By Drew Maron, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 25, 2013
There’s more to the “diversity” argument involving the new “Saturday Night Live” cast than simple political correctness.
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Since heavy hitters Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader all left this past season, executive producer Lorne Michaels hired six new cast members, all of whom are white and only one of whom is female. I’m not saying “Saturday Night Live” should consider race or gender as much as talent. Nor was I one of the people outraged that “Doctor Who” didn’t cast a woman or a non-Caucasian actor as the 12th Doctor.
The problem for me is “SNL” and “Doctor Who” aren’t even remotely the same thing. “SNL” absolutely needs diversity in its ranks to function. The show isn’t just about how funny its performers can be — it’s how different they are and how well they bounce off each other. When you have five actors all with extremely similar backgrounds and personalities, it’s going to be boring. Plain and simple.
At the very least, the writers are cognizant of the lack of diversity. The season premiere saw the new cast ushered in with host and alumna Tina Fey guessing if they were new cast members or part of indie-band Arcade Fire. Yet, part of me still mourns for what feels like missed opportunities.
I’m not saying the new cast is all bad. Beck Bennett (more widely known as the star of the AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” commercials) easily fits in, standing out in the episode’s highlight, a Lonely Island-infused digital short titled “Boy Dance Party” that will undoubtedly shoot its way into the public consciousness despite lacking any Timberlake or Samberg cameos.
Various media outlets, as well as cast members Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah have all voiced their displeasure at Lorne Michaels’s recent casting choices. Pharoah, in particular, criticized the collective failure to find a Black female comedian to join the cast.
The purpose of “SNL” is to reflect modern culture, and its cast members are keys to that end. If the cast seems dull and the jokes repetitive (a popular opinion among most), it’s simply because the show no longer represents the cares and anxieties of the day. The people of today’s America are not who they were ten or twenty years ago. We’ve moved on, grew up and became an even greater melting pot than ever before. Diversity, therefore, isn’t a chore. It’s a necessity to remain relevant in today’s modern comic era.