It was eight years ago, during the 2013-2014 season, that Saturday Night Live's dearth of Black females became such a major issue that the show went on a casting call to find Black female talent. "SNL continued to fall in love with white guys after that, but it also added Sasheer Zamata in early 2014, as well as Leslie Jones and Michael Che the following season," says Amanda Wicks. "Since then, progress has been slow, though persistent. The show currently has five Black comedians in a cast of 21, and last night delivered a meaningful cold open that reinforced what representation could look like at the level of a single sketch—rich and abundant. The show began with Joe Biden (James Austin Johnson) and Ketanji Brown Jackson (Ego Nwodim) celebrating her appointment to the Supreme Court. Rather than linger on their exchange, however, the sketch underscored the historic moment with a poignant one of its own. Nwodim’s Jackson conjured heroic figures for advice. Kate McKinnon briefly resurrected her rowdy Ruth Bader Ginsburg impersonation, but the sketch deepened once she exited. Justice Thurgood Marshall (Thompson), Harriet Tubman (Punkie Johnson), and Jackie Robinson (Chris Redd) all appeared to offer Jackson their perspective on being 'the first.' The writers used the chasm between 'then' and “now” to joke about progress—or the lack thereof. The big payoff came when Nwodim, Thompson, Redd, and Johnson all gathered to say that famed line, 'Live from New York, it’s Saturday night,' infusing the normally satirical opening with noted emotion. Often, most cast members in the cold open leap back into frame to participate in the ritual, but both Johnson and McKinnon stayed offstage, leaving the Black cast members to inhabit the space." As Wicks notes, this was only the second time that an all-Black cast delivered the show's introduction.
TOPICS: Ego Nwodim, NBC, Saturday Night Live, Chris Redd, Kenan Thompson, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Punkie Johnson, African Americans and TV