Lorne Michaels & Co. went for the elephant in the room with Kerry Washington hosting amidst Saturday Night Live‘s recent diversity firestorm. Giving the Scandal actress a workout playing Michelle Obama, Oprah, and (offstage) Beyonce in her cold open, the show skewered the fact that when it comes to black female characters SNL‘s limitations are self-imposed (“Kenan won’t…?” Washington asks in one of many meta moments). It acknowledged what castmates Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah have criticized in interviews: “[SNL] does not have a black woman in the cast… we agree this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it… unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.” So the SNL gang is listening to critics even if Michaels has yet to put his money where his mouth is. Did it help to have a cameoing Reverend Al Sharpton on their side?
NBC just announced that Saturday Night Live alum Amy Poehler will host the 36th season premiere of the latenight sketch show on September 25 with musical guest Katy Perry. The network also confirmed that Vanessa Bayer, Paul Brittain, Taran Killam, and Jay Pharoah will join the cast of SNL as featured players. Poehler, who spent 8 years on SNL before segueing to primetime as the star of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, follows in the footsteps of fellow recent SNL alum and current NBC series star, Poehler’s former Weekend Update co-anchor Tina Fey, who also returned to SNL as host. Here is more background on SNL‘s new featured players: Vanessa Bayer joins the cast of SNL from iO Chicago, The Annoyance, and The Second City. Paul Brittain is a veteran of the iO Theater in Chicago where he performed as a member with numerous improv and sketch groups. Taran Killam hails from Los Angeles, where he established his comedy career as a main company member of The Groundlings, performing with numerous improv and sketch groups, and also appearing in The Groundlings’ Sunday company. Originally from Virginia, Jay Pharoah honed his performing skills in community theater and at local comedy clubs. No official word yet on who besides Will Forte would be leaving SNL, with last year’s addition Jenny Slate rumored as a possibility.
With Will Forte’s recent announcement that he will be leaving Saturday Night Live after 8 seasons and reports that NBC’s late-night sketch show may be adding as many as 4 new cast members, the question is who else might be exiting when SNL returns for a 36th season later this month.
I hear Abby Elliott, daughter of Chris Elliott and the first second-generation SNL cast member, was in serious jeopardy but now appears safe to come back, while rumor is that Jenny Slate might not be returning. Slate, who joined as a featured player along with Nasim Pedrad last fall made headlines with her SNL debut. On the show’s season premiere last September, in her first appearance during a sketch titled Biker Chick Chat Slate uttered the word “fuckin’” on live television.
As for the new players joining SNL, rumored new additions include MadTV alum Taran Killam, Chicago-based Paul Brittain and Venessa Bayer as well as impressionist Jay Pharoah. The last time a quartet of new featured players joined the show, that group gave us Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers.