Three Black Comediennes to Audition in Final Round of Casting at SNL Today

Ashley Collman, Daily Mail (London), December 16, 2013

Three black comediennes will take the Saturday Night Live stage at some point today to fight for a cast member position opening up this January–and one of them is a noted critic of the show.

SNL creator Lorne Michaels decided to break tradition and hire new talent midseason after facing criticism that the sketch-comedy show lacked diversity in its sixth year without a black female cast member.

A source at the show revelealed to the New York Daily News that NBC Universal Diversity Scholarship winner Natasha Rothwell, stand-up comic Sasheer Zamata and sketch comic Kerry Coddett were the three women who made the cut for today’s auditions. All three women are alumnae of the Upright Citizens Brigade–an improv troupe founded by SNL alum Amy Poehler. They made the cut after performing in a showcase in New York on December 2.

In November, Coddett wrote a scathing review of the show on the Huffington Post, responding to a comment from black cast member Kenan Thompson who said the show often auditions black females but finds they’re never ‘ready’.

Coddett pointed to the show hosted by Kerry Washington in November, saying perhaps it was the white male dominated SNL writing room that wasn’t ready to handle black female characters.

‘The SNL writers showed what they could do with a “ready” black actress: pigeonhole her. They took an Emmy-nominated actress and made her play a nagging girlfriend; a sassy eye-rolling assistant; and a rage-filled Ugandan beauty queen,’ Coddett wrote. ‘Why can’t they create interesting and funny characters outside race? How long will it take the SNL writers to learn that black is not a punch line?’

She continues to say that while she rarely finds black women playing outside stereotypes on TV, her fellow comediennes a creating new ‘awkward’, ‘sophisticated’, and ‘hilarious’ black female charaters on YouTube.

‘If SNL isn’t finding great black female talent, maybe it’s because the characters we want to play don’t fall in lilve with the caricatures they’re used to seeing.’

Coddett stated she doesn’t believe there should be some sort of affirmative action diversity quota put on the writer’s room, but that the white-male dominated group is becoming a crutch for SNL.

‘If a group of white men are dictating what is being said, then there are so many different perspectives missing from the discussion,’ she said. ‘A relic of the comedy community, the SNL writers’ room needs to be more diverse for the sake of being true to the art form and the audience.

Rumors that a new player might be added to the cast started last week, when Gothamist reported that auditions were held earlier in the month at the Groundlings theater for black female comediennes in LA.

The rumor was confirmed by SNL’s creator and producer Lorne Michaels who told the New York Times last Thursday that a black female cast member will join the cast in January – the first time Michaels can remember adding a cast member mid-season.

‘All told we’ve seen about 25 people,’ Michaels told the Times. ‘A lot of people we saw are really good. Hopefully we’ll come out of the process well.’

Michaels added that as many as two of the nine that made it to the final round could make it onto the cast in January.

But he says he doesn’t want to add too many women since the cast already has five. Right now, the SNL cast consists of five men and five women, with one female and six male featured players.

Michaels also revealed that he had vetted two black female players when he was initially hiring for the current season this past fall.

He saw the two women during a performance in Chicago, but their performances weren’t as strong when they were invited to New York for the final auditions.

‘Then when the deck got reshuffled and as we premiered we realized, it looks a different way,’ he said.

That’s when he started the unusual process of searching for a new cast member mid-season.

Michaels says he can’t remember ever adding a new cast member in the middle of the season, but says he has added players in March or April to get them into the last episodes of the season.

While many have criticized the show for not having anyone to play prominent black females like first lady Michelle Obama, Beyonce or Oprah, Michaels says that has nothing to do with his hiring decision.

‘That’s a weird sort of way of looking at it because you don’t judge comedy that way. Versatility is what we look for.’

This will be the first time since 2007 that SNL has had a woman of African-American heritage on the show.

The two current black cast members- Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah- were the ones to spurn the criticism this fall as they felt it was inappropriate that all impersonations of prominent black women meant that they would have to dress in drag.

As a result, there have been no sketches on the weekly program featuring First Lady Michelle Obama since Maya Rudolph left the cast in 2007.

‘SNL’ has had just four black women in its regular troupe since premiering in 1975, including Rudolph who is biracial.

