SNL, Drake & The Shakedown For Brown

This is a shakedown.

This is what it’s come to, Hollywood. Live from New York. Who’s ready to jump on the scale and weigh in?

The state of Saturday night hasn’t been the same for some time now. The New York institution known as Saturday Night Live is at an imbalanced crossroads for years, toeing the line between relevance and absolute obscurity. There’s currently a fork in the road for bigwigs and decision makers to choose what the future looks like in the world of entertainment, a three-pronged fork with three big, race related problems: the Latin@ Problem, the Black Problem and even the Asian Problem.

White man’s world? In comedy? Really, SNL?!

Racism, both subtle and obvious, needs to go. I can’t believe that we’re here, in the 21st century, and I’m writing a sentence as obvious as that. Damnit. Act like adults, people. Adult humans. With brains containing functioning lower frontal lobes (the part of the brain that recognizes a joke).

I remember being a little kid, really about as far back as I can possibly remember, trying desperately to stay up for Saturday Night Live every weekend just to catch the comedy of Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Ellen Cleghorne, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, et al. I may have missed the show at its inception, but I caught up about as quickly as you can imagine. Comedy, laughing, parody, satire: these are the things that bring us together. Or so I thought.

Turns out, it’s not until you stop seeing the world through idealist lenses that you take notice of the injustices being forced upon the population. Or maybe the idealist lenses help accentuate them, giving you the ability to empower the masses.

I’m not a big fan of Drake’s music, but I respect his grind. And as luck would have it, dude is a natural.His hosting gig last Saturday night was funny as fuck. His impression of A-Rod to open the show was good, his monologue was way honest and a fun representation of his inner diversity, and his impressions of Jay-Z and Katt Williams were pretty spot on. The New Years Resolution Revolution song he threw down with Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, and newcomer Sasheer Zamata was hilarious, cosplaying Drake and all. Donuts. Bar.

But of course, in typical SNL fashion, the show just sort of dies out slowly once Weekend Update rolls around. The same way SNL’s plan for diversity sort of fizzles out once talks about Latinas, Asian and black women rolls around.

I’ve always been a big fan of Saturday Night Live, but I don’t respect their silly politics.

Over the weekend, Zamata made her debut on SNL as the first African-American female hire in six seasons — since the departure of Maya Rudolph in 2007 — after the (terribly kept) secret auditions to bring in the big winner mid-season.

Zamata is just the fifth African-American woman to be part of SNL’s cast in 39 seasons. There has never been an Asian or Latina woman in the cast, and there have barely been any Latino dudes either, save Chilean-American Horatio Sanz who left the show in 2006, and half-Venezuelan Fred Armisen who left the cast last season.

Which instantly brings us to that giant pink elefante in the room: why Latin@s are left out of the SNL rotation.

In the past four decades, Saturday Night Live has had only two Latino cast members. Latin@s only account for 20 of SNL’s hosts and 16 of its musical guests, and to just completely put the current state of Saturday night on Front Street, this season there are zero Latino cast members, zero Latino hosts and zero Latino musical guests. Zero. What up with that?!


Segregation in the Digital Age

Last fall, Latino advocates penned a letter to the show’s executive producer Lorne Michaels. They asked for Latin@s on SNL and questioned the inclusion of Armisen as a representation of Latin@s (which is a whole ‘nother can of worms).

“We note this information only to emphasize the deficiency of your record in terms of hiring recognizable Latinos as cast members,” the letter stated.

NHFA’s Felix Sanchez claims that although he and members of his coalition met with Craig Robinson, chief diversity officer at NBCUniversal, they have not had any response since. Lorne Michaels himself has not addressed the lack of Latin@s on the show either. And even if he did, shouldn’t Latino representation on the show come without the nudges and demands for inclusion?

If the shakedown is successful, it just feels like an obligatory going through of the motions and not a genuine gesture.

Just like the case of Richard Sherman in yesterday’s NFC Championship game (and ensuing, epic postgame interview) [LINKS], we should be talking positively about the passion and performance, not negatively about the politics behind the performers. We should be talking about how funny the show is.

Problem is the show has been inconsistently funny over the last few years. Counting on 13 Justin Timberlake hosting gigs to save the day won’t suffice. Saturday Night Live doesn’t need the shakedown. Society does.


Midnight in a Perfect World

Look Lorne, if you need me and my Gozamos constituents to come in and write specifically for the Latino cast member(s) you bring in, we’d be happy to oblige. We keep it 100 around here, and our humor does not suffer in the process. We know our shit.

It’s all about balance through a three-pronged attack to bring an end to the injustices and shine a new light onto the new way. I didn’t know it until today, but Drake holds the key. The passion of Richard Sherman opens the door. Our generation of Latin@s will set us free the day Saturday Night Live recognizes the inherent comedic value of all shades of people.

You can’t be afraid to jump on that scale though.

[Photo: Nicola since 1972 via Flickr]