Two point nine percent. In 38 years, a mere 2.9% of Saturday Night Live's cast has been both female and black. But according to a man who played Pierre Escargot on national television for half a decade, the reason Saturday Night Live has no black women on air is because black women aren't good enough to be on SNL.
In an interview with TV Guide, SNL cast regular Kenan Thompson was asked what the show would do, now that Thompson no longer wants to play cross-dressing roles just to spoof black female characters. Rather than address the lack of diversity on SNL, Thompson blamed black female comedians for just not being good enough.
Instead of blaming showrunner Lorne Michaels or the series, which currently only employs three actors of color out of 16 cast members (Thompson, Pharaoh and the Iranian Nasim Pedrad), Thompson blames the lack of quality black female comedians. "It's just a tough part of the business," Thompson says. "Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."
There hasn't been a black woman on the show in six years, and in its 38-year history, there have only been four black females on the show, out of 137 repertory and featured cast members. Only three were repertory players—Danitra Vance, Ellen Cleghorne, Maya Rudolph. Yvonne Hudson, the first black female cast member was only a featured player, and was fired halfway through her first season.
It's no secret that SNL has a major diversity problem. Cast member Jay Pharoah referenced it recently in an interview with The Grio when he brought up SNL's lack of black females:
They need to pay attention,” Pharoah tells theGrio. “Her name is Darmirra Brunson…Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing. She needs to be on SNL. I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year.
Yet according to Thompson, SNL isn't to blame, black women are to blame. They're not talented enough. They're not making themselves known to whoever is scouting talent for Lorne Michael's struggling, aging, gasping for breath variety clusterfuck.
Yet Shonda Rhimes continues to make shows that top the ratings, that star black women like Kerry Washington and Chandra Wilson.
Issa Rae is so good, she sold her YouTube smash The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl to HBO with her attached to star, set up another project at ABC, and is hosting a talk show for Magic Johnson's Aspire network.
Comedienne Michelle Buteau is a fan favorite on VH1's Best Week Ever, MTV's Girl Code, and is appearing in Fox's midseason comedy Enlisted.
I could continue to list talented black female comedians and their credits, or even just black female artists in general, but it's pejorative, especially given that the problem lies with Saturday Night Live and not with the talent around town.
But hey, maybe I'm wrong: after all, a guy who made his name saying things like "Take those pork chops out of your brassieres" while sitting a bathtub is definitely the expert on what qualifies as "talent" and what doesn't, right?