‘It’s not like it’s not a priority for us,’ Michaels said in an interview with The Associated Press in early November. ‘It will happen. I’m sure it will happen.’

News of the invitation-only auditions that have been taking place in Los Angeles and Chicago broke when pictures of the prospective candidates backstage hit the internet.

Actress Bresha Webb said she was ‘honored’ to be one of the 11 black comediennes asked to audition on about two days notice in that instance.

‘It was an awesome opportunity even though it was such short notice but, if you stay ready you ain’t gotta get ready and we were READY!,’ she told TheJasmineBrand.com.

‘I can share that we all entered the Groundlings theater backstage having no idea what to expect. I had no clue who was apart of the showcase. Of course my comedienne friends (Tiffany Haddish, Beth Payne and Gabrielle Dennis) were there. And some talented ladies in sketch comedy were there that I had never met,’ she said.

Simone Shepherd, Lekendra Tookes, Azie Dungey, Amber Ruffin, Damirra Brunson, Nicole Byer and Mistry Monroe also auditioned according to Jezebel.

‘We were all very supportive of each other and there was no sense of competition or pettiness,’ Ms Webb said.

‘We were just happy that some new black women in comedy were being considered and given a shot. We even held hands prayed after the showcase. It was refreshing. The show was also sold out. It was packed to the max.’

Webb says she was invited to audition last summer, but was filming a television show and wasn’t able to perform.

One of the comediennes who auditioned in LA–Brunson–had a fan on the inside, as Pharoah has publicly lobbied for her to get one of the coveted spots.

‘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,’ Pharoah told The Grio.

The timing of the announcement comes not only as a result of the criticism but also due to the high-profile departure of cast member and head Seth Meyers, who will leave in the New Year to host Late Night when Jimmy Fallon goes to The Tonight Show.

Kerry Coddett, Natasha Rothwell, and Sasheer Zamata.

Kerry Coddett, Natasha Rothwell, and Sasheer Zamata.

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  • D.B. Cooper

    I guess I could boycott the show, and let them know why, but I would have to watch the show to begin with.

    • baldowl

      It’s been utter crap for about twenty years now.

  • Druid

    They’ll get a job and in awhile leave the show or get fired and then down the road, there’ll be more critcism for not having blacks. All they do is beef and moan about everything.

  • Rhialto

    I admit to being puzzled. I have been observing SNL for many years. In my opinion, it is a powerful force for Liberal indoctrination. SNL is subtle, while the news and commentary programs blatantly spew out Liberal propaganda. Plus, the SNL audience comprises many non-Liberal White males, who aren’t exposed to other sources of Liberal propaganda.

    So the question is: Why are Liberals attacking SNL? Are Black Women sadistically attacking a White male target that showed weakness? Are the Liberals ignorant of just how much SNL is contributing to Liberalism? Is it a publicity stunt engineered to promote SNL, whose popularity and ad billings are going down?

    I don’t know!

  • Spartacus

    Man, those things are ugly…

    • Kerry looks like she can play a tranny.

      • Kenner

        I thought is was a tranny!

        • IstvanIN

          The one on the left is Rupaul, the middle one is that black banana minster of racial justice in Italy. The one on the right was on that TV show “Julia”.

        • Mergatroyd

          I thought it was Ru Paul.

      • skara_brae

        It distresses me no end when they commandeer a fine Celtic name like Kerry.

  • Luca

    Perhaps left-handed, one-legged, Asian lesbians will be the next to complain.

    • sbuffalonative

      I know. Where are the Hispanic and Asian cast members? They completely ignored Indians (both kinds).

  • Puggg

    Pity. SNL used to be funny.

    • Long time ago ….

      • Katherine McChesney

        In the 70’s and early 80’s with the original crew. SNL jumped the shark decades ago.

        • CourtneyfromAlabama

          Maybe I am showing my young age, but I think the late 90s were the best. I guess everyone favors their own generation, but I definitely see what you are getting at. The show gets worse and worse each decade, and everyone, including myself, tends to dislike the show more and more the further we get from the cast we grew up watching. As for the previous casts from before I started watching it, I would say it is just a matter of me not getting the political humor or current events from those times.

          • “Maybe I am showing my young age …”

            You are. I completely agree with Katherine McChesney.

