‘SNL’ Adds Two African-American Female Writers In Wake of Diversity Scrutiny

Saturday Night Live SNL

Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes join writing staff of venerable program

Saturday Night Live” has bolstered the ranks of its writing staff with two African-American women as part of a recent and much-scrutinized diversity effort, a spokeswoman for the program confirmed.

The venerable NBC sketch-comedy showcase added Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes, two comediennes who recently auditioned for the program as it set about to add an African-American woman to its on-air cast. Earlier this week, the show announced Sasheer Zamata, a veteran of improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, would begin as a featured player as of its January 18 broadcast.

The two new writers took part in auditions recently held in different parts of the U.S. with the express purpose of finding a female African-American to join the show’s cast of “Not Ready For Prime Time Players.”

“SNL” has come under more scrutiny than is the norm in its 39th season on the air. Before this cycle of the show bowed in September, critics wondered how the program would fare after the departures of longtime cast members such as Fred Armisen and Bill Hader. After adding six new featured players, however,  the show came under criticism for not hiring any new people of color.

While the current cast of “Saturday Night Live” includes two African-American men – Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah – it has not had an African-American woman in the cast since Maya Rudolph, a comic actress of mixed heritage, was in the cast between 2000 and 2007.

The show has not featured many women of color during its history. Danitra Vance,  “SNL'”s first African-American female cast member, joined the show for its 1985-1986 season, part of show creator Lorne Michaels’ return to the program after an absence of several years. Yvonne Hudson, an African-American woman, was a featured player during the program’s 1980-1981 season. Ellen Cleghorne was on the show between 1991 and 1995.

Nasim Pedrad, an Iranian-American comic, has been with “SNL” since 2009.

News of the hire of the two new writers was reported previously by The Hollywood Reporter.

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  1. big daddy D says:

    Also…Tina Fey/Amy Poehler/Maya Rudolph/Cheri Oteri/ana gastheyer/Kristen Wiig..all stellar cast members that have made it big in their own way.

  2. wordygirl says:

    So they’re black and female, but are they FUNNY? SNL hasn’t been funny for decades.

    • big daddy D says:

      I beg to differ. Wilk Ferrell, Alec Baldwin, Justin Timberlake, Christopher Walken. Shweaty balls, cowbell, colonel Angus, Dick in a box…all examples of classic SNL skits in the last 20 years. Anyone who refutes that has had their funny bones surgically removed from their bodies.

  3. tony says:

    I cant believe you Americans think this is good? You’re hired because of your genitals and skin? That’s barbaric.

  4. Dave says:

    I guess we can now expect an article from Andrew telling SNL how they did it wrong again.

  5. stephanie says:

    Just like my prior post on the hiring of a black performer. If you don’t represent the masses..you lose! Congrats ladies displaying your ability to read and write. Apparently your material displayed other skills!!!

  6. big daddy D says:

    If you’re funny, you’re funny. Let’s hope these ladies can add to the material. Although, skits like THE CALIFORNIANS were always lame to me.

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