‘Saturday Night Live’ pokes fun at diversity issue
NEW YORK (AP) — 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.
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. Both Pharoah and Thompson have recently addressed the situation in interviews, with Pharoah even lobbying for a specific comic to be added — Darmirra Brunson of the OWN sitcom “Love Thy Neighbor.”
To drive the point home in the skit, the presidential aide announced that six different Matthew McConaugheys were there to attend the state dinner — and six different white male cast members trooped in dressed as the actor.
Then the Rev. Al Sharpton appeared on the stage.
“What have we learned from this sketch?” Sharpton said. “As usual, nothing.”
He then delivered the show’s traditional opening line of “live from New York, it’s Saturday night.”
During the show, Washington portrayed a gum-chewing assistant to a career counselor, a political science professor discussing her unwavering support for Obama, Miss Uganda in a beauty pageant, a game show host, a teacher at the dunk tank in a school carnival and an 18-year-old contestant in an MTV dating game.
She also joked about “Scandal” co-star Tony Goldwyn, saying that she was “proud to be on a show that has the courage to cast a white man as president” in 2013.