          • I think it has some good seasons now and then. My favorites were always the fake commercials, especially “Happy Fun Ball”.

          • baldowl

            The Hartman/Hooks/Carvey era was the best in my opinion.

          • “Living in a van, down by the river!”

          • Katherine McChesney

            LOL

          • Mergatroyd

            Original cast was the best, by far: Belushi, Ackroyd, Radner, Newman, Curtain, etc.
            The programming was original, fresh and broke new ground, that’s why it was originally scheduled at 12:30 am, at least where I live.

            Everything after that has been a poor imitation of the original.

          • baldowl

            Oh, okay. My opinion is wrong. Good Lord.

  • bigone4u

    Whew. Things are going to get ugly on that show in more ways than one. Black females are the most demanding, most self-centered angry beasts on earth. But ugly is also skin deep. The faces on those three in the pic would break a seven day alarm clock, as the old saying goes. Glad I don’t watch it.

    • sbuffalonative

      The irony is that the characters they end up playing will reinforce black stereotypes.

      • Nothing ironic here at all. College diversity classes are precisely instruction in racial stereotypes. It’s the same mentality.

        • sbuffalonative

          I say it all the time. Stereotypes persist because they’re largely true. If blacks play outside their racial characteristics, they’re not authentically black so to attract black viewers, they have to play black.

          • Mergatroyd

            The stereotypes about whites that have become cultural touchstones in this sick, twisted society are not true, i.e., that we are ALL evil, bloodthirsty genocidists, colonists and destroyers of civilizations and for that we, ALL of us, must pay in perpetuity for “past bad acts.”
            Whites and ONLY Whites are held to these standards and anything good we’ve ever done, like created the U.S., first world technology and medicine from scratch are never, ever mentioned.

    • “Black females are the most demanding, most self-centered angry beasts on earth.”

      I don’t watch SNL but I’m a great fan of “Hardcore Pawn” for exactly that reason. I’m continually stunned by the show.

      • sbuffalonative

        That show shows blacks in all their glory. It’s odd that show isn’t being denounced as promoting racial stereotypes. I guess some shows are given a free pass.

      • Katherine McChesney

        I’ve heard terrible things about Housewives of Atlanta…that those ‘women’ especially one called NeNe are violent and engage in fist fights and arguments over the least little thing.

        I believe blacks, in general, suffer from mental illness.

        • “I believe blacks, in general, suffer from mental illness.”

          I believe that emotionally most of them are about two or three years old, and mentally most of them are not more than about ten. (There are, of course, exceptions. I’d love to have Thomas Sowell for a neighbor, we’d have a lot in common.)

          The only way most of them seem to be able to deal with civilized society is to demand that it be changed to resemble their default … well … Birmingham/Zimbabwe will have to do.

          This worldview of theirs is not going to fly after the inevitable financial collapse and civil/race war. When their nanny state disappears they’re going to find that they’re on their own and now must work to survive just as was the case before WW2.

  • Three beauty queens ….

    SNL is a White watched show, why must it be spoiled with Dibursity?

    • Mergatroyd

      SNL is a White watched show

      Not for long. Besides being unfunny since the days of Belushi and Akroyd it is now striving for diversity. Let’s put a stake in this beast by turning it off.

  • So CAL Snowman

    “Coddett pointed to the show hosted by Kerry Washington in November,
    saying perhaps it was the white male dominated SNL writing room that wasn’t ready to handle black female characters. . . If a group of white men are dictating what is being said, then there are so many different perspectives missing from the discussion,’ she said.”

    Why don’t these black women make their own comedy show instead of trying to hone in on something created by Whitey? Oh that’s right they lack any and all creativity and nothing they make will ever be as successful as SNL. Since they are incapable of doing anything for themselves they must cry and whine for Whitey do it for them. Pathetic.

    • sbuffalonative

      I often lie awake at night pondering why blacks, with their superior entertainment talents can’t make shows like whites make. The only conclusion I can come up with is racism.

      • Kenner

        As an oldie, I always felt the Supremes should have had their own variety show in the sixties, but it was before pop stars were seen as all-around-entertainers. They could do their hits, standards, and 3-part harmony…Ross was in a class by herself, her voice was beautiful.
        Boy, am I gonna get drummed off this site—!!

