Jay Pharoah, Kenan Thompson on ‘SNL’s’ Diversity Problem; Kenan Blames Lack of Talent

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  • “Saturday Night Live” announced this season’s six new cast members, and for the sixth year in a row,  none of them were an African American woman – which means Kenan Thompson will have to continue putting on lipstick.

    But there’s one problem, Kenan says he’s not doing it anymore.

    When asked what the show would do now when confronted with potential black female characters or celebrity spoofs, Thompson told TVGuide.com, “I don’t know. We just haven’t done them. That’s what I’m saying. Maybe [Jay Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn’t really want to do it.”

    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 part0 of the business,” Thompson says. “Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”

    In the 38 years “SNL” has been on the air, the series has only had four black female cast members: Yvonne Hudson (1980-81), Danitra Vance (1985-86), Ellen Cleghorne (1991-95) and Maya Rudolph (2000-2007). Of the four, only three were repertory players (Hudson was only a featured player before being fired midseason). This means, there were large gaps in “SNL’s” history when there were no black women on the show at all.

    Jay Pharoah has recently spoken out about the series’ diversity problem, telling theGrio, “They need to pay attention” and add a black woman to the cast. Pharoah even suggested his pick, Darmirra Brunson, who’s currently on “Tyler Perry’s Love They Neighbor.”

    “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.”

    As to how the six new (all white) cast members are faring so far this season, Thompson says they’re doing just fine. “They’re all contributing in different ways I think. They’ve been doing great job so far. They’re all very, very smart and talented, so that’s how it is. That’s the kind of people I guess that get the job,” Thompson says.

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