All Articles Tagged "SNL"
As reported by various news outlets, Sasheer Zamata will become the first black female cast member on Saturday Night Live since Maya Rudolph, left over five years ago.
Although the new hire spells great opportunity for the young New York-based comedienne as well as positive press for SNL, which has been caught up in controversy over lack of cast diversity, not everyone is feeling the decision. More specifically, Variety’s digital editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein, who in the piece Diversity Done Wrong: How ‘SNL’ Mishandled Casting a Black Woman, writes that Zamata’s hiring was not only a publicity stunt but also discrimination.
He also writes:
“The primary problem is the move to demonstrate “SNL” isn’t prejudiced was in and of itself an act of prejudice. While “first black woman in five years” makes for a compelling soundbite, it’s not as if “SNL” has no African-Americans at all. But lost amid all this attention on African-American women is that there currently are no Hispanics or Asians of either gender on “SNL,” which has also been the subject of criticism.
Making finding a black female in particular a priority over other racial groups sets up an absurd hierarchy of diversity needs. Think of how much more sense it would have made if “SNL,” having felt so compelled to make such a public demonstration of its diversity outreach, hadn’t excluded anyone who wasn’t a black female and just made it a casting call about finding another funny person of any type.
It’s always funny when white folks rail on about merit, hierarchy of diversity needs (seriously?) and affirmative action when sitting comfortably in mostly white work spaces (and yes that was a jab at the journalism industry). In other words, most of the cast of Saturday Night Live‘s entire run have been white men, however, that does not mean that all those white male cast members have been funny, or the funniest comedians to cast for the show. Some (without naming names) were kind of mediocre. And their mediocrity was likely aided on by all white executives, scouts and others white folks in positions of authority, who cast the show based upon their own personal preferences, as opposed to who – and even what is – funny. Therefore, if bias is intentional than so is diversity. And let’s be real here: mainstream America (white folks in authority) has a pretty messed up track record of doing the right thing racially, when judging solely upon merit. I’m talking historic-level of f**kery here. Every bit of diversity in this country has came by way of force, pressure and flat-out intention. Every bit of it.
Merit-based hiring and labor (because that is ultimately what we are talking about here) means leaving the decision making exclusively in the hands of folks like Wallenstein, who can say rather cluelessly “it’s not as if “SNL” has no African-Americans at all,”without taking into account that those two African Americans are actually both men. And black men and women are not interchangeable, despite SNL and Keenan Thompson best effort to make us think so.
I think it is laughable that Wallenstein sees the hiring of black women as some sort of affront to other women of color. Historically and statistically speaking, black people, in particular black women, have never been on the top of hierarchy in America. Therefore the fact that Black folks were able to pressure a show into doing the right thing in terms of having black comediennes play and define black comedic characters, only strengthens the causes of other marginalized, who too find themselves on the outside of the joke.
And as amusingly articulated by Dan Obeidallah, an Arab-American and former Saturday Night Live staffer, who writes in his piece, ‘SNL’ Gets What the Rest of TV Should: Racial Diversity Means Quality:
“Adding diversity to a comedy show—or to any show for that matter—simply to fill a quota would be wrong. But as a comedian and as someone who worked at SNL on the production staff from 1999-2007, I can tell you that greater diversity truly does equal better comedy. Authentic voices representing different backgrounds only enhance the comedy stew. So instead of one-note comedy bits, we see nuanced ones that resonate as being truthful—which in turn is better comedy.
We’ve all seen the panel of three white guys telling us “what the Arab world is really thinking.”
And I say this from first-hand experience. When I worked at SNL, I was the only person on the production staff of Arab heritage. Consequently, when writers were working on sketches that dealt with the Middle East—and believe me, there were a lot in the years after 9/11- they would often ask me questions. Some were factual inquires. Others were: “Is this racist?” If I sad “yes” they made sure to put it in the sketch. (Kidding!)”
