I don’t know if this article should focus on SNL in general or on Jay Pharoah, the actor and comedian who recently broke his silence in an interview on Hot 97 after being fired from SNL. 

“You go where you’re appreciated”, Jay said. “They put people into boxes and they want you to do what they expect you to do.” 

He is speaking on his frustration of being underutilized on the show. I am sure many of the talented cast members have and will deal with this, but Jay’s frustration is built on top of another frustration, and that is being one of the few non white cast members.

While Saturday Night Live represents a dream to many comedians and making it on the show means you have arrived, it usually happens to the very non diverse group of white actors.

SNL has many times has come under fire for its lack of diversity and once when Jay spoke up about the lack of black women being on the show, he was almost fired.

“I was at the audition and me speaking up, they were ready to get rid of me in 2013.”

While its creator, Lorne Michaels, has done a great job in creating a legacy of entertainment and giving opportunities to so many comedians and actors, there’s many that have been left out. The problem isn’t with the people he has cast, but with the people he hasn’t. When a show has to be criticized before it finally adds a diverse member to its team then it’s obvious the show didn’t want to, and that’s the real issue. There are plenty of funny people in the business who come in all colors, genders and walks of life. Why limit your cast to such a small type of people who will then limit your content? Lorne is an example of the whole system that has been ruled by an undertone of racism and sexism that can only be hidden for so long. Pretty soon the excuses that the networks won’t want it if it’s too black or too latino or too asian, or too anything that isn’t white and safe, will only work for so long.

Jay is grateful for the opportunity SNL gave him and he has gone on to star in White Famous, a show written by Jaime Foxx that was recently picked up by Showtime.

In an interview with USA TODAY, Lorne Michaels opened up about the firing of Jay Pharoah and Taran Killam.

“I think they were great, and they did wonderful work when they were with us,” Michaels says of Killam and Pharoah. “They served the show well, and are two people I really care about.” But “change is the lifeblood of the show; it always has been. And you have to keep bringing new people in. Hopefully it’s for the best. I’m not worried about either of them going on to success.”

I think it’s synical and realistic to say that until there is another black president in office you may not see too many people of color cast on SNL, but there is always room for change, right Lorne?

Below is Jay’s full interview with Ebro in the Morning on Hot 97 and a picture of Jay and I after his Festival of Laughs show in Miami where he performed for Mike Epps.

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Jay Pharoah & Julia Bernstein

 

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