Jay Pharoah Rips 'SNL' For the Lack of Black Women in the Cast, Kenan Thompson Blames Lack of Talented Black Women
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Jay Pharoah Rips 'SNL' For the Lack of Black Women in the Cast, Kenan Thompson Blames Lack of Talented Black Women

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | October 15, 2013 | Comments ()


A few weeks ago, after Saturday Night Live announced the addition of six new cast members (five men, one woman, all white), Jay Pharoah criticized the show for failing yet again to hire a female black cast member, something the show has been sorely lacking in over the course of the series (I can think of only a few: Yvonne Hudson, who was fired midway through the sixth season, Ellen Cleghorne, Danitra Vance, and Maya Rudolph, who is mixed race). Pharoah was vocal in his remarks, saying “They need to pay attention” and add a black woman to the cast. However, he brought with his criticism an actual suggestion:

Her name is Darmirra Brunson … 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 …

It’s one of those things that’s hard. 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.

Meanwhile, when asked what SNL would do if they needed to impersonate a black female, Thompson stated that he would not cross-dress. “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.”

But Thompson doesn’t blame the show, or Lorne Michaels. He suggests that the problem is that there aren’t any great black females auditioning for the show. “It’s just a tough part of the business,” Thompson says. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”

Uh, what about Darmirra Brunson? DOES NO ONE LISTEN TO JAY PHAROAH.

He’ll just be over in a corner consoling John Boehner.


(Source: TV Guide)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • SabrinaHatesDisqus

    Based on what I've seen of Kenan Thompson, and SNL in general, practically nobody involved in that show is good at judging who or what is funny. So this doesn't seem like a good excuse.

  • Zeus McGuinness

    The show casts whoever is the best, choosing a cast member because they are black is the highest form of discrimination.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    I can't tell if you're joking.

  • Zeus McGuinness

    You can't see how choosing someone based on the colour of their skin is discriminatory? What Kenan is saying is that they pick the most talent people who audition which is how it should be.

  • Sarah Weissman

    ...Because there's no circumstances potentially holding women of color back from these opportunities. Oh, wait.

  • Salad_Is_Murder

    I think a lot of people are misinterpreting Kenan's comment. It sounds like he's saying that talented black comediennes aren't auditioning for parts NOT that there aren't talented black comediennes out there so let's keep the torches and pitchforks in the shed for right now.

  • Sarah Weissman

    Again, they need to widen their scope of WHERE they look and how they invite people. Gatekeepers, and all that.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    What did you say about my people and the shed?

    I'm kidding...


  • e jerry powell

    I think it reads either way, and I don't see either reading as reflecting poorly on Kenan.

  • MarTeaNi

    SNL doesn't hold open auditions, they invite people to audition for them. If they're not getting talented black women into auditions, it's their own fault for not inviting them.

  • Salad_Is_Murder

    So it's not that talented black women don't have better shows to be on?

    I'm just sayin', SNL doesn't always seem to have the pick of the litter.

  • MarTeaNi

    It is possible that SNL has offered dozens of black comediennes jobs and the women all turned them down so as not to appear on that comedy wasteland, because they have better opportunities elsewhere. But what are the chances of that? Wouldn't the story then be, "black comediennes don't want to work for SNL?" instead of "SNL can't find good black comediennes in the first place?"

    I'll agree wholeheartedly that this is not a great time for SNL and their litter is mostly disappointing.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Yeah, that's how I read it as well.

  • Three_nineteen

    "Whose Line is it Anyway" managed to find one. Of course, I can't remember her name (or the names of the other guest comedians), but she was great, had two of the funniest lines in the series, and managed to crack up all the regulars.

  • bastich

    Are you thinking of Aisha Tyler, the current hostess of "Whose Line....", who also stars in "Archer" and is the headliner in my fantasies?

  • Three_nineteen

    Aisha is great, but the woman I'm talking about is Nyima Funk. My phone-fu is lacking, or I would link her clips. Look up "Whose Line Nyima" on YouTube and you'll find them.

  • Yocean

    Yes yes on black women! But while we are at it, how about the lack of any Asian cast member ever? Huh? HUH?!

  • FormerLibraryChick

    Rob Schneider is a Filipino-American, so I guess that depends on what your definition of Asian is. I'm half-Filipino too and once had a guy say I wasn't "Asian enough" in appearance to suit his tastes, so maybe others think of Rob Schneider the same way they think of me (ethnically speaking, anyway)?

  • John G.

    has it really been never? What about Indians? Surely they've had an Indian actor?

  • AudioSuede

    Well, Nasim Pedrad is Iranian, so maybe they think that's close enough? (But yeah, for real, that show needs some serious diversity).

  • Genevieve Burgess

    I guess "The Daily Show" grew Jessica Williams in a lab.

