SNL Vows to Correct Diversity Problem by January

Sketch comedy show under fire for lack of Black women.

Posted: 12/13/2013 08:15 AM EST
SNL

Saturday Night Live is taking recent criticism of its lack of diversity very seriously. Producers of the long-running sketch comedy series vow to add a Black female comedian to the cast by January, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Indeed, auditions are already underway in search of a talented comic to join the ranks of television's most popular sketch series.

The show came under fire this fall when cast member Jay Pharoah said the show "needs to follow up" on its promise to bring Black women into the mix at SNL. He even offered his own suggestion of who should be inducted into the cast. His criticism prompted a firestorm of commentary from both viewers and the media over SNL's lack of diversity. To make matters worse, Kenan Thompson fueled the flames when he admitted that while Black female comedians have been auditioned from time to time, so far none have "been ready" for the prime-time spotlight.

Last month, SNL head honcho Lorne Michaels copped to the diversity problem and vowed to take steps to correct it. Looks like that day has come, as SNL held two audition showcases (one in New York, one in Los Angeles) devoted entirely to finding the next Ellen Cleghorne or Maya Rudolph.

Kerry Washington
, who guest-hosted the show last month, poked fun at the controversy in her opening monologue by playing everyone from Michelle Obama to Oprah Winfrey. The Scandal star's parody wasn't far off from the truth: despite regularly impersonating Black female celebrities, SNL has only had a handful of women of color in its cast over its 39 years on the air. The last notable one was Rudolph, who left the show in 2007.

That said, TMZ is reporting the casting call was a publicity stunt. Tiffany Haddish, who auditioned, told TMZ it was a "dog and pony show, partially because executive producer Lorne Michaels wasn't there and he's known to attend most auditions." TMZ added, "Other sources at the try-out tell us it seemed too conveniently timed." We'll see what happens in January!

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(Photo: NBC)

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