Yesterday we found out that Lorne Michaels and Co. over at Saturday Night Live had hired Upright Citizen Brigade performer Sasheer Zamata as the first black actress to grace the cast in the six years since Maya Rudolph left the cast. We said it was an “uneasy” victory, since the call had been made under the intense amount of pressure the show’s producers were under to hire a black woman after Keenan Thompson’s interview with TV Guide, where he implied that the lack of female diversity in the cast was because there weren’t enough qualified candidates in the field. (Woof.)
It was a very blatant form of tokenism, and though it was necessary, it wasn’t sitting right. Then Saturday Night Live surprised us:
According to The Hollywood Reporter, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, two black women who had auditioned with Ms. Zamata during SNL’s “secret” casting call, have been hired as writers on the show. That’s incredible. Think about it for a minute. SNL’s problems with race and gender don’t end at the curtain. In fact, as Soraya N. McDonald from the Washington Post pointed out last year when Kerry Washington hosted:
…the biggest weak spot isn’t the lack of diversity in “SNL’s” cast (though that’s certainly troubling); it’s the lack of diversity in its writing room. SNL has no idea how to write about black women without referencing the same tired tropes that follow us through media.
Adding two women of color to the writing staff is huge. We can’t stress how big of a deal it is. Not only because it will change how often we have to see Mr. Thompson in drag because the dudes writing the sketches still think that’s the height of humor, but because adding two women of any color to a late night writer’s room is sadly still, in this day and age, a game changer. For comparison, most late night shows still only have one or two women writers on staff, total. And they’re pretty much all white.