  • e jerry powell

    Nope. UCB did! Just like they did with Amy Poehler!

  • John G.

    Amy Poehler created the UCB, so I think she grew THEM in a lab.

  • e jerry powell

    True enough.

  • blacksred

    Thats what I was about to post!

  • Bob Genghis Khan

    What is SNL?

  • bastich

    It's like "The Kids In The Hall", but not as funny.

  • Sean

    How come you can't upvote more than once?

  • Salieri2

    Sign out and upvote as a Guest.

  • Becks

    Okay, so I just went and watched like ten Darmirra Brunson videos because I wanted to come back here and say that Jay Pharoah should zip his lid since he has never seemed to know a thing about comedy based on every sketch I've ever seen him in. I was 100% wrong. That woman is hilarious, good at impressions and would be a perfect addition to the cast. With some help from the SNL writers and a little polishing she could be the best damn cast member on the current show.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Lorne Michaels doesn't care about black people!

  • John G.

    oh wow, look at Mike Myers. When's the last time we saw his actual face, not in a ton of prosthetics or a voice on animation, but his actual face?

  • I think both guys have a point. SNL has a horrific diversity record, but we have no idea who the producers audition. Kenan is a long-time cast member. I imagine he has a lot of visibility into who auditions, and if he sees black women come in and perform poorly, well, then I take him at his word. Someone can be a fine comedian but a poor sketch comedy performer.

    Maybe SNL needs to widen the net, who knows? I just don't think we can dismiss Thompson's comments as a lazy, sexist opinion.

  • e jerry powell

    As I just discovered in scanning the sites of the major sketch/improv troupes, SNL is not terribly unique as far as diversity goes.

  • Parker Jammstein

    WELP this is cheating since I do standup BUT:

    -Phoebe Robinson
    -Bethany Van Delft
    -Joyelle Nicole Johnson

    That's 3. Shut your mouth, Kenan.

  • Some Guy

    They might be great in standup, but that I think Kenan's point was it still doesn't mean that they are ready for a live sketch comedy show airing on a major network. Being a good standup comedian is definitely a fast track to getting on a show like that, but it's not guarantee.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I think SNL pulls way more from improv than stand up nowadays.

  • e jerry powell

    EXACTLY. If memory serves, Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Janeane Garofalo were pulled straight from standup (Garofalo to her detriment). Cleghorne was doing standup, but her background was in theater and improv. Standup isn't really about doing character work, that's a different skill set. Billy Crystal wasn't working the clubs by the time he actually got hired (a good ten years after he was first considered, during which time he'd been doing more straight acting).

    I love when you're right.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I love when I'm right too, but I shouldn't be encouraged. ;)

    I'm actually trying to remember the last time I saw a show at UCB that had a black woman on stage and drawing a blank. Though I haven't been seeing a lot lately.

  • e jerry powell

    Hie thee to the East Village and find the black women!

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Now if there was an improv club in HARLEM...

  • e jerry powell

    I'm afraid that Chelsea is probably as far north as they'll venture. Lazy comedians.

  • SamuraiShampoo

    The excuse that they just aren't 'ready' is hard to swallow when the new cast members the brought on are as green as goose shit.

  • Preach. All I can surmise from his comments is that they're still hooked on getting laughs and aren't ready to quit yet.

  • John W

    I find it hard to believe that in this country they can't find at least one black female comedian capable of performing in a sketch comedy show.

    Keenan Wayans didn't have any problems. Maybe they should consult him.

  • Keenan cheated. Dude has like 13 sisters.


    Keenan should be easy to reach since none of his shows featuring black female comedians are on the air.


  • e jerry powell

    But there were two black female players in the early years that weren't even peripherally related to the Wayans family: T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh (who survived the whole run, if memory serves, more than Kim Wayans) and Kim Coles (fired after season one, moved on to "Living Single").

    Looking at the history of sketch TV, there haven't been many black women in general. Scanning the current casts at the three UCBs, finding black women is slow going (Jessica Williams is still listed on the roster at UCB:LA and not at UCB:NY, which says a lot, Sasheer Zamata, Keisha Zollar and Natasha Rothwell are on the UCB:NY roster). There's two black women at Second City Hollywood (none in Chicago, Toronto, or the touring company). There are no performers of color at all in The Groundlings. That's the three biggest poaching grounds for Lorne Michaels, so my expectations aren't high with regards to this specific point.

  • Rosa

    Tawny Newsome performs with Second City on the mainstage in Chicago.

  • e jerry powell

    SC really needs to redesign their website. No surprise there.

    I stand corrected and thanks for the note!

    She's only just (relatively speaking) joined, hasn't she?

  • Paddington

    They never find ones that are ready doesn't read like he thinks none exists. If I say I can never find a ripe melon am I saying ripe melons don't exist or am I saying I'm not adept at finding them?

