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Kenan Thompson: Lack Of Funny Black Female Comedians Is Reason For SNL’s Diversity Problem

by Sergio
October 15, 2013 11:18 AM
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And of course, judging form the photo above, being the comedic stylist he is, who would know better than him?

No doubt you’ve heard about the recent controversy over Saturday Night Live’s predominantly white newest cast members, and the show's overall lack of diversity. Particularly, the lack of black women in the cast. 

Even cast member Jay Pharaoh has openly questioned SNL’s lack of black women cast members on the show, saying that the producers “need to pay attention.

However, fellow cast member Kenan Thompson feels differently and said in a new interview with TV Guide that the diversity problem on SNL is due to the lack of quality black female comedians.

As he says in the interview: "It's just a tough part of the business. Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."

And of course being the comedy genius that he is, he would know

But what happens if the show needs a female cast member to impersonate someone on the show such as Michelle Obama? Thomson responded: "I don't know. We just haven't done them. That's what I'm saying. Maybe Jay Pharaoh will do it or something, but even he doesn't really want to do it."

Yeah, it just might be possible that Pharaoh would have a problem being in drag, playing the First Lady, wouldn’t you think?

However, Thompson thinks the new cast members on the show have been great so far, adding: "They're all contributing in different ways I think. They've been doing great job so far. They're all very, very smart and talented, so that's how it is. That's the kind of people I guess that get the job."

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  • ribboned | October 18, 2013 3:43 AMReply

    Keenan is to busy playing black women in drag to know if there are funny black women of quality out there because there are. He don't know squat!!!

  • Burp | October 17, 2013 1:09 PMReply

    SNL stopped being funny since Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase and crew was in effect. Kenan is not that funny... He is a non threatening looking black man with a penchant for hamburgers. He is the fat dude who does coonish ish..

  • tom | October 16, 2013 8:38 PMReply

    HAHA! The sad thing is he truly believes that sorry shyt they bring on saturday nights is funny.

  • tom | October 16, 2013 8:38 PMReply

    HAHA! The sad thing is he truly believes that sorry shyt they bring on saturday nights is funny.

  • Ava | October 16, 2013 6:11 PMReply

    I thought I read somewhere that years ago when Fred Armisen wasn't working out, Keenan thought he could portray President Obama (before Jay Pharoah joined the cast). And that he could probably lose some weight or something.
    I really just dismissed it as a rumor or a misquote but after reading his comments regarding Black female comediennes, I'd have to come to the conclusion that the man is removed from reality.

    As for Jay Pharoah not being funny. I find Chris Rock to be hilarious on anything EXCEPT SNL. I never found him funny on SNL. I'd like to see Jay Pharoah with decently written material before I make a judgement.

  • Aisha | October 16, 2013 7:10 AMReply

    If they want to make SNL funnier they should get rid of Jay Pharoah. That man is NEVER funny!

  • toni | October 16, 2013 1:45 AMReply

    Where are all the latino, asian, and homosexual cast members?

  • ChgoSista | October 16, 2013 9:43 AM

    Uhhh, I'm sure a 'homosexual' cast member is there...

  • lilkunta | October 15, 2013 8:12 PMReply

    shadow and act: PLS fix the commenting system. I'm trying to following FRESH and RAMONE's replies to one another but cant bc they dont follow one another /nest. Please fix! Or change the comment system to disqus or something PLEASE/

  • Qstorm | October 15, 2013 6:38 PMReply

    I just find that hard to believe...NO talented black female comediennes?

  • Eshowoman | October 15, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    @ Fresh your comment "Go to any beginner improv show/class -- the starting point for most people who want to make it to SNL -- and you won't see a lot of Black female faces," basically indicates that you think black women don't have to work ethic to go required in improv show/class. It is the typical palaver ex used to excuse discrimination. Try again.

  • Waz | October 15, 2013 10:32 PM

    SNL has been lame since Maya left, and i'm being gentle by including her class of comedians. SNL is a white comedy show, where white producers try to appease white viewers with white comedy, regardless of the color of the comics themselves. So, yea, it's pretty believable that someone like Kenan would be selected to be on the show, while their remains a shortage of diversity, male and female alike. Why are we asking the producers to include people of color, when we could revamp "In Living Color"? It was a better show anyway.

  • Fresh | October 15, 2013 5:21 PM

    What? You're stretching. Black woman are clearly just as, if not more, hardworking than any other demographic. I've never said or implied otherwise.

    I'm questioning whether Black women are pursuing comedy in numbers that allow them to break through at the national level. I am, on top of that questioning, positing that -- while there is certainly a discrimination problem -- that perhaps there is also a recruitment problem. Meaning, that if we think there is a lack of Black women in comedy then maybe we need to expose and encourage young Black women to pursue comedy/acting from a younger age. This has nothing to do with work-ethic and has everything to do with recruitment, interest, exposure, and education.

