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Saturday Night Live <3's Black Women: A Breakdown of the "Token Black Female" Finalists

So after a pretty hectic couple of weeks in which they got raked over the coals by more than a few people, it looks like Saturday Night Live has finally found their 3 finalists for the role of “Token Black Female” on the show.
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So after a pretty hectic couple of weeks in which they got raked over the coals by more than a few people, it looks like Saturday Night Live has finally found their 3 finalists for the role of “Token Black Female” on the show.

The topic of diversity has always been the elephant in the room when it comes to SNL, but with both black cast members on the show speaking out to various extents about the subject, a slew of op-eds swirling around online, and a media circus surrounding secret minority-only auditions, it looks like it’s finally coming to a head.

Yes, as much fun as it was to see Kerry Washington’s self-parodying Michelle Obama sketch, by January we will most likely see either Sasheer Zamata, Natasha Rothwell, or Kerry Coddett on stage at Studio 8H. There’s a lot riding on this decision, as the media will be all over the news the second a cast member is chosen, ready to poke, prod, and critique every angle of this decision. Whether she likes it or not, whatever woman is chosen will immediately become a representative, fairly or not, for a lot of things a lot bigger than herself.

So who is the right choice?

Well, a great SNL scholar named Bill Simmons likes to compare the cast to a sports team, noting that while each cast member is expected to have specific strengths and weaknesses, what really matters is their ability to adapt to a system. There are roles for an eclectic range of talents, but ultimately it’s not “how good are you?” but “how good are you for SNL?”.

With that in mind, I decided to break down these 3 SNL hopefuls the way a GM might evaluate a draft pick or free agent. I tried to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, what kind of X-factors might be in play, and most importantly how they would fit the “system” of SNL. Plus for funzies I threw in the best pro athlete comparison I could think of.

Got it? Me neither. But let’s try it out..


Zamata is a UCB talent that also does stand-up and her own web-series. She’s been featured on a slew of comedic outlets and has a robust, cool resume featuring Comedy Central's Comics to Watch Showcase, the Bonnaroo365 Tour, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell on FX, and Inside Amy Schumer.

-  Works well doing taped bits; great for SNL digital shorts
-  Stand-up comedian’s presence; she was able to carry an entire 3 1/2 minute video by herself
-  Good acting skills
-  Really witty way of being subversive with her humor
-  Can be vulgar without being crude (late-night hour aside, SNL is a family show)
-  Strikingly pretty

-  Too pretty?
-  She’s “hip”, which has been a problem for some castmates in terms of connecting with the a national audience (however, if the show wants to survive, it will go in this direction)
-  I don’t know. I honestly love her as a choice and they’re idiots if they don’t cast her.

-  Already lives in and works out of NYC. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing.

System Fit:
-  Everything about her background and style screams SNL. She’d slide into the fold easily.

-  Lock this girl down for a mid-range contract and be happy you got her on a rookie salary. She’s talented, she’s got a good foundation for her skills, and she’s probably the "coolest" choice.

Athlete Comparison:
-  Boston College’s Heisman Finalist running back Andre Williams, a four-year student who writes poetry, T.A.’s a freshman ethics class, and has the chance to make a big impact in the NFL next year.


A graduate of University of Maryland’s theater department, her big claim to fame is that she won the NBC Universal Diversity Scholarship (and don’t think that goes unnoticed by NBC executives). She also has a UCB background, dabbles with various sketch comedy troupes, and can be heard on a podcast called Naked Radio.

-  Strong stage presence
-  Understands the power of a good subtle change in inflection or demeanor
-  Theater background
-  UCB schooling
-  Comedic endurance; SNL’s sketches all go on about 3 minutes too long, and with this video Rothwell proves she can at least endure those SNL marathons.
-  Knows how to deliver a good ending

-  Gets a bit hammy
-  Overacts at times
-  Stumbles through some punchlines
-  Not a “sexy” pick

-  The NBC Universal Diversity Scholarship. NBC’s PR team is chomping at the bit to write a press release about her getting cast.

System Fit:
-  She studied in theater and works in sketch groups. I feel like she could grasp the concept of SNL well, but it might take her a while to get used to the “speed of the game.”

-  Casting her would be a gamble on her potential but not her immediate impact. It’s also the safest route to take because if she flames out, the media spotlight will have moved on by then.

Athlete Comparison:
-  Ryan Tannehill, QB of the Miami Dolphins. He was drafted with the 8th pick in 2012’s draft, but no one expected him to singlehandedly turn that franchise around. Now that he’s in his second year and away from the over-scrutinization that comes with being a rookie, he’s actualizing some of that potential they saw in him.


Kerry Coddett is a YouTube personality who is now most famous for publicly attacking the show’s lack of diversity in an op-ed she wrote for The Atlantic in which she claimed the real problem with the show is that it doesn’t know how to write for black women.

-  Brashness
-  Understands the power of virality
-  Comfortable with character work

-  Over the top way too much
-  Goes for easy parody
-  Comes off a bit acrimonious (and white people are scared of that kind of thing)

-  The Atlantic op-ed. Lorne Michaels is a proud, stubborn man and don’t you dare forget it.

System Fit:
-  Comedically it’s a toss-up; if used correctly, I’m sure there’s a role for her, but in terms of “the system,” she’s a nuclear bomb. She’s a polarizing choice and a late-night show divided against itself cannot stand.

-  Casting her would be a ballsy move--and a great way to spite her if Lorne was feeling smarmy—but ultimately it isn’t worth the headaches.

Athlete Comparison:
-  Tim Tebow. Any talent that is there is surrounded by way too much drama and attention.