        • IstvanIN

          There was Flip Wilson.

          • Kenner

            In the seventies, and he was a comedian. Supremes had the most #Ones aside from the Beatles, and they’d go on Ed Sullivan, rock Rodgers and Hart, and then go open at the Copa. I think they managed to confuse everyone.

        • Alexandra1973

          Not all blacks are lousy singers. 🙂 I think some have great singing voices, if they didn’t try to show off a little too much…you know, instead of keeping it simple.

          • Katherine McChesney

            Their vocal gymnastics disgust me. Especially when they sing the National Anthem, Classical music and hymns. They always show boat.

          • Kenner

            It’s all screaming up and down the scales now…it’s an aural assault.

          • Kenner

            My grandmother always referred to blacks as n****rs, and her favorite singer? Nat King Cole.

        • jane johnson

          I’ll see your variety show, and raise you a Best Actress Oscar, which Diana Ross deserved for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, but Miss Ross was robbed in 1972 when Liza Minnelli won it for Cabaretinstead.

          • Kenner

            That too…even Liza expected Diana to win.

    • Mergatroyd

      Why don’t they take it to BET, a TV station dedicated to black entertainment?
      100% black TV stations, church, neighborhoods, etc. = much praised and lauded diversity.
      50% white = racism, hatred, bigotry.

  • RHG

    Good, lets put the final nail in the coffin of this show.

  • Katherine McChesney

    “We were all very supportive of each other and there was no sense of competition or pettiness,’ Ms Webb said.”

    Time will tell. Could be they’ll end up fighting like the Housewives of Atlanta.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    Not a word in this entire piece about why whites should be interested in watching black female comedians. But then, it’s not about what the majority white audience wants, is it? It’s about forcing whites to watch black women whether they want to or not. And if there’s so much fantastic black talent on YouTube, then why are those videos not among the most popular? The cream rises to the top, not the mud.

    • sbuffalonative

      Of course, blacks could use their great talent and skills to create a show that would rival or even surpass the legacy of SNL. I’m sorry, I can’t even type that with a straight face.

      • Basketeddie

        In Living Color and Dave Chappelle were very good shows but the Halo Effect or subliminal “extra credit” that is added to any black achievement catapults those shows to excellent. Funny that the best skits on both shows satirized stereotypical (ie typical) black behavior and mocked white people’s “superiority”, which is exactly what these comic pundits are opposed. In other words they should find black comedians who “act white” but that, of course, is racist. As said in a previous post, when it comes to blacks, you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

  • sbuffalonative

    ‘The SNL writers showed what they could do with a “ready” black actress: pigeonhole her. They took an Emmy-nominated actress and made her play a nagging girlfriend; a sassy eye-rolling assistant; and a rage-filled Ugandan beauty queen,’ Coddett wrote. ‘Why can’t they create interesting and funny characters outside race? How long will it take the SNL writers to learn that black is not a punch line?’

    Because blacks demand they see themselves as the stereotypes that they are.

    Black women don’t want to see a black woman playing white. They want to see a black woman as a black woman (Identifiable as a black character; ie a stereotype).

    I say it a million times. When it comes to blacks, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    • Katherine McChesney

      Funny, because I’ve witnessed nagging black women, sassy eye-rolling black women and rage-filled black women who thought they were African queens.

      99.9% of them behave stereotypically.
      And then there are Conservative black women like Stacey Dash and Mia Love who comport themselves like intelligent and lady-like women.

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    I just don’t see black women as funny comedians. The ones who have been on SNL have never been funny (the few that have).

    • I think SNL is doing this for the wrong reason, but the one on the far right looks crazy enough, so I’d give her a chance.

      • Mergatroyd

        That is not a “she” it is either a man or a tranny.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      It’s going to be hard for Michaels to find a black comedienne that isn’t vulgar.

      • Perhaps vulgarity is the point, which is why I like the obviously criminally-insane one on the right. She’ll be really funny until she overdoses on drugs or commits suicide.

  • John K

    SNL has not been funny for years and I think it’s just another syndicated liberal love fest. Once again, caving to the black racists.

