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How Can We Still be Talking About Whether Women Are Funny?

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by Melissa Silverstein
October 16, 2013 1:00 PM
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Yesterday morning brought the great news that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey will be hosting the Golden Globes in 2014 and 2015.  They were so terrific as hosts last year that the Globe people were smart to lock them in for an extended run.  Add that to the earlier news that Ellen DeGeneres would be hosting the 2014 Oscars and if you didn't know better, you'd think that funny women are everywhere.

Well, it didn't take long to get the buzz dashed when the internet exploded over comments from Kenan Thompson from Saturday Night Live talking about why the show doesn't have a black female performer.

The show has not had a great track record with African American female performers having only hired four during the 38 years of the show.  The last one was Maya Rudolph and she has been gone since 2007.  While this is clearly a problem that needs some serious attention -- hello Lorne Michaels! -- blaming women is not helpful as Kenan Thompson did.  In an interview with TV Guide, Mr. Thompson, who is known for his portrayals of black women on the show, said that he is not going to be assuming those roles any longer.  And then he threw every fledgling black female comedian under the bus by saying that they are not good enough to be on the show.

It's just a tough part of the business...Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.

Ugh. How totally fucking condescending.  So we are now to believe that there are NO African American women funny enough or prepared enough to be on SNL. That is just a whole load of bullshit. In fact, Madeleine Davies over at Jezebel came up with four names in 2 minutes.  

She also adds:

Women of color (let's not forget that SNL has no Eastern Asian or Latina performers either) are underrepresented in comedy. You have to dig deeper to find them — mostly because the improv/sketch theaters where SNL scouts are overwhelmingly stocked with white people — but they're definitely there and it's a joke to say otherwise.

While I'm sure that Kenan Thompson will realize pretty quickly if he already hasn't that it's not a smart thing to throw fellow performers under the bus, his comments just illuminate the continuing problem of the lack of opportunity for women -- especially women of color -- to break through the old boys network.  What Kenan Thompson should have done was name some great African American women who he has put forward for the show and put the issue into the hands of the producers and not playing into the sexism and racism of the business.

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