November 4, 2013

‘SNL’ chides itself on cast diversity issue

It asks its host, a black actress, to play multiple black women, since the show has none on its 16-member cast.

NEW YORK — With Kerry Washington as guest host, “Saturday Night Live” wasted no time poking fun at itself after receiving criticism for having no black women among its 16 regular cast members.

click image to enlarge

Actress Kerry Washington of the TV show “Scandal” stands with “SNL” cast member Taran Killam during a promotional shoot.

The Associated Press

In the opening skit, the “Scandal” actress portrayed first lady Michelle Obama, talking with her husband about an upcoming state dinner at the White House. “Michelle, this is such a treat,” said the president, impersonated by Jay Pharoah. “I feel like it’s been years since I’ve seen you.”

An aide came in, saying Oprah Winfrey had arrived for the dinner and wanted to see the president. “Don’t you think you should get changed?” he asked Washington. She wondered whether cast member Kenan Thompson couldn’t play Winfrey; both Thompson and Pharoah have said recently they will no longer impersonate women on the NBC late-night comedy institution.

Washington left the stage and returned as Winfrey. She was then asked to portray Beyonce – before show producer Steve Higgins interrupted with a voiceover. Higgins said producers would like to apologize to Washington for the number of black women she would be asked to play in the show.

“We make this request both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent, and also because ‘Saturday Night Live’ does not currently have a black woman in the cast,” he said. “We agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the future – unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.”

The show has had four black women among its regular cast since coming on the air in 1975, with the last one, biracial Maya Rudolph, leaving in 2007.

– From news services

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