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Creator/Producer Lorne Michaels Responds To Lack Of Black Women On 'SNL' Criticism

by Tambay A. Obenson
November 1, 2013 6:13 PM
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"It's not like it's not a priority for us... It will happen. I'm sure it will happen."

Founding producer Lorne Michaels, said in an interview with the Associated Press last night, when asked about ongoing criticism of his show's lack of a black female cast member. 

The piece notes Michaels' emphasis on cast members having sketch comedy experience, differentiating that from stand-up comedy, adding that each new cast member must be seasoned, so that they "won't be overwhelmed by the pace and attention."

"You don't do anyone a favor if they're not ready," he said.

So, I suppose the suggestion there is that the black women comics/actresses that they've auditioned haven't been ready?

Those are the only quotes released by the AP. I'd guess that this isn't something he's keen on talking about publicly just yet, meaning, pithy statements like that are likely what we can expect for now.

This is a matter that I previously addressed in a lengthy piece, so I won't rehash my thoughts. If you missed that post, click HERE to read it.

But, as Michaels states, it's a priority for them, and he's sure it'll happen. When? We'll just have to wait and see. But I'm not holding my breath though, if only because I don't watch the show anyway.

Maybe perfectly-timed, tomorrow night's episode of Saturday Night Live will be hosted by Kerry Washington - her debut.

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  • Meg Walters | December 8, 2013 7:32 PMReply

    I love SNL. I tape it whenever I can't see an episode live. I have one request for you to consider. It totally breaks my heart when you feature the woman with deformed hands. There's a talented singer on X factor with deformed hands. For 30 years I've taught children and hope to have instilled in them a tolerance and respect for those with disabilities. One of my students was taunted publicly for her disability and her junior high classmates defended her while much older teens mocked her. So much of SNL's humor is terrific, but can't this type of lowbrow humor be eliminated? Thanks for considering this point of view. Meg

  • Nadell | November 7, 2013 4:19 PMReply

    "It's not like it's not a priority for us... It will happen. I'm sure it will happen."
    WOW! What a simplistic statement.
    Have a studio full of seats! It was NEVER their priority until folks made a fuss about it.
    It really doesn't matter who is hosting the show it still isn't funny.
    MADtv should really consider coming back! They were 100xs funnier, creative & diverse!

  • rye77 | November 4, 2013 3:24 PMReply

    The show sucks....let's make our own show. SNL has never really favored anyone of color. Why do you think Eddie Murphy never came back...think about it? Do we really need SNL to do anything else besides give a performer that really need that much attention? They don't have any black writers that I heard of...the last one was Hannibal Buress...and he quit!!! Message!!!

  • David | November 4, 2013 4:10 AMReply

    Lol, this idiot writer doesn't even watch the show...political hack...write about what you know.

  • Accidental Visitor | November 3, 2013 5:16 PMReply

    " Jake, you must be 18 years old or younger. Kenan Thompson was the STAR of a major show on Nickelodeon over 15 years ago. He was already a STAR. Kenan actually was funnier and had better material to work with on "Kenan and Kel" than he does on "SNL".

    I also noticed that you named ONE person in all the decades the show has been on. People like Eddie Murphy don't count either, because once again Eddie was ALREADY a SUPER STAR before "SNL" even called him. "

    ALM, you have to be 18 if you think Murphy was a star BEFORE he arrived at SNL. He was unknown when he joined that show and the show itself made Murphy a star and almost a household name.

    Also regardless of whether you agree with Jake or not at least be fair by not misquoting him. He wrote that Lorne REVIVED K. Thompson's career, not that he made Thompson a star. And if we are going to be honest K. Thompson was only a "star" to the children who grw up with his silly Nickeloden show. The vast majority of folks never heard of the guy. Hell, they still haven't heard of him.

  • kaypribabygirl | November 3, 2013 1:09 PMReply

    Sad thing is the promo above was funniest thing they had. Only the music video skit w/Jay Pharoah made me laugh. The Glory days of SNL are loooong gone. I miss Mad TV which was diverse from day 1 and stayed that way!

  • Jake | November 3, 2013 3:11 AMReply

    Yawn, Indiewire race-baiting once again with no background checks in anything. Lorne Michaels helped get a number of black comedians career off the ground and revived (Kenan Thompson anyone?) The author doesn't even like the show so why does he give a rats behind about any of this? I swear all of these politically correct people including this author just wallow in their own misery with their own cynical world view, thinking every little decision MUST be directly related to race or gender. Grow up and do some rational thinking. If I ran a comedy sketch show, I would rather have funny people who rake in the ratings, then make sure I've met my "black women" quota and have them be mediocre. I would choose whoever is funny, no matter what race or gender they were. Comedy really doesn't prefer a gender or a race, and Lorne has proven that time and time again.