  • Sarah Weissman

    It means you might want to look in other places to get a wider scope and think creatively.

  • Paddington

    Awesome but Kenan doesn't do casting so maybe we shouldn't just jump to him thinking there are no funny black women.

  • Sarah Weissman

    Then he shouldn't say, "none of them are ready."

  • emmalita

    If they think there aren't talented black women, they aren't looking very hard.

  • mkawia

    I think they should only hire by merit .

    Altho not having a black female will mean can't do sketch on Beyonce etc

  • emmalita

    Sarcasm font?

  • Guest

    I know. That's the stupidest excuse I can think of.

  • AudioSuede

    That's a really tough call, and it doesn't help that the only woman of color on the cast (Nasim Pedrad) is criminally underused week after week. I would agree that a lack of diversity in the new hires was a problem, though I've heard some people fault them for sexism, which I don't agree with in this case (they have a lot of women and lost a lot of male cast members, they were just filling in the holes).

    I'm also a little torn because I don't think Jay Pharaoh is a great judge of what's funny. Dude does great impressions, but his sense of humor in interviews and his solo endeavors is amateurish. So if he's recommending someone for this show, I don't know if I'd take him at his word. But it might warrant an audition, at the very least.

  • BrokenWindows

    Iranians are "people of color" now? When did this happen? Besides, Pedrad isn't even on the show any more. And other than adorably dancing in a cute skirt in those french dance sketches, she didn't do anything of note that I can remember.

  • AudioSuede

    She IS still on the show! She's still in the opening credits, she's still in sketches, she's a full cast member, but she's only in one or two bits a week. She's done great work for them in the past, I honestly couldn't tell you why she gets so little attention from them now.

  • BrokenWindows

    Apparently I was wrong, she is still on the show. I could have swore she left after the last season.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    She's Arianna Huffington!

  • competitivenonfiction

    I haven't watched in years, but if what you're saying is correct, and the only woman of colour is underused week to week, why would more talented black women even want to try out? If their career choices include being trotted out on SNL whenever they need someone to imitate Michelle Obama, or doing their own stand up/trying out for TV shows etc., would SNL really be a good choice? I really don't know because I'm not an SNL viewer, nor do I really know much about getting your start in comedy, but it seems to me that it might not be the best career choice for women of colour in comedy.

  • John G.

    Because SNL is a big get in a career. There are a million people waiting for even a small part of that show. If you're starting out in show business and your a comedic actress of any color, you take SNL. If you're just starting out, you'd take anything no matter how little they used you.

  • AudioSuede

    That's a very good question. But I think if a woman of color was able to really break out at SNL, they would have huge career potential going forward. The show's never had a strong track record with letting women of color become stars other than Maya Rudolph, but if one were able to come through there and find a strong voice for herself, it would open up a pretty big audience for them and for the show.

  • John G.

    Jessica Williams on the Daily Show is great. She could be their black female character and have a long run playing every single black female of any age or size forever like Keenan does now for men, like Tim Meadows did forever, and before him Chris Rock.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    What cool young person would leave The Daily Show to go to SNL? Maybe jump to guest star roles on sitcoms, her own show or movies, but I don't think SNL is a step up from TDS at this point. Nor do I think Lorne Greene is running a more-respected comedy machine than Stewart. Just watching the "these used to be correspondents" the Daily Show website has running right now highlights its recent track record.

  • John G.

    Yeah, you may be right about that. It's a higher paying gig, and Lorne has his billionaire fingers in a lot of production houses that can really forward your career, but the "cool" factor is definitely on the side of the Daily Show. And sometimes you leave the Daily Show and become international movie star Steve Carell.

  • Bananapanda

    Considering Lorne Greene is busy on the Ponderosa, he's definitely slacking in the comedy arena.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I upvote you, but in fairness to me it was *really* late when I wrote that, and I was desperately procrastinating.

  • e jerry powell

    Since Jessica Williams was at UCB in LA before she moved to New York to do Daily Show, you'd figure SNL would have found her before Jon Stewart's people did...

  • John G.

    apparently, they don't think they need a black female cast member, so maybe that's why they didn't find her first.

  • e jerry powell

    Ah, yes. Back to the main thesis!

    I think maybe creating more troupes is the answer. Never too many improv groups!

  • competitivenonfiction

    That would be really cool. Hopefully that's exactly what would happen. It would definitely be a career risk to take a role on SNL, but it might pay out if the fit was right and if they were used well.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Actually - you make me realize that 5 years into Obama's presidency there hasn't been a Michelle Obama skit? that's crazy. They just cut to video of her reaction shots in Obama moments.

  • competitivenonfiction

    I was kind of wondering about that. Considering the comedy potential around just her arms or her fitness work, that's sad.

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