    They love blacks who bash whites, and you can tell they mean what they say by their facial expressions. And these blacks are only funny because they make fun of other blacks, because what they say about blacks is true, and because if a white person were to say the same thing, then it would be “racist stereotyping”.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    So being black and female trumps being funny to meet SNLs Affirmative Action quota? but then SNL jumped the shark years ago and needs to go. It hasn’t been funny for decades.

    Lorne Michaels should look in the House of Representatives. I can think of at least TWO good candidates…

  • Strike_Team

    I have no doubt this is the first step in making the show’s cast majority non-white, meaning more blacks, latinos, they’ll have to toss in a full blooded Asian instead of the half-Asians they’ve had. And then maybe they’ll allow a white guy or two. Or at least guys who claim to be white in public, if you know what I mean.

    • What happens when people stop watching?

      • Mergatroyd

        The sponsors that pay for these shows drop them, which is what we want. Boycotts work, even quiet ones.

      • MarcB1969

        Lorne Michaels is now in charge of programming for NBC, so it’s not going anywhere. SNL will stay on the air at a loss as a legacy to one of the the Baby Boomer generations finest entertainment achievements. A modern SNL that is awful still provides another chance to gloat about how great things were when they were in charge. They are a generation in love with their own reflection.

      • Strike_Team

        Do any aware whites care what will happen when people stop watching?

    • Mergatroyd

      Let’s hope so, then we can say: “I don’t see anyone who looks like me.” Tell everyone you know, whites ARE becoming more aware, they’re just hiding it. If we starve the beast the sponsors will drop the show. Let the blacks, Mexicans, Asians and mulattoes support NBC and other anti-white shows with their EBT cards.

      • Strike_Team

        I don’t watch much TV at all. But I DO take a look at what’s presented in order to see the casting. TV is amazing in that most of the guys presented as “white”, especially in TV Commercials, aren’t really white. That’s probably all I can say here about that.

  • dd121

    I think they’ve found the formula for knee-slapping humor: angry black females who hate white men.

  • Spartacus

    That’s awesome !

  • Basketeddie

    The success of TV shows and the business of entertainment depends on ratings. If dieversity would help ratings, you bet that the show would have a proportionate number of blacks, hispanics, asians, muslims, disabled, autistic, and women. They don’t. And that is because the overwhelming majority of people do not want diversity, but fear speaking out due to the modern day McCarthyism practiced by our liberal elites, who are very small but allowed to be powerful.

    More

    • Mergatroyd

      Starve the beast. Turn off the TV and start boycotting. If we all did this, the sponsors would start dropping out. The only color they care about is “green.”

  • Basketeddie

    I have been wracking my brains but, with the exception of Bill Cosby, I still cannot think of one black stand up comedian, male or female, who does not bring race into his/her routine. This absurd and condescending (to whites, therefore empowering to blacks) national search for funny black women to fill a politically correct void is nothing but a massive publicity stunt to bring up the ratings of a show that has really sucked for years. Talk about a show that has been resting on it’s laurels! And guaranteed that the colored woman who is chosen to fill the token role will resume the same formula that for some reason has been successful for blacks (due of course to the racism of whites!), and that is to act like a stereotypical, snarky, opinionated, wise- cracking, in your face, black woman. To be funny otherwise would be “acting white”, which is totally unacceptable for blacks, who probably make up no more than 7% of the SNL audience.

  • NeanderthalDNA

    Yeah, almost any other area I’d be sick of it, but you have a point here.
    Been years since I’ve watched more than a snippet of the show.

  • Elena Andbasket

    Black comedians sicken me. With very very few exceptions their routines are vile, crass and race obsessed. I always give a black comedian the benefit of the doubt in the vain hope he/she might be funny. Usually within minutes, though much more likely seconds, with boring predictability we hear “black… black… black… blah blah blah”. They can’t seem to think of or talk about anything else, a bit like some, though not all, homosexual comedians.

    • Some of them are funny, once in a while, but humor is a cultural thing, and thus an ethnic phenomenon. I don’t find German humor amusing. Japanese humor doesn’t do anything for me, either. On the other hand, Irish humor kicks my butt down the street.

  • MarcB1969

    Whomever gets hired will forever be known as diversity hires regardless of their level of talent.

  • Tom_F

    Women aren’t funny. Except when they are crying.

  • Really? What about Dave Allen? He was Irish and completely wonderful.