Last night, Saturday Night Live announced they have hired Sasheer Zamata as a mid-season addition to the cast, responding to months of controversy over the show’s lack of black female performers. The news suggests that the series might finally be taking public criticism of its homogeneous casting decisions seriously—and puts enormous pressure on Zamata to be a great performer.
When I first heard about a book called Titters: The First Collection of Humor by Women, it could be conservatively stated that I just about lost my frickin' mind.
Published in 1976—smack in the middle of the both the height of second wave feminism and the golden years of "Saturday Night Live"-- Titters collected parodies, comics, and humorous writing from some of the biggest female humorists of the era, like "Saturday Night Live" performers Radner and Laraine Newman, "Saturday Night Live" writers Rosie Shuster and Anne Beatts (who also served as the book's co-editor), satirist (and other co-editor) Deanne Stillman, comic artist Aline Kaminsky, comedian Phyllis Diller, columnist Erma Bombeck…the list went on and on.
As long as there have been jokes, there have been people saying that women can't tell them.
It can be tempting to dismiss recent "women aren't funny" firestorms as yet another by-product of our internet era, where we are instantly alerted the second that anyone—from Adam Carolla to some yahoo with a Reddit account—makes an inflammatory statement about anything.
But the claim that women aren't funny isn't just new to our times. Here I've compiled a brief, totally incomplete history of people publicly peddling this line bull. Though the idea that women aren't funny hasn't changed much, public reactions to it have steadily changed.
I'll be the first to admit that Saturday Night Live is a totally hit or miss show these days. There are definitely some skits that cause me to cramp up from laughing so hard, while others leave me bored. I get it - it takes a lot to put on a live, hour-and-a-half variety show every week, and not every joke will be a zinger. And while I don't expect every second to make me laugh, I also don't expect there to be parts of the show that will make me cringe and rage.
This past Saturday night started off promising. Then it turned transphobic.
After losing some regulars last season—Abby Elliott, Kristen Wiig, Andy Samberg, and Jason Sudeikis (maybe)—Saturday Night Liveannounced the three new cast members who'll be joining the show's 38th season. One of the three is Aidy Bryant, a Second City alum who just happens to be fat. Though SNL has long showcased the work of funny fat men like Chris Farley, Horatio Sanz, and Kenan Thompson, Bryant is the show's first-ever fat female hire. Hooray!
Saturday Night Live's "Bride of Blackenstein" skit did black women no favors. In this blaxploitation-like spoof of The Bride of Frankenstein, which aired Jan. 30, we learn that even a black chick created from scratch in a laboratory is demanding, bossy and built like an extra from the "Baby Got Back" video. Starring SNL guest host Jesse Eisenberg as Igor and musical guest Nicki Minaj as the Bride, the skit opens as the latter first emerges from her coffin: