“The culture’s changing, and I’m not a part of it. This shit is getting hip. This shit is getting blacker. This shit is getting fucking rappier. SNL is still a pretty white show. When I got hired I was the first black guy in like eight years — and In Living Color was just hip. The shit was hot. I wanted to be in an environment where I didn’t have to translate the comedy I wanted to do,” this week’s SNL host Chris Rock told Marc Maron in 2011 about leaving Saturday Night Live to work on the Fox series created by the Wayans brothers.
“[Playing] a Ubangi tribesman or whatever… to where, not that I thought they were racist… [but I] was the only black face that was going to be seen for an hour and a half… It feels racist. It’s not racist. But it just feels like it when that’s all you see… If you’re on In Living Color and you’re a Ubangi tribesman there was a black thing before that and one right after it. There’s a context.”
SNL has faced a number of diversity issues, but the hiring of cast members Sasheer Zamata and Leslie Jones (who also has a seat in the writer’s room with newcomer LaKendra Tookes) took steps in the right direction, offering guests a more inclusive environment to thrive in. And seeing five African-American actors in a sketch last night, with no caricatures involved, demonstrated why this is essential.
Prince makes a nine-minute appearance in last night’s episode for three numbers (“Clouds,” “Marz,” “Another Love”), with the backing of his band 3rdeyegirl. He wears a pair of appropriate three-eyed sunglasses (and rocks a full-on cat eye when the shades come off) — something us peons couldn’t pull off if we tried. It’s an electrifying performance that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but confirms Prince still has it. After a tepid showing from Iggy Azalea last week, this is the jolt we needed.