SNL & The Daily Show Get A Dose Of Diversity (Finally!)

Both Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show are among some of the most long-running and popular show in America. One is responsible for launching careers for a slew of world-renowned comedians and popular for its celebrity guests, the other is famous for its political commentary and 11 Emmy awards. But today these two shows have something very similar in common: embracing diversity.

It has been a long discussion about when the hell SNL was going to get more diverse with its regular cast members. There were rumors that they had been auditioning African-American comedians, and they have now made their choice. Sometimes peer pressure can be a good thing, eh?
The daily show, whilst having a few ethnic men on its lineup, was yet to display the diverse women who watch the show. Until recently, leading the way for an influential pop culture show like SNL to follow suit..


SNL announced early January 2014 that Sasheer Zamata, from the Upright Citizens Brigade whose co-founder is former SNL-er Amy Poehler, has joined its cast and will no doubt bring a fresh and funny take on many diverse women in the media that, say, Keenan Thompson probably shouldn’t be playing just because he is black.

Sasheer becomes the first black woman on the cast of SNL in 7 years, since May Rudolph’s departure, and only the 5th black woman ever on the show in its 39 years of existence!

But it’s not just in front of the camera but behind the scenes of SNL they are recognizing the need for diversity and authentic representation of women in society. Three cheers for that.

After the announcement of Sasheer being added to the cast, the comedy show made a second statement saying they have hired two African-American female writers on their staff, LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones. Both of these women actually auditioned with Sasheer originally, and while they didn’t get chosen to be on screen just yet, producers of the show were highly impressed by them and wanted them part of the creative team. In the past writers of SNL have gone on to eventually transition into on screen roles as in the case of Seth Meyers.


All of this change started when SNL’s two black male cast members, Jay Pharoah and Keenan Thompson announced they were no longer going to play black women roles. It only makes sense to hire a talented woman, right? While there are many more opportunities for diversity from other ethnic backgrounds, this is a step in the right direction.

It should also be noted that fellow female cast-member, Nasim Pedrad is solidly repping Iranian American women everywhere. So we are glad things seem to be progressing, and rather than crap all over SNL’s efforts, we feel it is far more effective to encourage these new choices in the hope that they make many more.

Speaking of progression, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is finally on board with this concept. They too hired their first ethnic woman as a regular correspondent in their lineup in January 2012, which will hopefully go a long way to attracting more women to their audience, and highlight issues that are relevant to us.

Her name is Jessica Williams, she is an actress, she is 24, and is officially the show’s first African-American woman in a correspondent role. Fun fact: she is good friends with Girls star and creator Lena Dunham, and will appear in the show’s 3rd season as Hannah Horvath’s new work friend.

The Los Angeles native turned New York transplant spoke to the press about the significance of her new job and how she views it.

“As far as diversity’s concerned, there’s me, there’s Al Madrigal, there’s Aasif Mandvi. But I’m not walking around feeling black all the time. Some days I do feel that pressure of, “What do I mean as a black woman? What am I representing?”  Ultimately, when I deliver something, a lot of times it will be from a black woman’s perspective, but other times it will be just from a satirical, goofy perspective. We have one of the most diverse casts out there, but we’re not putting ourselves in a box.”


She talks about how certain people relate to her segments simply because of their race, and that talking about the issue of racism and diversity is something important.

“We don’t necessarily get to talk about that. Honestly, I love that it’s something where my race does come into play. I love being a black woman and being able to say those things. There’s truth in comedy, and that resonates with people of all races.”

Jessica names Beyonce, Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Michelle Obama as some of her role models all for different reason (Michelle Obama for her super fit arms!) and is excited about the women who are leading the comedy charge on television today.

“Some of the best comedies now are led by women who are very involved: Parks and Recreation. Veep‘s incredible. I love Girls. There is more of a demand, especially on the internet and on Tumblr and Twitter, from women who are like, ‘We want to see more of us on TV!'”

That very sentence is the essence of why diversity is so important. It’s not to tick a box of make a quota. We as the audience NEED to see more of ourselves on TV. It

It’s great that women like Jessica see their opportunities not just in a selfish way, but as a social responsibility to pave the way for future women. They are the pioneers of today, and we salute them for putting themselves out there in the name of diversity and not giving up despite the dismal status quo at times. Thanks to them, we WILL see more of us on TV! So, who’s it gonna be next?



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