The folks at Saturday Night Live are making it clear that they have overcome some rather controversial diversity issues, with an upcoming skit that reveals they’ve changed their hiring procedures and now have “ton of black people” on the show. In true SNL style, the cast uses humor to point out what USA Today calls a “glaring lack of diversity” in the cast.
A promo for this weekend’s show is essentially a humorous response to the public outcry that the long-running live comedy show’s cast has been far from diverse since its premiere back in 1975. The video clip (above) from the upcoming October 9 show features former cast member Bill Hader alongside SNL funny-man, Kenan Thompson. When Hader asks what’s new on the show, Kenan brags about the big changes that have taken place since Bill left the cast in 2013.
“We renovated the bathrooms… spaghetti and meatballs in the cafeteria… and we’ve got a ton of black people now!”
— TheWrap (@TheWrap) October 8, 2014
Last year, SNL’s questionable hiring issues were prompted by the fact that the show had not hired a black woman since Maya Rudolph left in 2007. The Today Show reports that Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels attempted to make good on his promise to be more diverse by hiring Sasheer Zamata at the beginning of the year. Zamata is now one of four black actors on the comedy show, joining Kenan Thompson, Michael Che, and Jay Pharoah.
Thompson, who has been on the show for 11 seasons, breaks the record for being the longest serving African-American cast member on SNL. Tim Meadows, who left Saturday Night Live in 2000, stayed on the show for 10 seasons. As far as female cast members go, the show hired only four black females before Sashee was hired, including Danitra Vance, Yvonne Hudson, Ellen Cleghorne, and Maya Rudolph, who appeared on SNL for seven years until her departure in 2007.
Month’s prior to Saturday Night Live’s announcement that Sashee would join the cast, the cast poked fun at the show’s lack of diversity by bringing on actress Kerry Washington, who was assigned to play the roles of three different black women — Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Beyonce — in a single skit.
In yet another attempt for the show to tackle its diversity issue with humor, an apology from producers rolled on the screen during Washington’s appearance on the show.
“The producers at ‘Saturday Night Live’ would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent, but also because ‘SNL’ doesn’t currently have a black woman in the cast. As for the latter, we realize this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future… unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.”
Two months later, they did their best to rectify the lack of black female talent on the show by hiring Zamata, a move that executive producer Lorne Michaels states was “driven purely by talent considerations.”