The good news is the Zamata will not be the only black woman joining the show this season, thus avoiding the “token,” label. According to the Hollywood Reporter, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, will also be joining on to SNL crew as part of the writing team. Interestingly enough, the article states that Tookes and Jones were also “discovered” during the same black comedienne talent hunt, in which they discovered Zamata. I find that partly odd considering that I had “discovered” Jones, aka Big Les, a while ago, more specifically watching her comedy show Problem Child on Netflix. She is pretty raw, non-politically correct and seriously funny. And she is not a newcomer to the comedy world, which just goes to show you hard Lorne Michaels and his SNL team have been “searching” for diverse talent prior to their recent hires…
Saturday Night Live‘s efforts to “diversify” their staff reminds me of a college brochure. “Oh let’s throw in a black guy in the front page — y’know — so students think we’re multicultural.” I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be “sprinkled in” for added effect. I’d want to be the prime selection, front-and-center, for the university’s pamphlet.
And this is how I perceive SNL‘s first black female cast member since 2007, Sasheer Zamata. She’s the token black girl — “Scary Spice” or Saved By The Bell‘s Lisa Turtle – to create the illusion of heterogeneity.
“No matter how talented this young woman is,” Variety‘s Andrew Wallenstein wrote, ”the special circumstances surrounding her hire put an asterisk next to her name that wouldn’t have to be there had she just been brought in during the traditional casting process.”
Wallenstein, under an opinion piece titled “How ‘SNL’ Mishandled Casting a Black Woman,” explains that while SNL‘s efforts to seem more inclusive is noble, the way they casted Zamata was a big ol’ mess. And for the most part, I agree.
When SNL opened up their auditions for African-American women only, I know I’m not the only one that heard, “Alright, alright! Shut up already! See? We’re going to hire a Black woman damnit!” SNL‘s mid-December auditions were out-of-the-ordinary. The sketch show never had open casting calls.
How Comedians (Usually) Become An SNL Cast Member:
1. Talent scouts usually pull comedians from four respected comedy clubs: Second City, Improv Olympic, the UCB Theater, and the Groundlings. Comedians at these venues are “seasoned performer[s] who can better handle all the rigors of being on a live TV show,” according to Mental Floss.
2. They will invite you to do a 10-minute performance in front of a live, paying audience. Comics can do celebrity impressions or a stand-up routine.
3. Before you’re called to do your audition, they put you through professional hair and makeup. “You’re looking along the walls at all the past cast members. It’s just hitting you, and you’re trying not to vomit,” Will Ferrell said as he reminisces his wait in the dressing room.
4. Should you impress the recruiters, you’ll get a call that will change your life forever.
And it all just makes you wonder: Will Zamata be just as respected for her position on SNL as her co-stars? In a sense, the public pushed SNL into a corner and demanded they hire black women. Zamata’s predecessors, on the other hand, were hired without a figurative gun to the head.
While Zamata seems qualified, SNL‘s atypical audition process discredits her as just the “affirmative action” pick — the girl chosen just to appease the diversity defenders.
“If it took a supplemental measure for her to make the team,” Wallenstein adds, “a nagging unanswered question is left looming over her: Did ‘SNL’ relax its strict standards for admission in fear of public pressure?”
Look at it this way: If you’ve been through hell and back to get into a Greek organization, you probably won’t take kindly to new recruits who get off easy. For the sake of solidarity and tradition, you want all your sorors to go through the same challenging recruitment process as yourself.
In this scenario, Zamata — and SNL‘s new Black writers LeKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones — are the “new sisters” who slipped through the cracks.
SNL should’ve stuck by their traditional hiring process. Scout the big comedy clubs, such as New York’s Upright Citizens Bridage (UCB) where Tina Fey was discovered, while zooming in on Black entertainers. And don’t tell that me there are no Black comedians at these venues because guess what? Zamata was part of the UCB troupe herself.
A few days ago, we happily reported Saturday Night Live hired their first black female cast member in five years. On January 18, Sasheer Zamata will premiere her comedy and acting skills on SNL, but of course before she does so, Don Lemon had to send a word of advice to her. While on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Lemon revealed how he felt about Zamata receiving her new position.
