Kenan Thompson, long running member of the Saturday Night Live cast recently gave the desperate, hungry beast known as Manufactured Internet Outrage (MIO, not to be confused with the drink additive that Tracy Morgan pitches) a morsel to feast on. Saturday Night Live is particularly white and has always seemed to have a lack of women of color. In a TV Guide article, Thompson said, regarding the casting issues (please hide the children and be careful reading the following sentence): “Like in auditions, they just never find ones (women of color) that are ready.”
Oh. My. God.
Obviously there could be many reasons for Saturday Night Live‘s lack of diversity, especially in the women of color category. Perhaps they represent a small sample size of people available to audition (coming from the Stand Up, Sketch and Improv ranks it would not be surprising), perhaps Lorne Michaels is hugely racist or perhaps the small sample of women of color who may audition did not do as well. There are many reasons both benign and pernicious that could justify the whiteness of the SNL cast over the years, but the response to Kenan Thompson’s quote is simply a desperate and angry overreaching of people craving a villain for the day. What exactly did Thompson say – that IN AUDITIONS, there never seem to be women of color ready for the spotlight? So he is speaking of the auditions he seems to have observed. He did not say black women are no good at sketch comedy or comedy. He was very specific and not very harsh or definitive in his condemnation of sketch performing women of color. But did that stop the Internet from finding outrage? Of course not.
“Kenan Thompson blames black women for lack of black women on SNL” – Jezebel
“Kenan Thompson Blames SNL‘s Diversity Issue on Lack of Talented Black Comediennes””- TV Guide
“Kenan Thompson Blames “SNL’s” Lack Of Black Female Cast Members On Black Women” – The Urban Daily
“Stephen from Django Unchained Calls Black Female Sketch Performers Worthless Trashy Hoes” – Huffington Post
OK that last one is fake, but this is just the latest example of web traffic driving the presentation of content, instead of the actual content itself. What Kenan Thompson said was not controversial or mean or sexist or racist. It was a half-hearted explanation based on his personal observations. This just represents this year’s “Girls” controversy or Eddie Brill situation where a group feeling slighted generally parses and latches on to something someone said to create a straw man upon which to place their anger. Why not direct the anger at Lorne Michaels? Because his show has been on for four decades and he is not going anywhere or doing anything he doesn’t want to at this point. So let’s get mad at today’s straw man monster Kenan Thompson. ZUT ALORS! And just remember the flood of women (under five I think) that have appeared to do stand-up on Letterman since Eddie Brill stopped booking it? I would look for a similar deluge on next year’s SNL. Because sometimes there are bad people doing bad things, but other times there aren’t but someone still has to get blamed anyway.
For more opinions, comedy and bridge burning check out the Righteous Prick Podcast on Podomatic, iTunes and NOW on STICHER. New Every Tuesday so subscribe on one or more platforms today – all for free!