you certainly have the present.

  26. There are some interesting points in this post but I don?t recognize if I see every one of them facility to heart. There is some credibility yet I will hold point of view until I consider it even more. Great article, many thanks and we want much more! Included in FeedBurner also

  27. Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam responses? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any help is very much appreciated.

  28. A remarkable share, I simply offered this onto a coworker who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact purchased me breakfast because I discovered it for him. smile. So let me rephrase that: Thnx for the reward! However yeah Thnkx for investing the moment to review this, I really feel highly regarding it and also enjoy learning more on this subject. Preferably, as you become expertise, would certainly you mind updating your blog site with more information? It is extremely valuable for me. Large thumb up for this post!

  29. Youre so awesome! I don’t mean Ive review anything like this before. So good to locate somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this internet site is something that is required on the internet, somebody with a little creativity. helpful work for bringing something new to the internet!

  30. I discovered your blog website on google and also check a few of your very early posts. Remain to keep up the great run. I just extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Visitor. Seeking onward to finding out more from you later!?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker