Home Hot Topics 10 Questions Based on Kenan Thompson’s Comments About Black Women in Comedy

10 Questions Based on Kenan Thompson’s Comments About Black Women in Comedy

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kenan thompson snl comments black women

So yesterday there was a firestorm about Kenan Thompson saying there isn’t a Black woman on SNL because there hasn’t been one good enough to make it. As you can imagine, this sent the internet into a frenzy. Some commenting on how he isn’t funny enough to have this perspective. Others saying SNL needs to take greater measures to find a “woman of color.” In watching all the dialogue fly back and forth, I had a bunch of questions come to mind. I’ll add a caveat here because I know how easily things can go left. I’m not as interested in discussing why his comments were wrong as I am what some of this means in the bigger picture. Anyone notable could’ve made these comments and the results would have been similar. Nonetheless, here are my questions in no particular order.

1. Do we need to be a part of everything?

Because a show is popular, I don’t think that means we have to be on it. Doesn’t matter who the president or First Lady is. Shows like Seinfeld and Friends were immensely successful and I don’t think they needed a Black person to enhance what was already there. We saw similar complaints about Girls and the lack of Black people. I had questions about that outrage too. Of course SNL is a different format. but still.

2. Why is it that we’re fine not being a part of something until we’re not a part of something?

It always feels like we don’t care about being a part of something until it becomes knowledge we’re not a part of something. This may seem obvious, but if it were so crucial, we’d be proactively pushing for it. This isn’t new news. Had Kenan not made his comments, would we still be discussing the cast of SNL? Probably not.

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3. What if the person of color was anything but Black, would we still be “causing awareness?”

Maybe it’s the part of the internet I dwell in, but when I see people talking about a person of color, they usually mean someone black. What if SNL brought on an Indian or Dominican woman? How about Asian? Would we still be raising awareness of the issue then? Diversity doesn’t just mean two colors.

4. How many of us are really tuning into SNL on a weekly basis? If one Black was added to the cast and no other changes were made to the show, would you stay up or go home to watch?

I don’t watch the show regularly. I don’t find it funny and I’m usually doing something else when it comes on. If I do tune in, it’s to see the special guest/host. I’m curious if adding a Black woman would be enough to get thousands or millions of us to tune in regularly, assuming everything else about the show remains the same.

5. In its current state, how many Black people do you think are aspiring or pushing to be on SNL? Of those people, how many have you heard anything significant about to make a serious case why they should be on the show?

I’m not a comedian nor an expert on the comedian scene. But I have to wonder, how many Black people wanna be a part of the SNL product as it is today? And of those people, how many of them are in the top tier of sketch comedy performers? Now think about all the other people that are trying out or being called for the show.

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I think of this another way too. I’ve worked in HR and recruiting for 5+ years. I’ve also worked in several environments where I was one of the only Black people there. The companies expressed interest in hiring more of my ilk, but when you looked at the candidate pool…well, or when I looked at the candidate pool and interviewed people, it was difficult to move some folks forward because they just weren’t the best of the bunch. I wonder if something similar is happening here? Are the people that would be best for the show simply not trying to be on it?

6. Are Black people more interested in doing their own thing or being part of someone else’s thing where we aren’t even the target demographic?

Of the comedians and creatives I do know and follow, most appear to be interested in doing their own thing. They have websites, YouTube series, and clear desires of having their own show get picked up. So if many of the most talented and connected Black folks wanna go a different direction, wouldn’t that impact the talent pool trying to be on a show like SNL?

7. Do you really think it’d be progress if SNL set aside a slot specifically for a Black woman?

This question is based off of some of the dialogue I saw. My answer? I don’t. In fact, that could quickly become a token slot. And since when has being the token been viewed as a good thing?

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8. Do you think it would put a tremendous amount of pressure on whoever filled that spot to not fuck it up for the rest of us?

While it would be a career accomplishment, we all know there’d be extra eyes on this person to prove they were the right choice. That’s business as usual for many of us, self-included. Though I imagine it’s magnified on national tv.

9. After considering the previous question, do you think the number of Black women trying to be on SNL is lower than you initially thought?

Not everyone wants that pressure — further reducing the available talent pool. This isn’t to say people aren’t up to the task. It’s just something to consider.

10. Do you think SNL should go the extra mile specifically to find a woman of color if the ones that audition don’t make the cut?

I’m pretty sure they have scouts checking out the comedy scene. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. I also have to wonder if we’re in the right places and know the right people to be seen and considered? But again, I wanna know how many of us are really trying to get there? And how far should a show go beyond normal protocol to identify Black women or any people of color?

These are some of the questions I have and some of my initial answers…which in some cases are more questions. What do you think about this topic? Any thoughts on the questions above? What questions do you have?

Rich

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE FREEDOM CHASE.

Comment(31)

  1. regarding question two it seems when something is exposed as being done on purpose is then the outrage comes. now that folks know the reason they can pick it apart. We (black people) don’t have to be apart of everything but to not even be considered is a blow.

    also from the comics I saw post about this, for SNL you can’t just audition you have to be chosen. You can send in reels etc but that’s a long shot. They seek you out. So if they aren’t seeking any diversity it won’t be on the show.

