My Controversial Agreement With Kenan Thompson’s “Opinion” Of Black Female Comedians

by on October 15, 2013

blackcomedianskenanthompson “It’s just a tough part of the business…Like in auditions, they just never find ones that are ready.”

This quote, from a TVGuide interview with actor Kenan Thompson, is the quote that is being blown out of proportion and is driving bloggers crazy.

Perhaps it is because this quote was surrounded by acquisitions by the author that “Thompson blames the lack of quality black female comedians” for their absence on the show. If Thompon’s quote was the author’s only evidence of this idea, you can see how that is creating a false picture of Thompson and, perpetuating bad journalism.

Bloggers seem to be running wild with the quote the author gave rather than reacting to what Kenan Thompson said. Quotes like “Thompson says Black female comedians aren’t talented” are headlining articles left and right today. I blame poor reading comprehension of writers for these inaccurate headlines. These are the TVGuide author’s words alone.

Thompson actually gave a diplomatic answer. He nodded to the fact that talented Black females exist by saying that they’re just not being found in the auditions. He might even be hinting that the auditioning process they have in place is kind of lame. I don’t know, maybe the fact that he has a White wife is causing some people to distort his words about Black females?

What I read is that Black females who have the level of experience the show needs are not auditioning, and there is no evidence that it is not true. In fact, I see it as pretty believable.

Female comedians in general are lacking. SNL recently cast 5 new male cast members and 1 female. A mumber that reflects the percentages of male to female comedians. A 2012 article on The Guardian said there were 239 professional female stand-up comedians and 1,130 male stand-ups. Yes, The Guardian is a UK publication, but the source (Chortle) contains UK and US comedians in its database.  How many of those 239 females are Black? Well, if we use the US demographic, which is approximately 6% Black and female, that would mean there are about 14 professional female Black stand-up comedians to choose from provided each and every one of them wants to be on the show.

Some are going to want to try their hand at stand-up, or at acting in sitcoms. The variety of options these few Black female comedians have is going to create a scarcity in places where funny Black females are needed, like on SNL.

Moreover, SNL has a relatively “young cast” in their 30s. How many Black female comedians under 30 came you actually name? If you can actually name more than the one I’m going to mention shortly, post them below!

None of my favorite Black female comedians are in their 30s. I think Debra Wilson (51), Aisha Tyler (43), Wanda Sykes (49) are hilarious Black women. But they are all in their 40s and 50s, so they aren’t great examples.

I can name one young Black female who I know for sure could pull off SNL, Raven Simone. No doubt if she did audition, she would get the job. But with all her options, I doubt she would want to be tied up to such a job.

So perhaps we have to face there actually is a deficiency of  Black female comedians who have developed the comedic chops to work on SNL, who are the right age, and who actually audition to be on SNL. This idea that SNL is intentionally preventing talented Black female comedians from joining the show is enraging people, but I’ve seen no hard evidence that its true.

We should be considering that there could actually be a scarcity issue in the auditioning room. The numbers point to this as probable. If there’s a shortage of female comedians in general, the shortage of Black female comedians is going to be even more severe. Again, we Black women make up 6% of the population. That is just math.

Either way, I think young Black female comedians are actually in high demand. The Thompson quote aside, this is an issue that I’ve thought about lately. I think young aspiring Black females have huge potential. Audiences want to see something new, and Black audiences are very loyal to quality Black productions. Why wouldn’t networks want to capitalize on such a valuable opportunity? Those Black female comedians who are at this moment perfecting their craft will be stars in the near future.

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