Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review: SNL confronts diversity issue in 'Kerry Washington/Eminem'

As we all know, SNL has a diversity problem. Kenan Thompson was quoted in a recent interview saying that he and Jay Pharaoh, the only black cast members, told executive producer Lorne Michaels that they weren't interested in appearing in drag on the show. This has caused an issue: SNL can no longer satirize black women. Public figures such as Michelle Obama, Oprah, BeyoncĂ©, and, heck, even Kerry Washington are left out of commentary — and the show.

Enter Washington during the opening sketch of last night's Saturday Night Live, where she played Michelle Obama, Oprah, and herself. That was basically the theme of this episode.

But, even so, I have to say that I laughed. I'm sure plenty of people will have a problem with how the show handled it straight on as it did last night, but there really was just no other way for them to comment on the issue without just being completely blatant about it and poking fun of themselves.

What I didn't realize was that when they said they were going to ask Kerry Washington "to play a lot of black women tonight" that they seriously meant it. The commentary didn't stop at the opening sketch. The entire episode seemed to be spearheaded by Washington, Thompson, Pharaoh, and Nasim Pedrad, as if saying, "Look! We have POC!"

This would have been labored, if it weren't for the simple fact that the sketches were funny. The opening sketch made me laugh, the sketch after the monologue made me laugh, "How's He Doing?" made me laugh, and so on. It might have been a gimmick to go out of their way to prove they have POC cast members, but, to be honest, I think it elevated the writing in some sketches. Besides the diversity issue, the other issue SNL has is being content in stagnation.

It didn't hurt that Washington was just genuinely funny.

But, as per usual, there were some duds. There are always duds. For example, I think that the cartoon game show sketch would have worked better as a satire of an actual game show instead, since the cartoon aspect didn't mine any other comedy gold. But Aidy Bryant's performance was great in that, too. And then, there are skits like "Miss Universe Moscow" that perhaps teetered a bit too much in — dare I say? — offensive territory. I mean, it's probably not best to insult other countries and make fun of their accents in an episode where you're trying to alleviate your lack of diversity. (Though, I did love the "And I'm someone from the E! network!" line they gave to Pedrad.) It varies.

I think "Kerry Washington/Eminem" was one of the two better episodes this season. I haven't watched the Edward Norton episode, but the Bruce Willis episode was not a favorite of mine and the Tina Fey episode left something to be desired; I'm of a vocal minority that liked the Miley Cyrus episode. This was funny, and that's really all SNL needs to commit to.

Best Skits: The first half of the opening monologue, "Career Week Speaker," "How's He Doing?," "My Girl," and "Date or Diss," which was scarily accurate.

Worst Skits: "Miss Universe Moscow," "Principal Frye," "Cartoon Catchphrase," and "Ice Cream."

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