Kerry Washington's "SNL" cold open addressed some of the sketch comedy show's issues with race and a lack of diversity among the cast. "Saturday Night Live" producers had Washington, a black actress, host the show and highlighted the difficulties the show has had parodying black celebrities like Beyonce and Oprah Winfrey.
Kerry Washington's "SNL" cold open began with a sketch with Jay Pharoah as President Barack Obama. Washington was introduced as First Lady Michelle Obama, and Pharoah was keen to note her presence: there hasn't been a black female cast member since Maya Rudolph's departure in 2007.
"I feel like it's been years since I've seen you," Pharoah's Obama stated.
However, she couldn't stay long, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, played by Taran Killiam, announced that Oprah Winfrey was visiting the Oval Office as well. Washington dashed out for a quick change and "SNL" producers ran a message addressing the racial disparities on the show.
"The producers of Saturday Night Live would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play tonight. We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman in the cast," the message read. "As for the latter reason, we agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future … unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first."
The skit came as a response to both Pharaoh's and cast member Kenan Thompson's highlighting of the cast issues with race. Of the six new cast members hired this season, all were white— the cold open addressed this by having six Matthew McConaugheys waste time while Washington changed clothes. Thompson now refuses to cross dress for laughs until an African-American woman is hired.
"I don't know. We just haven't done them," Thompson 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."
Critics agreed that the skit was funny, but many are still waiting for a black woman to be hired by showrunner Lorne Michaels and the producers. Pharoah even suggested Darmirra Brunson of Tyler Perry's "Love Thy Neighbor," but it is unknown if the possibility will go any further.
Rev. Al Sharpton closed the cold open with a particularly poignant line.
"What have we learned from this sketch? As usual, nothing," he said.