  2. omg…looooooove this post Slim. Especially number 2. Definitely something folks need to think about.
    I kinda agree with Kenan that there aren't any black comedians like Eddie Murphy and Whoopie Goldberg and Debra Wilson. SNL is not what it used to be. It was the springboard for comedians that wanted to make it in the 80's. Most all of the most successful comedians that we see on t.v. and in movies got their start on SNL. Now SNL is old and played out, as you said Slim nobody really watches it like we did when Eddie Murphy and Jim Carrey were on there. Not to mention there is a black woman still on there right, Maya Rudolph. I mean technically yes she is biracial…but we all know what that means, she's black. I haven't watched SNL in so long that I am not sure who is still on there and who isn't. I just hear about people making guest appearances. Like I heard about Miley Cyrus being on there twerking again, because it was all over the news.

      1. Oh ok. I haven't watched SNL in ages. I had no idea she was gone. I know she's doing more movies. Even though they're low budget they're good. She was funny. I loved the episode she did with Tina Fey when they were both pregnant.
        That was hilarious.

    1. Wrong, I'm sure there are PLENTY of black female comedians, just like their are PLENTY of black female Actresses that are not being sought after. I hate them using "work hard to find one" because that implies that they've tried and just couldn't, when that simply isn't the case. They just havent looked AT ALL. That's equivalent to saying "we work hard to find black teachers and cant" I happen to know PLENTY of black teachers who NEED JOBS. The next thing they'll say is "There aren't any who are qualified" because they are either OVER qualified, or UNDER. There is always an excuse to be racist. And yes I've been rejected from jobs in the past because they said I was "OVER qualified". This thing only happens to BLACKS. Instead of siding with whites against the women who birthed you, you should be changing the way the system works. Not ONLY for comedic positions, but for ALL workforce positions that lack hiring black men AND black women

  3. Honestly I don't think comedians vie to be on SNL like they used to. It's lost some of it's value and shine. I think comdians on there now are probably ones who can't get the gigs they really want. That's the only thing offered to them, and they need a job so they go with SNL. But nowadays it seems like black comedians are vying trying to go straight to the big screen and get on popular primetime network t.v. shows.
    Btw, what channel is Gabriel Unions Being Mary Jane on? I can't find that show for the life of me. I Hear about it, but have no idea what channel it's being aired on.

    1. Hi, Bree… "Being Mary Jane" will be on BET (if I'm not mistaken) but the new season doesn't start until January. Yeah…JANUARY! o_0 I'm not sure why the movie was aired so far in advance of the actual series (almost 6 months), but…whatever! Sit tight, you have a few more months to wait.

  4. You cant just have something given to you because you might fill that void based on that perceived need. You need to qualify. A lot of people who come on SNL are scouted from this group called the groundlings. Not too often is there a black woman found in that team. You have to have a certain type of humor to fit on SNL something that is colorless or appeal to the masses. A lot of black comedians do black people type of jokes that aren't understood by the majority of the US. I say black women need to find their own vehicle and create wealth and legacies instead of giving to someone elses.
    My recent post When I’m gone:The importance of after life planning

    1. paynewell another thing is, if what your saying is true and the people that make it on the show are scouted then maybe there is some truth to what Kenan is saying. Maybe there aren't many black female comedians who have what SNL is looking for. And thats not to say they aren't good comedians the people that don't make it. They just aren't a good fit for SNL.

  5. There's a few points worth highlighting here:
    1) Most people in this conversation or trying to bring light to this situation do not watch SNL.
    2) They also don't understand comedy.
    3) They also don't understand the skill set needed to write, produce and film a live weekly show.

    I don't have an issue with what Kenan said, his comments were spot on and people just got in their feelings because race was introduced into the conversation. He didn't say that there will never be a Black woman on SNL, he just said there wasn't really any of that talent out there right now to his knowledge. Independent of this is the issue of women in comedy. That's not a race issue, that's a gender issue. It's so much deeper than this one issue here. They struggle a lot because men don't think women are funny. Like a lot of us cried laughing watching Hangover and thought Bridesmaids was eh.

    I watch SNL. It is still the same springboard as it has always been and will continue to be that way. You don't go to a comedy club and say, "Hey that person is really funny, let's get them an audition." As someone stated before that's not where they find talent, they are finding them in sketch and improv groups. You have to spend your own money to be a part of that and you have to be able to act and write… and be funny. The trifecta is not at all easy so it's very well possible that you won't have readily accessible talent.

    Also, do people want to do their own thing? Yes, but they tend to be doing that in lieu of hard work. That's why you're seeing a lot of youtube series that are funny but they're actually poorly written and produced. You can be funny, but can you have good acting and writing? No it's not that easy. Are there people who can act, write and be funny who are Black men or women? Yes, but when they choose to do their own thing it's just weird to me. We can't complain as a people about lack of resources affecting our outcome in life and then refuse the resources because they come from white America. That's just odd.