  • ALM | November 3, 2013 5:38 AM

    Jake, you must be 18 years old or younger. Kenan Thompson was the STAR of a major show on Nickelodeon over 15 years ago. He was already a STAR. Kenan actually was funnier and had better material to work with on "Kenan and Kel" than he does on "SNL".

    I also noticed that you named ONE person in all the decades the show has been on. People like Eddie Murphy don't count either, because once again Eddie was ALREADY a SUPER STAR before "SNL" even called him.

    You need to read the entire piece. Lorne also has no problem bringing on several new unfunny featured players each year. Lorne's response proves that no one is imagining the lack of diversity. As he said, it's not a priority for him.

  • CinemaPsycho | November 3, 2013 12:12 AMReply

    The original 70's cast (often referred to as the best and most talented) had no black women in it. Nobody complained about it then. They were too busy laughing.

    Remember Ellen Cleghorne? Danitra Vance? Yeah, neither does anybody else. Please stop making an issue out of something that doesn't actually mean anything. SNL has had black female cast members before, and most of them weren't that memorable. If you think the show sucks anyway, then why do you care so much? If it bothers you that much, don't watch.

  • Donella | November 3, 2013 2:16 PM

    Remember Maya Rudolph?

  • Alias | November 2, 2013 7:13 PMReply

    Chris Rock also comes from a standup background, NOT sketch comedy and he was on the show, for three years, while Michaels was there. While there's no doubt a craft and specific skill set to sketch comedy, it doesn't mean that artists who are trained in more traditional methods of acting, or in standup comedy, cannot adapt. It's kind of like when a standup comedian is given his own TV show (Seinfeld, Ray Romano). Neither comedian had ever acted before, but well-trained actors who are now hired to be in scenes with them, and the producers of said shows, don't say to themselves -- as Michaels said -- "maybe we shouldn't hire them, or work with them because they won't be seasoned, or used to the pace and attention," of having to hold one's own on a show that is built around them and other more "seasoned, trained, actors."

    I mean, a logical person can shoot holes through this nonsense all day long.

    I suppose anyone who started at SNL should then NOT be allowed to act in movies, or plays
    or in sitcoms or dramas since, most of them haven't studied more traditional acting techniques, like the actors that they later find themselves with on set.

    The bottomline is SNL is no different than Hollywood, or any other of our imperialist white supremecist patriarchial hierarchical institutions, it's just taking longer to crack the glass ceiling -- particularly when it comes to women of color.

  • rye77 | November 4, 2013 3:32 PM

    I agree with you Alias as far as SNL being white supremacist. Look at the comedy schools such as Second City,I.O., and UCB!! They're farming systems for racist,sexist, small minded individual's.

  • Ava | November 2, 2013 5:20 PMReply

    It's very telling that Eddie Murphy, who joined SNL from the world of stand up comedy (and came to characterize one of the show's funniest periods) was hired during the season that Lorne Michaels was NOT in charge of the show.
    And it's a good thing too given his stated beliefs about the readiness of stand up comedians vs. sketch comedians (does this distinction strike anyone else as particularly ridiculous?). Or does this only apply to Black comedians?
    Whatever. Not buying his explanation.

  • Frank S. | November 2, 2013 12:33 PMReply

    Maybe it's time for Lorne Michaels to go. Bring in some new talent to the production staff and maybe SNL will go back to being funny because it damned-sure isn't now.

    "In Living Color" and "MAD TV" had more diversity and ran circles around SNL when they were on the air. If Michaels can't find black female comedians who are "ready" he should step aside for others who can and no doubt would.

  • Sharon | November 2, 2013 5:46 PM

    Yes. It is time. He's full of shit.

  • Cookie Lane | November 2, 2013 10:19 AMReply

    The issue that Rob pointed to is very disconcerting because its a sign that there is a lack of history being taught in the U.S so I suppose there is a need for a history lesson: Black Entertainment Television came into production not because of black racism, it was created because of the lack of black actors and actresses, music and overall African American culture on the plethora of channels on regular/white television. Furthermore, for about 95 percent of American History there was no outlet for black entertainment in the mainstream media. As far as SNL, I am not upset that there are no black women on the show because this is the producer's decision. Plus, the show is not even funny anymore either. The issue that upsets me is that they are saying there are no black female comedians to play in their skits. This is a blatant lie and everyone knows this, the Queens of Comedy proved there are very hilarious black women who could be utilized in the show if they chose. To have a black man play the black female roles and the black male roles too is insulting and quite disingenuous.

  • Scripttease | November 2, 2013 5:03 AMReply

    Yeah, it won't happen, but you can best believe if we have another Black owned and operated "In Living Color" style skit comedy show, they will have diversity. White folks don't really care what we think because they know we will support them regardless, and that goes from entertainment to fashion to food..... We complain because they don't include us, but we continue to support their products.