  • Alias | October 15, 2013 3:07 PMReply

    @Nadia and @Jenn ... You both hit the nail on the head! And if he's such a comedic genius then why hasn't he moved on to greener pastures? Answer: Because Kenan ISN'T funny. He's just been damn lucky. Let's not forget he started in the business as a kid on Disney. He's not honed his own skills, ad nauseum, the way that Chris Rock or Eddie Murphy did. The only movie he's ever been cast in as a lead ("Fat Albert") majorly flopped at the box office. He knows to stay in his lane, which has become LAME because, as Jenn noted, SNL USED to be all about taking risks and thumbing their nose at "The Man." Now, Lorene Michaels and all the talentless people they hire are representative of "The Man."

    And I know a black actress who auditioned for UCB's diversity program, but didn't get accepted. She's funny, and talented, but for women, in general, trying to enter such a white, dominated, field is an uphill battle. Imagine a room, mostly, filled with white guys trying to decide who to take and who not to take. They're ALWAYS going to default to a position of comfort: White guys first, then funny black guys, then, maybe, one woman -- who is white, of course.

    I wish Keenan Ivory Wayans, or someone like him would bring back a sketch comedy show like "In Living Color." ... TV could use some funny, 'cause SNL is definitely NOT bringing it in any way, shape or form.

  • Ronica | October 16, 2013 3:38 AM

    Key and Peele is pretty funny.

  • YeaNahRight | October 15, 2013 3:04 PMReply

    Kenan isn't even funny, and never has been. Literally, the least funny person in Hollywood. Like Carrot Top is funnier than him (albeit for his crazy botox steroid face). But still. He just now pretty much sounds like the "Clarence Thomas" of comedy "I made the cut, so there can't be any bias right...right?". Wrong.

  • ChgoSista | October 15, 2013 6:05 PM

    "Like Carrot Top is funnier than him..." - *****DEAD*****

  • Jenn | October 15, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    I think SNL has "Eddie Murphy Scared Me" Syndrome. Back in the day, Murphy basically took over the show because he was the only one that was funny. Since then it seems to me that they make sure that they either don't have black folks on the show or that the black they do have are weak i.e. not funny a la Kenan. SNL used to be the anti-establishment comedy show. Now they ARE establishment and cater to what they believe are white tastes.

  • Jenn | October 16, 2013 6:35 PM

    Thank you @Miles, I was just about to say the same thing. In no way can any of those dudes be considered funny and Chris Rock only became funny after SNL.

  • Miles Ellison | October 15, 2013 11:14 PM

    Chris Rock is funny, but he wasn't funny on SNL. He's said as much himself. And in what bizarro universe are Tracy Morgan or Tim Meadows funny?

  • Wynton | October 15, 2013 6:17 PM

    No, it's obviously going through a down period now. But , c'mon, they've hired some of the funniest Black actors of our time since Murphy. Besides Rock there's also been Tracy Morgan (!), Tim Meadows, Maya Rudolph.

    They could be racist, but I don't think they are purposely sabotaging their own show. That's some conspiracy theory shit.

  • Jenn | October 15, 2013 4:00 PM

    @Wynton: Is the SNL of today actually funny?

  • Noah | October 15, 2013 3:10 PM

    Right, because Chris Rock isn't funny?

  • Wynton | October 15, 2013 2:59 PM

    Just to get this straight, you think SNL, a legendary COMEDY show, is purposefully casting unfunny people?

  • Nadia | October 15, 2013 2:31 PMReply

    Of course! He plays every black woman on the show. Oprah, Whoopie, Serena, Jennifer Hudson, Maya Angelou. So of course he doesn't want to lose out on those jobs. If he wasn't playing all those women, what else would his dumbass do on the show?

  • ChgoSista | October 15, 2013 6:06 PM

    *****DEAD***** - "If he wasn't playing all those women, what else would his dumbass do on the show?"

  • Akimbo | October 15, 2013 2:26 PMReply

    I'm really sad to hear him say something like this. Funny that SNL can't find any talented black comediennes, yet Mad TV and In Living Color had no issues.

  • Ashleigh | October 16, 2013 9:09 AM

    Yes, but honestly, even Mad TV fell into this at times (having black female celebrities being played by men in drag).

  • ChgoSista | October 15, 2013 6:07 PM


  • Rel | October 15, 2013 2:17 PMReply

    What a Tom! I could list a number of female comedians who are more than capable but I don't want to even indulge this ole handkerchief head fool.