    I've seen who people have recommended for the show and well 1) I don't think they have all the skills necessary and 2) It's still TV people! There is a reason that Maya Randolph was on the show and not Erica Watson. It might be f*cked up but it's real. 3) Socially awkward is not funny in sketch comedy, it's dry and weird and nobody understands the joke without the subtle nuisances needed to sell the punchline. All those actresses are out too.

    Basically to Kenan, I would say, "Damn he's got a point." and move on.

  6. I agree with Dr. J's comment about men not finding women in comedy as funny as men.
    I know quite a few men that refuse to go see and support the Queens of Comedy or watch any comedy show with all women or women as the main characters simply because they don't find female comedy as funny as mens. Maybe because they feel they can't relate to it.

    1. Well it goes back to how comedy works and right now because people are so into storytelling and shock comedy women can't really prosper in that right now. They were much more able to succeed with punchlines. The only female comedian who does it very well right now is Ellen. … go figure.

      Nobody wants to hear women talking about taking it in the face or drowning a baby because they don't know how to change a diaper. Also, nobody wants to hear about a woman's heavy drug and alcohol abuse… and that's really a big part of comedy right now.

      In terms of actresses it's dominated by hhuge icons who aren't nice people. Like people are not shy is saying that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are bullies. They don't create opportunities for other women because they are sort of like comedy snobs. That's fair, Tina Fey is pretty awesome and funny.

  7. Damn black people really? What about the black chick that's been working hard and dreaming of being on that cast since she was a little girl. Should she just give up on that because ya'll think black people aren't watching SNL? Fellas would ya'll care if this was from a black woman who said black men aren't on the show because they aren't good enough. I mean DAYUM, sistas wanna pay their bills and get her shine just like Kenan or Jay Pharoah and it shouldn't matter if the ratings are going to change or if anything else. She should have a real shot like everyone else. And I don't want to hear shit from Kenan about Black women NOT being ready unless he is the official SNL scout cause otherwise that's what he's being told when their fitting him for a bra and dress to play Oprah. In the 50 states of America Im more than positive there are some black chicks that are ready to turn SNL out! PERIOD

  8. Two things:

    1 – He mentions that having a Black woman on the show will make her a "token". What does he think he is?

    2) He mentioned that while working in HR the talent pool didn't really have enough candidates/the best candidates weren't of color. My question to that would be: Are companies (and SNL) actually looking for candidates of color? That's the problem – you can't rely on people to come to you, go out & find them! C'mon SNL – Go out & find some women of color!!!!!
    My recent post Is It Any Of His Business What My Parents Do For A Living?

  9. Blk people are funny and so are women. Its just a matter of who the castingvpeople and the consumers are checking for. Take out women and folk can talk the same mess bout blk peep in comedy in general. Keenan isnt that funny on his own and i think both the dudes from key and peele were passed on by snl. Shows what they know those dudes are the best.

  10. 11. Why do black people always feel that they have to comment on black people in public? *sigh*

    Seriously… There are no black women on SNL *shrug*

    First: Who cares? We don't even watch it and most are longing for In Living Color with its original cast pre Hollywood egos anyway. Why? Because we've ALWAYS known that SNL was only going to have one black person on at a time, if any ( minus that one season, but I don't remember what 2 dudes were on there together) Side note: some of the black actresses on In Living Color definitely could have been on SNL but really who cares.

    Second: Why does Keenan have to be the person to comment on the topic… Does he own SNL? Is he being paid for PR? Oh I guess because he's black and commenting sideways about us in public is what we do. Protect the brand at all cost except when it's your own brand * side eye*

    Third: Even if his comment is true, I can't take serious a person that doesn't see the difference in saying, " We just haven't found the right woman yet" and " there aren't any black women yet because there hasn’t been one good enough to make it."

    Didn't everyone else get the "choose your words" speech in Kindergarten?
    Ok sorry… that was a rant… Have a good day everyone 🙂

  11. # 6 was the most crucial on this list. I've been saying that and I'm very much in support of that route over trying to guilt the producers of established shows into hiring one of us. A large segment of our audience has the wrong mindset. I'd rather a black comedian make it big on their own and get a show picked up. DIY is the move, screw all this forced integration tokenism talk. I wish the conversation would've centered around our favorite up and coming black comedians and their webshows so I could go check them out and support.

  12. One I don't feel there aren't black women good enough for SNL. It has fallen WAAAY off since the 80s. Two I really want to highlight a comment from above. You SELECTED to go on SNL. So if you aren't looking for it…how are you supposed to find it? I agree that most black comedians would rather do their own thing but you can't convince me that every black female comedian couldn't use the come up the likes of SNL (even if it has fallen off). I am more inclined to say the main vein of black female humor isn't the "unique" brand that SNL is these days (black women tend to be more aggressive and raunchy) but then I have seen a new type of black female humor (thing Awkward Black Girl) that would qualify.

    ….Then again why would SNL need a black female when they already have Kenan Thompson?
    Whatevs I still watch it (occasionally) and still black women on their own platforms.

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