“Look for a Beyoncé spoof for sure, something Zamata says she’s good at, and you’ll probably see a wicked Michelle Obama impersonation. You can also look for a whole lot of scrutiny and criticism from some who are looking for an excuse to say she got her job to fill a quota because she’s black. That always happens from people who don’t understand the need for diversity and who don’t understand why it’s important to expand and enhance traditional recruiting methods to find diverse talent. That said, it probably won’t be easy for Zamata—who, in the glaring spotlight that’s about to be trained on her, is going to have to be a whole lot funnier than she is black.”
While his last statement regarding Zamata to be funnier than her race perplexes some, Lemon makes sense. Black women are complex when it comes to their concerns about their identity and how they would like to be portrayed in the mainstream. By being the only black woman on SNL, Zamata will need to learn how to balance the pressure from the African American community to take into account multiple layers and identities. Also, though humor varies among black women, most of us would rather laugh about certain social/race issues behind closed doors. With the humor SNL indulges in, do you think the producers will make Zamata perform controversial spoofs?
Listen to Don Lemon’s full view on the subject here. What do you think?
“Yahoo is about making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining,” said Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Tuesday. In line with this mission, Yahoo is launching a new short-and-sweet digital magazine and a visually-focused Yahoo Tech page to match their fast-paced, restless readers.
“We’ve all had that experience with articles that are TLDR,” said Mayer. What the heck is TLDR, you ask? “‘Too long, didn’t read,’” Mayer clarifies. To solve this problem, Yahoo has come up with “Yahoo! News Digest,” a digital outlet that aggregates all the current info on sports, politics, U.S. news and more.
But what makes this app perfect for this gotta-go generation is that it only delivers the top nine stories of that day. Yahoo News Digest will also feature “atoms” to heighten engagement with its users.
“Atoms are other bits of information, like stock tickers, quotes, tweets, videos, maps, and other things that directly relate to and enhance the story,” Business Insider reports.
This idea was snatched from Summly, a mobile start-up, which Yahoo acquired for $30 million. What’s even more interesting is the face behind Summly — an 18-year-old Australian computer programmer. That’s right… A teenager was behind the incorporation of this new widget that incorporates technology and journalism in an interactive way.
“At its core, it simplifies news and eliminates the problem of information overload.”said Nick D’Aloisio at CES.
Also among the big news announced is Yahoo Tech! “There are already plenty of websites about technology,” admits David Pogue, a former New York Times writer hired to helm Yahoo Tech. “The thing is that they’re by geeks, for geeks,” said Pogue, alluding that their articles have too much mumbo jumbo.
Yahoo Tech will tell you which devices you should buy, but it will also tell you how you should use it. Expect tutorials and easy-to-understand instructions on how to maneuver around your desired device. “At Yahoo Tech, we have a language we’re going to speak and it’s called English,” Pogue jokes.
Yahoo’s presentation at CES certainly turned heads as the web giant brought Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson and Cecily Strong to help launch Yahoo News Digest. Adding to the star power, Katie Couric — who made headlines by leaving ABC News for Yahoo — was present as well.
“Yahoo, under Marissa’s leadership, has shown a real commitment to the quality content that will help us all have a much better understanding of this complicated, noisy, wonderful world,” Couric said.
After the last quarterly earnings were reported in October, USA Today wrote, “Mayer has righted the ship since joining Yahoo about 15 months ago, spurring a major recovery in its shares, which have more than doubled in the period,” though there was a small drop in revenue. Still, there’s a lot more coming from Yahoo to appeal to consumers. Are you a Yahoo devotee? Becoming one?
After some questionable comments by Kenan Thompson, some criticism from the public, and a showcase for black female comediennes that was at one point looked at as a publicity stunt, Saturday Night Live has finally added their first black comedienne to the show since Maya Rudolph left as a cast member in 2007. Her name is Sasheer Zamata, and according to Deadline, she will make her debut on the show on January 18, the same episode that will be hosted by Drake, who will also be the musical guest. Our fingers are crossed that the two will be featured in a skit together.