  • Fresh | October 15, 2013 2:01 PMReply

    I think he's rightfully identifying a lack of numbers in the talent pool. He's not saying Black women are incapable of being funny, he's saying that those who audition aren't ready. The fact of the matter is that sketch comedy and improv is dominated by men and dominated by White people. As much as Hollywood/TV has a discrimination problem, there's also a recruitment problem that starts much earlier than the SNL auditions. Go to any beginner improv show/class -- the starting point for most people who want to make it to SNL -- and you won't see a lot of Black female faces. Is it possible Black women just aren't pursuing comedy in numbers significant enough to make a dent on the national scene?

  • NO BRAINER | October 15, 2013 9:45 PM

    People like RAMONE and ESHOWOMAN are the real problem, a much bigger problem than anything that might be behind Kenan's comment. This is the reason why black people have trouble progressing in this racist society.

  • Fresh | October 15, 2013 5:36 PM

    @ramone I'm not justifying the whiteness of the show. I'd like the show to be more diverse. I'm merely pointing out the problem might be more complex than simply discrimination/racism.

  • Ramone | October 15, 2013 5:15 PM

    Fresh you're racist pathetic in what you're saying. Have you been to all of those beginner improv classes across the country ? Clearly you're justifying the whiteness of the show yet I can think of several women of color from comedy who could do it. Madtv and In Living Color proved your line of thinking is garbage. What needs to be done is a replacement of white writers as the dominant ones who decide on what's funny, topics and sketches. Luckily you have the coon Keenan to back up your obvious racist comments and justify the status quo.

  • Fresh | October 15, 2013 2:39 PM

    @Eshowoman -- I'm never said Black people don't work hard enough (where did you get that from?), I also never denied discrimination. In fact, I said "Hollywood/TV has a discrimination problem".

    My point is/was that White people over index and Black people, especially women, are under-represented in the farm system for SNL-- improv groups, improv classes, sketch troupes. Go to an UCB show and tell me I'm lying.) Thus there is a depleted pool of talent from which to hire. If we're interested in promoting diversity in the comedy world then perhaps we need to encourage growing the pool of qualified applicants. That initiative would probably need to start with middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, since that's when a lot of comedy nerds start honing their craft.

    As far as the people you mentioned: you're right. Most of those people are hilarious and would be good on SNL. But I'm not sure what your point really is. Are you suggesting that they should leave their current gigs and take a pay-cut to be a featured player on SNL?

  • Eshowoman | October 15, 2013 2:24 PM

    @Fresh you have no clue what you are talking about! That "blacks don't work hard enough" is ignorant, uniformed bunk. There are plenty of black female comedians and they have all worked twice and hard to get half as far.
    Aiesha Tyler is on three TV shows,
    Wanda Sykes does stand up, has been in movies and TV and has had her own talk show
    Monique has an Oscar and hosted her own talk show
    Debra Willson & Kim Wayans have decades of experience in sketch comedy
    Loni Love is a regular on the Chelsea Handler show
    Sheryl Underwood is on The Talk along with Aisha Tyler
    Rheta is on Parks and Recreation
    Jessica Williams is on The Daily Show
    Sommore is the reigning queen of the black comedy circuit
    Francesca Ramsey went viral with her youtube video "Shit White Girls Say"
    and finally youtube sensation Issa Rae has development deals with HBO and Shonda Rhimes.
    Do some basic research before you spew the same excuses whites always use to deny discrimination.

  • Tracey | October 15, 2013 1:59 PMReply

    Ugh, he is the worst, probably the least funny person on the show. But SNL as a whole is just terrible. I would love more ethnic diversity on the show, but damn, how about getting better talent period?!

  • NO BRAINER | October 15, 2013 9:30 PM

    Good point. The whole show needs an overhaul and be revamped.

  • Amari | October 15, 2013 1:24 PMReply

    A token knows not to bite the hand which signs the check.

  • dancelover51 | October 15, 2013 4:31 PM


  • sthn | October 15, 2013 1:21 PMReply

    SNL talent scouts, start looking at SHIELD. They're all over there!

  • Nichola | October 15, 2013 1:04 PMReply

    That's one of the funniest things he's ever said, so ironic as he isn't ever funny

  • Traci R. | October 15, 2013 1:16 PM

    SNL could drop of the airwaves tomorrow and no fux will be given.

  • Dennis | October 15, 2013 12:05 PMReply

    See what he needs to do is shut up, sit down, and fill the void. If he's such a comedic force, open a talent agency and help Black comedians 'ready' themselves.

  • NO BRAINER | October 15, 2013 9:27 PM

    This is the dumbest thing I read on S&A in the past two months.

  • ChgoSista | October 15, 2013 11:48 AMReply

    Yeah. Okay, Kenan...

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