Kenan Thompson Drag Dressing Days Over? Comedian Protests 'SNL's Lack of Diversity

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By Daniel Distant , Christian Post Reporter
October 18, 2013|9:04 am
  • Kenan Thompson / Barry Black
    (Photo: screen grab, Saturday Night Live)
    Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson impersonating Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

Kenan Thompson's drag dressing days are over, at least for the foreseeable future. The 35-year-old comedian and 10-year veteran of "Saturday Night Live" refuses to dress as a woman until the show's producers hire a black female comedienne— something they haven't done in six years.

Kenan Thompson in drag has been a key staple for the show, as he and Jay Pharaoh are the only two black cast members, but have a variety of people of color to portray. Over the years, Thompson has played Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, and others. Now, though, he says he won't do them anymore, and has few suggestions as to how "SNL" will adjust to portraying black women like Michelle Obama, Beyonce and others.

"I don't know. We just haven't done them," he told TV Guide regarding African-American female characters. "That's what I'm saying. Maybe [Pharaoh] will do it or something, but even he doesn't really want to do it."

Ever since "Bridesmaids" actress and comedienne Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007, there has been only one woman of color on the show, the Iranian Nasim Pedrad, who is rarely used. Adding insult to injury, the six cast members hired this season are all white— something Thompson says is a result of few funny black female performers being able to handle auditions.

"It's just a tough part of the business," he said. "Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready."

However, Pharaoh suggested in a previous interview that there are black comediennes that would do well on "SNL," namely Darmirra Brunson, who currently appears on Tyler Perry's "Love Thy Neighbor" on OWN.

"Why do I think she should be on the show? Because she's black first of all, and she's really talented," Pharoah told The Grio. "She's amazing. She needs to be on 'SNL.' I said it. And I believe they need to follow up with it like they said they were going to do last year."

"SNL" showrunner Lorne Michaels and the producers have struggled to portray people of color recently, even though the show has given big breaks to black comedians like Chris Rock and Eddie Murphy in the past. On the Oct. 5 episode, the lightskin Pedrad put on brownface to portray Indian comedian Aziz Ansari, causing outrage among viewers.

In the 38 years the sketch comedy show has been on the air, they've had four black comediennes on the show and four black female hosts. Kerry Washington will make the fifth host later this season, and there's already speculation that she will be asked to play the First Lady, as no one else really can.

Though Thompson won't dress in drag, he had nothing negative to say about the newest cast members.

"They're all contributing in different ways I think. They've been doing a great job so far," he told TV Guide. "They're all very, very smart and talented, so that's how it is. That's the kind of people I guess that get the job."

 

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