According to USA Today, Zamata graduated from the University of Virginia and received her comedic training at theUpright Citizens Brigade Theatre here in NYC. She was among 12 comedians who were invited to test for a spot on the show in December (which also reportedly included black comediennes Kerry Coddett and Natasha Rothwell). Seeing as how she’s the only new face to be announced, her casting could be part of a way for Lorne Michaels and the folks at SNL to hush up their critics, but whatever it is, a talented sista has a job! And I can attest to the fact that Zamata is hilarious, and you will be able to as well after you check out the clip below of her skit on dealing with a perverted dude trying to holler at her in NYC (be prepared, the d-word is used quite a few times). Zamata will join Rudolph, Yvonne Hudson, Danitra Vance and Ellen Cleghorne as black female comediennes who have received a shot on the show. Congrats!
Looks like “Saturday Night Live” is all about color these days. First, it was Kerry, then there was the showcase for black comediennes and now Drake is set to host the show. Yup, October’s own is returning to his acting roots. Many of you may remember a time when Drake played the character ‘Jimmy Brooks’ aka ‘Wheelchair Jimmy’ on the Teen Nick show “Degrassi: The Next Generation” And now, Drake is sharpening up his acting chops once again as he’s set to host “Saturday Night Live” when the show comes back for a new season.
The rapper will serve as the host and musical guest for the January 18 show, according to an announcement made on SNL this past Saturday…obviously.
Drake joins the list of growing musical acts who’ve hosted, including Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and most amusingly Justin Timberlake. The list could use a bit more color…though it’s hard to find funny artists.
Perhaps the folks behind “SNL” felt Drake could pull this hosting gig off after he appeared in the “Weekend Update” segment in 2011, when he performed as the show’s musical guest. Go ahead and click the link, it was quite hilarious.
Will you be tuning in to “SNL” to catch Drake?
You knew it was going to happen. There was no way Saturday Night Live was going to let Saturday night’s episode go by without making fun of the week’s international pieces of news. So they ahead and kicked off the episode with it.
Jay Pharoah played President Obama and he “addressed the nation,” talking about the week’s events:
“I felt like Lemony Snicket because I experienced a series of unfortunate events. I mean, first I got roped into taking a selfie with the blonde, female Danish Prime Minister. Some people said Michelle was angry at me for that, but I talked to her afterwards and I can assure you, she was furious.”
As the skit went on Pharoah, as Obama, began to address the healthcare issues and that’s when Keenan Thompson popped into the shot as the South African sign language interpreter who turned out to be a fraud.
Thompson made different hand and body gestures when “President Obama” said certain words.
The skit may or may not have been funny but one thing is clear: Jay Pharoah does a hell of a President Barack Obama impersonation, doesn’t he? The voice is perfect!
Check out the clip above.
If Saturday Night Live can’t find any funny black women for the cast, they must not be looking very hard. Here are the funny women that kept us laughing out loud in 2013.
Unless you’re one of the last people on earth who hasn’t seen “Orange Is the New Black,” you know that Danielle Brooks is one of the breakout stars of 2013. She’s a Julliard grad, a great actress, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.
After Kenan Thompson said that there weren’t any black women on Saturday Night Live because those who auditioned weren’t “ready,” many media outlets were saying that SNL has a race problem. There are currently two black men on the show (Thompson included, and Jay Pharoah, who openly criticized the show for not employing the sistas), but diversity is far and few between otherwise. But according to TheJasmineBrand, they’re ready to make a change. Lorne Michaels and company reportedly held secret auditions last week that asked for only black comediennes. Clearly the criticism has made the folks at SNL sweat. First they asked Kerry Washington to host (bringing in some of the biggest ratings of this new season) and now this. TheJasmineBrand spoke to one of the women who was invited to audition, Bresha Webb, known for her work as Imunique on Love That Girl (TV One). She dished about what the process was like and why she’s more than ready to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live.
On How The Audition Came About:
“The audition came about from an inside source from SNL. I don’t think any of us had a clue about the showcase until two days prior. It was an awesome opportunity even though it was such a short notice but, if you stay ready you ain’t gotta get ready and we were READY! Lol But we were all honored to be selected.”
How Her Name Was Thrown Into The Ring:
“I found out that I was on a list of funny women in the industry and there was an opportunity for me to audition for SNL last summer but, I was filming “Love that Girl” and now the opportunity has represented itself.”
