Sunday, October 05, 2008
Black and Blue at SNL
First Photo (left to right)
Jason Sudeikis, Tina Fey, Queen Latifah
Saturday Night Live
Second Photo (left to right)
Joe Biden, Gwen Ifill, Sarah Palin
Vice Presidential Debate
Quick: How many black female comedians can you name off the top of your head?
My list before I went running to IMDB:
The girl on the FOX comedy show -what's the name of that show. Damn.
Chris Rock's fem sidekick from that one movie where he's the dead guy playing the white guy
I could remember faces, sketches, one-liners, movies, cameos - everything but the names of the women. As a black woman, not exactly one of my shining moments.
Maybe I just drew a blank because I asked myself. So, I went and looked up at lest the names of the women I should be able to remember and couldn't.
And though we normally don't think of them as comedians, think of every black woman that you know has carried or starred in a sitcom - Julia, That's My Mama, What's Happening?, The Jeffersons, Thea, 227, The Cosby Show, A Differen't World, Family Matters, Living Single Martin, Sister Sister, The Hughleys, The Bernie Mac Show, The Steve Harvey Show, The Parkers - ok, you get the idea. And yeah, a lot of those shows are headed by familiar black male comedians but think of the women in them and think of all the untapped talent out there waiting and wading through the sludge that is entertainment casting and suddenly the pool of black female comedic talent doesn't seem so shallow after all.
I normally don't watch NBC's Saturday Night Live. I switched on the telly last night and, flipping channels, saw what I thought was Sarah Palin speaking in her Alaska monotone. For a long moment I was fooled into thinking I'd stumbled on a replay of the Vice Presidential debate. I had only stopped for a minute to giggle at her and see if I could make sense of anything she said.
The visual was dead on but something about the lighting was a little odd, dimmer than I remembered from the original debate but that's also not unusual with CSPAN replays for some reason. Then the camera angle changed and I said, "Hey, that's not Gwen Ifill. That's Queen Latifah." Then the camera angle switched back to "Palin" whom Tina Fey portrays with reluctant yet effortless perfection, the only difference being that there's a gleam of wit and intelligence in her eyes that will never be present in the bottomless folksy depths of Palin's.
The sketch was perfect. Anne Hathaway brought her flawlessly beautiful self out and did her host bit which was funny and charming. We are big Anne Hathaway fans around here, The Princess Diaries I & II , Ella Enchanged and The Devil Wears Prada are stock films around our house, so I settled in to watch the rest of the show; but SNL ruined it for me, as they usually do, with an odd Lawrence welk bit and I tuned out and did not flip back for the rest of the night.
Of course, before the initial VP debate sketch was over, the question had already lodged itself in my mind. Why doesn't Saturday Night Live have a black female comic already in cast? Although I don't watch SNL regularly, even I could reason that if they had to tap Queen Latifah to fill the role, they obviously didn't have a black female comic on their roster.
And I thought, damn, it's 2008? Haven't we gotten past the one "ethnic" face per any unit group of white folks syndrome yet? And although SNL seems to realize they need at least "one black guy" they obviously don't need two and definitely not a black man and black woman at the same time. As I said, SNL is not a show I watch regularly, have never been a fan of and I'm not going to claim knowing cast history backwards and forwards. But I'm not the only one asking this question so I'm not too far off track. Here are what few others have to say.
Queen Latifah Set to Grill Sarah Palin
Quote: Thanks to Latifah -- and since "SNL" has no female African-American cast member -- the world is saved from seeing Amy Poehler in black face.
`SNL' sends up VP debate with Fey, Queen Latifah
Quote: It's starting to feel like Tina Fey is running for vice president.
(Note: The AP spends all it's time on Fey and Latifiah gets a one-word mention)
Does Saturday Night Live Avoid Hiring Black Women Comics?
Quote: In 32 years, there have been only 3 black female members of SNL.
(Note: This site was asking this question last year! The article is dated Jul 29, 2007.)
Note to SNL: Black People are Funny Too
Quote: Back before the WGA strike ripped primary season from Lorne Michaels' bosom, rumors circulated in New York's comedy scene that the SNL producer was auditioning black performers with Obama in mind. But on Sept. 29, the season premiered with only two black cast members -- for those keeping score at home, that's one more than it began 11 of its 33 seasons with and two more than in five seasons.
African American Political Pundit
At SNL No Black Female Comedians Need Apply
Quote: I don't get why Saturday Night Live does not have any black female comedians? I love the SNL skits. But this comedy segregation has to stop.