Lorne Michaels Responds to Lack of Black Women on ‘SNL’

Lorne Michaels SNL Black Cast members
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

It’s fitting that Kerry Washington will be hosting this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live”: The “Scandal” actress will arrive on the 30 Rockefeller Plaza stages at the tail end of, well, a scandal.

The long-running sketch comedy series was criticized earlier this year for not asking any black female comedians to join its cast — a fact only made worse when cast member Kenan Thompson told TVGuide.com that the show can “never find ones that are ready” during auditions.

Despite the swift backlash to both of these stories, “SNL” creator Lorne Michaels isn’t rushing to fill his roster.

“It’s not like it’s not a priority for us” to cast a black, female comedian, Michaels told the Associated Press on Thursday. “It will happen. I’m sure it will happen.”

The biracial Maya Rudolph, who left the show in 2007, is perhaps the most famous female “SNL” cast member with African-American heritage. Ellen Cleghorne was a cast member in the early ’90s and, in 1985, Danitra Vance became the first African-American woman to join the “SNL” cast.

The issue of gender and racial minorities in film and television continues to receive significant focus. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film reported in September that women accounted for 43% of speaking roles in the 2012-13 — a small increase from past years. And music mogul Russell Simmons has started his weekly ADD Comedy Live show in Hollywood to support minority talent.

“Hollywood’s a very passionate, sweet, liberal place,” Simmons told Variety on Wednesday. “But they’re no more integrated than ‘Jerry Springer.’”

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  1. The issue of black women not being qualified and funny
    enough to showcase on SNL is not an issue. It’s more of the same ol’ song and dance of white people nonsense. Black people stop begging white society for equality, respect and economic independence. Africans of the Nollywood and Ghana movie studios have done it. Help yourselves by building your own entertainment sandboxes.

    • Xybernauts says:

      That really racist remark makes no sense. You do realize that Nigeria and Ghana are independent countries right?  It seems your saying SNL is a white industry? This is news to me. I don’t seem to remember it being advertised that way. I believe that SNL and NBC are “American” enterprises, not “white” enterprises. And last I heard black americans were part of the United States of America so… Unless your saying that we should just go back to segregation again? I guess woman should also stop expecting equal representation in society and just create their own woman hollywood as well as the LGBT community? We should just segregate everyone as a solution to everything, so we’d have woman’s America, and LGBT America, and black America, and white male America. 

      No ones begging, we are “expecting” the microcosm of entertainment to reflect the broader mosaic of the USA.  What people see on tv influences what they believe is or is not acceptable. No one should believe that segregation is a real solution. So unless you expect all of black america to succeed from the Union and create their own independent country, what you say makes no sense. The USA is the country that black Americans are part of and we simply expect to be represented in American industries. 

  2. Citizen X says:

    Ha! Put a bandaid on your bleeding heart and open your eyes to a new concept – reality. Also, learn to spell…education can go a long way towards enlightenment, scrub.

  3. Steve B says:

    We got Michelle. Who needs SNL?

  4. Xybernauts says:

    See that’s the problem right there. You work on the assumption there are no talented black female comedians then? So your saying that there have been only three funny black women qualified to be on SNL in the last three decades? Can you imagine how many people have auditioned for the show in the last three decades? You imagine that the people who hire are perfectly impartial, but what if they aren’t ? What if they show favoritism to certain ethnicities. The purpose of affirmative action works on the assumption that people aren’t perfectly unbais. It encourages them to make an effort to find talented minorities, cause if they have no incentive they will always show favoritism towards people of the same race regardless of whether they are qualified or not.

    And for the record the should have some disabled cast members and some LGBT etc.

  5. ted says:

    Where’s the disabled guy or Girl?

  6. blah says:

    Look. I want a black actress on SNL just as much as everyone else. But can we please stop pretending that Cecily Strong and Nasim Pedrad don’t count as “women of color?”

    • Xybernauts says:

      This is an article about the lack of black women in SNL, not the lack of “women of color”. That’s as ridiculous as saying a Japanese person counts as being caucasian simply because the hue of their skin is pale.

  7. Bob Burns says:

    If you make everything out of race then all you do is keep the hate going. SNL has launched the careers of many African Americans and other minorities now your going to split hairs on gender? Do we really need affirmative race/gender action on SNL? Pick your fights people this one is just petty stupid.

    • Xybernauts says:

      & why isn’t this battle worth fighting? Sometimes hate walks up to you & stabs you in the heart & sometimes it slowly poisons you, not enough to kill you right away, but just enough to make you sick & then you die & everyone just thinks you died of natural causes.

      A lack of affirmative action can sometimes be an indication of a form of hate. America used to understand that. The original purpose of this country was to ensure that everyone was represented. When a group becomes so underrepresented (i.e. black women, Hispanics women, Asians) on a show that has lasted more than three decades you have to ask yourself whether this lack of representation is incidental or if it isn’t deliberate. It’s not like they would announce it to the press if they were deliberately discriminating right.

  8. Maya Rudolph is a bi-racial actress/comedian. Having African-American heritage doesn’t negate the other half of her heritage.

  9. stephanie says:

    I can’t believe SNL still gets good ratings. It’s the host that draws the viewers NOT the ensemble. Bring back Eddie, Chris, Gilda, the wild and crazy guys..then you have talent. With a very few has the show been on my to see list. If I want to see comedy I’ll go to the comedy channel. I’m tired of men dressing like women to get a laugh. We can do it ourselves. Diversity is real and Lorne needs to change up or the show will go bye bye.

    • Steve says:

      Oh, no! Stephanie, please don’t cancel SNL!!!

      Seriously, great work on the comment threads. I’m sure Lorne will read your remarks and get straight to cloning or reanimating Gilda Radner.

  10. Brice says:

    Yeah right. If it was a priority they would someone looking full time. Which they don’t. But by all means let’s hire 6 white guys and from what I’ve seen aren’t delivering.

  11. Martin says:

    Oh, the hell with talent.

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