What The Audition Process Was Like:
“I can share that we all entered the Groundlings theater backstage having no idea what to expect. I had no clue who was apart of the showcase. Of course my Comedienne friends (Tiffany Haddish, Beth Payne & Gabrielle Dennis) were there. And some talented ladies in sketch comedy were there that I had never met. We were all very supportive of each other and there was no sense of competition or pettiness. We were just happy that some new black women in comedy were being considered and given a shot. We even held hands prayed after the showcase. It was refreshing. The show was also sold out. It was packed to the max…there hasn’t been a black woman on the show in a while, however, I’m thankful to possibly be the one they’ve been looking for. Or waiting for.”
We’ll have to wait and see who actually makes the cut in the long run, but I know a few of these women, especially Tiffany Haddish, are absolutely hilarious and deserve a shot. But will a few more black faces of the female persuasion really make you tune into Saturday Night Live?
I know we all felt some type of way when Kenan Thompson said that the lack of black female comediennes on SNL had a lot to do with most of them not “being ready” last month. Yet we quickly moved on from the issue after Kerry Washington killed it as a host of the show on November 2. Guess everyone thought enough progress had been made in the blink of an eye. But Salon recently sat down with funny lady Nefetari Spencer, a black comedienne known for being in the comedy troupe Elite Delta Force 3, and starring in the hilarious skit, “Real Housewives of Civil Rights” with Wayne Brady, to talk about what it’s really like to audition for Saturday Night Live. Spencer went into detail about making it to the final rounds of auditions in 2008 with her Michelle Obama impressions, coming face-to-face with SNL-head Lorne Michaels, and what she thinks about the lack of sistas on the show. Really interesting stuff:
What was it like when you got there?
“I was in the same space that raised Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Ellen Cleghorne and Maya Rudolph. And I was there, me, Nefetari Spencer, the same little girl from the south side of Chicago who performed “skits” with my cousin in the living room. The Holy Grail of sketch comedy called and I was ready.
I came “camera-ready,” meaning my hair and make up were already done. As a black woman in this industry, I learned my lesson the hard way about going through “the works” and coming out looking worse than when I sat down. We have all gone through that but that’s another story.
While I sat in the chair for a touch-up, in walked Seth Meyers. Come to find out he went to Northwestern, and I used to visit one of my BFFs there, so we were able to talk about that and Chicago. [I hoped] Seth would be able to see me as more than a head shot.”
How many other people were testing at the time?
“There were 20 of us testing that year. I was the only African-American woman and Jordan Peele [of Key & Peele fame] was the only African-American male there.
[After two hours, my name was] called. The assistant director introduced himself to me and asked me to check the set and if I needed anything. As I checked the table, set up my wigs, and props, I noticed that Lorne Michaels, Seth Meyers and Marci Klein were sitting at a table à la “American Idol” adjacent to the camera and behind them in the bleachers were possibly the writers. It was about 10-15 people, mostly white men.
I started my audition.
“Hi, I’m Nefetari Spencer and this is Michelle Obama.”
Six-point-five minutes and seven characters later I said, “Thank you.” Two people in the hall told me, “That was so funny, you were great.”
How did you find out that you didn’t get the gig?
“I found out I didn’t get it the day they announced the new cast members. It was hard to digest because it seemed kismet. I thought of the contract that I signed that could have changed my life and about me moving to NYC. With Maya Rudolph no longer being on the show, they were going to need a Michelle Obama. I mean all of the signs were there. I had been working tirelessly for years to get to that level. I couldn’t help but feel sad, but I also felt I left my heart on that stage and that’s all I could do.”
How did you react to Kenan Thompson’s statement about black women and “SNL”?
“I can’t speak for all African-American women who do sketch but I can say I think there are some out there who are ready. Hell, I thought I was ready but maybe not.”
Do you still want to work for “SNL” or are you more focused on your own pursuits?
“I will stress that to me, “SNL” is the Mecca. If the Mecca calls again, I will go and do my best. Meanwhile, I will continue to focus on my own pursuits.”
SNL definitely missed out because Spencer is pretty funny! Check out her full interview from earlier this month over at Salon’s website and check out some of Spencer’s best impressions below and share your thoughts.