Yes, the producers humorously addressed the issue by having the talented actress play more than one black woman in a skit meant to illustrate that SNL recognizes its deficit. But for many people this gesture was not enough, and the commentaries have continued to roll in.
Demetria Irwin, writing for theGrio, told SNL, “no thanks for the back-handed acknowledgment,” in response. Her essay details the ways in which this attempt to address this lack of diversity side steps attempts to take corrective action.
For Salon.com, comic actress Nefetari Spencer revealed what it was like to audition for the show post-Maya Rudolph — only to be rejected. Rudolph is the last woman of African descent to be an SNL cast member. The year was 2008.
“With Maya Rudolph no longer being on the show, they were going to need a Michelle Obama,” Spencer told Salon. “I mean all of the signs were there. I had been working tirelessly for years to get to that level. I couldn’t help but feel sad, but I also felt I left my heart on that stage and that’s all I could do.”
Yet, Spencer realized then and as she does now how SNL is at a loss from not having black women on the cast. This prevents the show from accurately reflecting society. Kerry Washington filling in for a night was wonderful in her opinion, but not a solution.
“Although she was great,” Spencer said, “I do think that ‘SNL‘ missed an opportunity to capitalize on some of the things they haven’t been able to do because they don’t have an African-American female in the cast. Like, where was the ‘Scandal’ parody sketch?!! I wish I could have been in that writer’s room and pitched some sketches for her.”
On the NPR Code Swith blog, Eric Deggans writes that its time for SNL to make that change. Cutesy skits making light of its lack of people of color don’t cut it.
“Bringing diversity to corners of life where it doesn’t come naturally is often hard,” he wrote, “requiring specific effort and sustained work. In other words, it’s time executive producer Lorne Michaels and company made a mission of bringing a black woman into the fold.”
Countless others agree. The Kerry Washington skit in question was spawned by the backlash that ensued when SNL cast member Kenan Thompson said it was hard to find black women who are “ready” for the show. The overwhelming response on Twitter, blogs and other outlets is that SNL producers have not looked hard enough.
Here are 10 black women Saturday Night Live should consider hiring to fill that void. Culled from both our Facebook audience picks, research and staff recommendations, we think this bunch of funny African-American women is a great place to start.
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb.