17 Oct 2013
- Written by Myron Mays
I've been watching "Saturday Night Live" since way back to the days when the star of the show was pretty much Eddie Murphy. Of course comedian Garrett Morris came way before Murphy did. But I was born in 1973 and my memory only takes me back so far.
Murphy's Buckwheat, Gumby and Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood skits were classic. Post-Eddie there hasn't been much "diversity" on the show. He left in 1984, and to my viewing eyes there seems to have been a void ever since.
For years, I could not understand why there were rarely any African-American hosts on the show. The first I can remember was actually Eddie Murphy...and he was still a cast member at the time. This was back in 1982 when Nick Nolte was scheduled to host the show but became ill. Eddie had starred with Nolte in "48 Hours," so he was tapped to host the show as a last minute replacement.
In recent years, however, "Black Hollywood" has risen to new heights and there has been an increase in African-American hosts such as Martin Lawrence, Charles Barkley, Sinbad and. more recently, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Hart.
And to its credit, "SNL" eventually evolved to do well with African-American cast members such as Tracy Morgan, Tim Meadows, Chris Rock and, more recently, Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharaoh. However, these days they seem to have forgotten about African-American female comedians.
Looking back at "SNL's" history, there haven't been many African-American female comedians. During the 1980-81 season, Yvonne Hudson was the first African-American female to be featured on "SNL," although she wasn't an official cast member. In 1985, Dinitra Vance actually became the first African-American female cast member.
Vance's milestone came some 10 years after the show began and her tenure only lasted a season. Comedian Ellen Cleghorne fared better (1991 to 1995). In 2000, Maya Rudolph, daughter of Minnie Ripperton, joined the show. But there hasn't been an African-American female on the cast since Rudolph departed in 2007.
Recently, cast member Jay Pharaoh told theGrio that the producers of "Saturday Night Live" needed to pay more attention to diversity, suggesting the talented comedian Darmirra Brunson for the show.
Brunson plays the part of Drew in Tyler Perry's OWN comedy "Love Thy Neighbor." She also has an impressive list of impersonations of her own, including Beyoncé, Kerry Washington, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Oprah, Rihanna and Wendy Williams. First Lady Michelle Obama is not yet in her repertoire, although she can probably pull that one off too.
Cast member Kenan Thompson recently told TV Guide that he has vowed to no longer play "female" characters. I'm not sure if this is a result of the absence of African-American female cast members on the show. Could it be that "SNL" hasn't hired any African-American females for the show because Thompson usually plays them in most of the skits.
As it stands, it's been six straight years without an African-American female cast member. Could it be that there are just no African-American female comics out there who are qualified for the job? Nonsense! There has gotta be one out there somewhere. You only need one, right?
I agree with Pharaoh. Darmirra Brunson would make a great cast member...or at least a featured player on the show whenever there is a need for an African-American female. "SNL," she's right there in front of you. At least consider it, and if it doesn't work out, at least you can say you made an attempt.