  • Sharon | November 2, 2013 5:45 PM

    My sentiments exactly.

  • Truth | November 2, 2013 3:31 PM

    Rob is a fukking liar who trolls for kicks or just incredibly dumb. The Best Man Holiday & Think Like a Man have white men included in their rom-com casts. Tyler Perry hires his fair share of white actors too, so do your research or STFU. Ask Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola to reciprocate that diversity - Jesus will probably return first. We HAVE to acknowledge difference a in order to get audience growth, but not white Hollywood. Every channel except BET, TV One & Centric could be called WET, because no people of color will be included unless they conform to a palatable aesthetic that suits white viewers. In this day & age nobody can be so stupid as to not understand what created the need for ethnically focused programming.

  • Troy | November 2, 2013 1:16 PM

    Yep In Living Color was all black haha.

  • Rob | November 2, 2013 8:15 AM

    Have you really seen black comedies and movies?? Diversity? Everyone in these comedies and movies are all black..just tune to you see a WET? White Entertainment Television? Would be the first to be called a racist channel..

  • david | November 2, 2013 3:45 AMReply

    please. if it was a "priority" then it would have happened more than 4 times in 40 years. (and more than 0 times for Asians and Latinos)

  • trini | November 2, 2013 9:50 PM

    Hey, I really think this is Vanilla Ice commenting here. He made this same ignorant argument so many times in the media, I've lost count. And isn't his first name Rob, also, lol? Whoever you are you need to educate yourself before you run off at the mouth and make a fool of yourself as you just did. White Entertainment Television is, with the exception of the few Black and Latino channels that are in existence, ALL that there is now.

  • Yeah Right | November 2, 2013 2:32 AMReply

    Yeah, it's really paying off having cast members with sketch comedy experience, Lorne. If your objective is to be boring. There are plenty of black female comics who do stand-up that are way funnier then your current group of cast members.

  • Yeah Right | November 2, 2013 2:28 AMReply

    It's hard to imagine that a black female sketch comic would be worse than the talent they have on the show right now. SNL is arguably the worst it's ever been. I am a Caucasian male and I was really put off by when they announced the new cast recently. The lack of minority talent, male and female, was pathetic. Just a white wall, mostly male, nerdy guys with recycled routines. It's really sad. More than anything, it's not even watchable. And the argument that there aren't any female sketch comics in the so-called Improv workshop scene is ridiculous. As if the individual performers are the ones responsible for the quality of the material. The success of the performance is largely based on the writing. Unless the actor creates a great character, which I don't see much of these days. And haven't seen for a few years, quite frankly. Lorne Michaels is delusional. Maybe he's the one that needs to go.

  • Donella | November 2, 2013 1:31 PM

    Favors have clearly been done for people who weren't ready by Lorne Michaels.

  • CC | November 2, 2013 12:17 AMReply

    Give up the fight y'all. You can't make Lorne Michaels love you.

    I'll tell you what, listen to a black man say "I can't Make You Love Me".

    Tank sings it and 11 million people have listened:

  • david | November 2, 2013 3:43 AM

    hilarious! Truth.

  • Mark and Darla | November 1, 2013 9:47 PMReply

    Lorne Michael, you are fill of shit and a liar. Go drown yourself in a wastewater treatment plant pool.

  • Man-Over-Bored | November 1, 2013 8:58 PMReply

    As an alumnus of Second City, an unofficial training ground for many SNL actors throughout the years, I must argue that Lorne has a point. Say what you will about the show's current sh*ttiness, his obvious efforts to do a little PR as Kerry Washington prepares to host, and his racist and sexist backhand to women-of-color, but he has a legitimate point about what sketch comedy requires, and how it differs profoundly from stand-up comedy.

    When I trained in improv and sketch comedy, there were five other Black men likewise training and a sole black women. Improv/sketch comedy is hard work, requiring a unique set of performance skills and stage smarts. Overall, I'd argue that there are more black women training these days (I graduated from Second City a decade ago), and indeed, I wish Lorne would search them out with more diligence; they will not only bring a much-needed diversity to the show, but a fresh, new type of talent, humor, flavor and style to it as well!

  • Donella | November 2, 2013 1:30 PM

    "Say what you will about the show's current sh*ttiness..."


    I'll say that Lorne Michaels has CLEARLY done plenty of favors for people who weren't ready.

  • ALM | November 2, 2013 12:41 AM

    Your comment answers the question I posed below. So there is a "glass door" of sorts for women of color. Of course, if there are only 3 or 4 women of color being trained at major comedy troupes across the county at any given time then the chances of them getting their feet in the door is slim. Keep in mind that I said women of color, which would include someone like Mindy Kaling. If you narrow that down to African American women, then this help explains the problem.

