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Kerry Washington

If anyone was wondering whether selecting “Scandal” star Kerry Washington to host “Saturday Night Live” just weeks after everyone got all upset about the show’s six new cast members—all of them white and most of them male—was a ploy to placate general cries for more color on the show, it was and it wasn’t.

“SNL” addressed the criticism in the cold open with Jay Pharoah as President Barack Obama and Washington as First Lady Michelle Obama preparing for a state dinner that would feature at least two other important black women.

“This is such a treat, I feel like it’s been years since I’ve seen you,” Pharaoh’s Obama said.

“It may feel that way,” Washington responded, cagey, playing into the commentary of just about everyone that the show is missing out on parodies of really important people like the First Lady. Maya Rudolph, who left the show in 2007, was the last cast member to play Michelle Obama.

Washington then has to run and get changed to play Oprah Winfrey, a guest at the dinner, before leaving, again, to get ready to play Beyoncé. She’s tired and irritated and is the only person around to play these two newsmakers because that’s the funny part, right?

A voiceover reads this message to viewers:

The producers at “Saturday Night Live” would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play. We make these requests because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent — and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman on the cast. Mostly the latter. We agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future, unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.

The stink of the show’s perceived black woman problem hung in the air for the duration of the show, it seemed, as Washington was thrust into a series of sorta-funny skits that just didn’t seem to know what to do with a black woman. The best sketches were the ones that didn’t rely on Washington too much—a spoof of “What Does the Fox Say” called “My Girl” and a funny-because-its-painfully-true look at how much black folks love the current president called “How’s He Doing.”

Comedy can really effectively talk about race and culture in smart and elevated ways that sting less than more straightforward commentary. “SNL” has done that in the past and the “How’s He Doing” sketch was a decent example, but others, like an international beauty pageant making forays into less developed nations like Uganda and Greenland and another where Washington basically played a stereotypical lazy and indifferent black woman employee weren’t smart and, even worse, not funny.

And, lest we have to keep repeating it in this post-racial society we all enjoy, Washington could have just done regular, ole funny sketches that had nothing to do with race or culture or media bias or Obama.

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  • Angelique212

    Sometimes I hate the Internet. All of these so-called journalists given a voice who are not critical enough in their thinking to see what is right there in front of their noses. This is bigger than Kerry being a “token”, please… better analysis PLEASE….

    Kerry Washington did something so monumental, that you kids don’t even get it. Her education, her exposure, her cosmopolitan sensibilites, her “light” shined through and MODELED the diversity of Black women who are people too. SNL got their typical “sassy characters” from her, but she also gave them more. SNL has to now think twice about hiring the typical Cheryl Underwood types who make mainstream society COMFORTABLE. They saw a woman, who in herself is not a joke (e.g. – having a black man play a black woman for cheap laughs), DELIVER the comedy. They heard a black woman do more and be more iterations of women than they could ever imagine (as “Queenie from AHS seems to be their fall back norm).

    They can try to cast their stereotypical fall back black woman tropes on SNL later, but they will always have the shame/the memory of what could be as Kerry Washington, even when dealing with not so great writing, not only fit comfortably into the format, but was clearly a star.

  • Let’s be real are any black people even watching SNL anymore. Matter of fact, who is watching that show?

    We need to instead concentrate on supporting the black shows that do exist featuring black women.

    And it’s long overdue for another mad tv or In living color who featured black female comics.

  • lil ray

    my comment was aimed at jamesfrmphilly,
    I cant stand when people speak in the royal we.

  • Dawn

    They are getting a lot of attention for the “what did the fox say” video. I believe I saw a similar video a while back (which was hilarious) with a guy in a car telling his friend (the driver) about a girl fussing at him for what is on his mobile. I believe I got the link from Clutch. If you know it please share. It was similar to Jay and Kerry’s video.

  • Nadell

    WHERE’S MADTV?!?! They were 100xs funnier, diverse & creative!
    Nothing against KWashington but even w/ her SNL was dull as a box of rocks…