    I can only begin to imagine the politics, barriers, etc. involved in becoming an active player in the comedic troupes. The door is being blocked before funny women of color can even have a clear shot. The gatekeepers of troupes such as Second City seem to suffer from the same lack of enthusiasm for inclusion that Lorne Michaels suffers from. There is a ton of undiscovered talent out here. The barriers to training for sketch comedy must be lifted.

  • Peggy | November 1, 2013 8:45 PMReply

    I plan to start a sketch comedy/improv group in the NYC area with a well known casting director in the near future. It will be primarily minority oriented. Details will be forthcoming.

  • HypnotiqOne | November 1, 2013 8:26 PMReply

    "But I'm not holding my breath though, if only because I don't watch the show anyway."

    Which is the #1 reason why there is not one. But 'we' stay mad. #irrational

  • Carl | November 1, 2013 8:16 PMReply

    He may be right. The ones that auditioned bombed. It happens. Deal with it. Not everything needs the race card pulled.

    And even so, SNL is a crappy show. Has been for years. Why fight to be on it anyway? Please lose the "mass-please-give-us-dem-crumbs" mentality.

  • BeautyIAN | November 1, 2013 9:22 PM

    Oh okay Carl, I guess you were at all of the auditions that featured black women then? Tells us more about that. PLEASE. Please tell your boy what was the purpose of getting black men to dress up in drag as black women? He shouldn't have bothered green lighting those sketches. Also please miss me with the race card. This is America. Race plays a BIG factor in about everything.

  • getthesenets | November 1, 2013 7:54 PMReply

    Lorne's job is to put out the best show for the audience that watches SNL. it yourself

    topics like this are non issues because , anybody reading much are you concerned with the lives of Laotian Americans? well, THAT'S about as much as white people are concerned about the lives of African Americans.

    there's no real reason why you will or should give a F about Laotians and no real reason why Lorne Michaels will or should care about how many Black people are on SNL or about Black people in general .

  • Troy | November 2, 2013 12:10 AM

    If they weren't worried about blacks making their lives better we wouldn't be over here and they wouldn't have survived.

  • Burp | November 1, 2013 6:57 PMReply

    I cannot bullshit Lorne Michaels ..he started alot of black comics ..he is like Jim Henson in a sense that if your shit is not good then why bother no matter who you are. Maybe we are still waiting for that next black female comic. Any one who Sheri awww Monique.. this is the same dude that gave us Eddie, tracy morgan, richard P etc. I don't see a racist agenda on his part conscious or unconscious

  • ALM | November 1, 2013 7:54 PM

    There is sexism also. In that respect, women of color have two strikes against them in Hollywood.

  • Amari | November 1, 2013 6:38 PMReply

    The best way to handle situations like this is making a new program without them. Be it a web series or something else, why ask "how come you don't like us" and just take their hunch like coming back later will change their answer?

  • ALM | November 1, 2013 6:32 PMReply

    He stated the obvious, the audience can tell that diversity among women is not a priority for him.

    The next question becomes, is there some sort of glass door keeping women of color out of sketch comedy? Based on several internet comments, it seems as if several women have been presented as being ready for primetime.

    At the end of the day, you have to accept the fact that some people don't care about diversity. Bring back "MAD Tv", since "In Living Color" is a no go for now.

  • Mandy | November 1, 2013 6:28 PMReply

    F* YOU Lorne Michaels!

  • Susan | November 1, 2013 6:22 PMReply

    Who cares? The show has gotten so boring anyway. People watch out of habit or the TV is watching them sleep. Maybe hoping it gets better. LOL

  • ChgoSista | November 1, 2013 6:21 PMReply

    That is EXACTLY why these blase ass comments were released--because of Kerry W.'s "SNL" guest-host gig tomorrow night. F, Lorne Michaels. Black sketch comedy women: DO YOUR OWN THING. Let's let go of wanting to be wanted by somebody that doesn't want us!

  • CareyCarey | November 1, 2013 9:56 PM

    HELLO!!! Say it again CHGOSISTA so those in the cheap seats can hear you one-mo-time.

    Wait, I have a better idea. I think I'll turnup my amp and sing a song that says it all.

    Turn down the lights, turn down the bed
    Turn down these voices inside my head
    Lay down with me, tell me no lies
    Just hold me close, don't patronize - don't patronize me

    Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
    You cant make your heart feel something it won't

    Yep, there it is, all this crying, beggin' and complaining is getting on my last nerve. I mean, as the song says, you can't make a SOB love you if they don't, so why beg his ass? Shit, every time S&A trots out one of these simpin ass posts I suggest that song... should accompany it---> Bonnie Raitt: I Can't Make You Love...

    4 Million people have listened to that song so you will not be alone.

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