I Watched SNL (Hosted by Drake and Featuring Sasheer Zamata) Last Night
Last night’s Saturday Night Live was highly anticipated because Drake was hosting (and was the musical guest) but also because it was Sasheer Zamata’s first show as a featured castmember. As a former huge fan of SNL and a currently jaded sometimes watcher, I didn’t even decide to tune in until it almost started. And I’m glad I did so I could present you with the thoughts you didn’t ask for.
Drake was HILARIOUS! We can’t forget that he started his entertainment career as an actor, but we probably didn’t expect Wheelchair Jimmy to have grown into such a talented comic. He carried the show very well and he was the reason I laughed when I did. Lumiere DID THAT and he gets props. He showed us that if he gets sick of this music thing, he might have a future in comedy.
In his skit during his monologue, Drake lampooned the fact that he’s half Black, half Jewish (does that make him BLUE-ish? BA DUM TSS! I’m here all night, folks! Tip your waitresses). And it was a flashback to his Bar Mitzvah. He had me rolling as he rapped “I celebrate hanukkah, dated Rihannakah” as part of a Hava Nagila remix.
I lowkey want him to quit real rap and dedicate his time to fake rap.
His Katt Williams impression also SLAYED me, and when he played Lil Wayne playing Steve Urkel, I was rolling! He totally needs to keep acting because that’s what he’s dope at. I kinda want him to come back and host SNL so it can be funny again, because even when the episode’s material felt weak, he made it good.
The only time I was throwing any hateration in Aubrey’s dancerie during the episode were the times he took the stage to perform music. If you ever wonder why folks won’t let him cook, watch those performances.
The first one, the set was lit in all black and the only thing visible was a bright red Drake. It was like looking at a photo negative or a used tampon. I was perplexed and my eyes hurt.
Whose idea was THAT? It just looked real severe. The song he was performing didn’t even match it either: “Started from the bottom now we’re here.” It ain’t e’em that serious, sir. Let’s not e’em talk about how you ain’t start from the bottom. AT LEAST you were middle. Middle of the damb suburbs in Toronto. Furthermore, the subject matter ain’t e’em that deep for you to be looking like the embodiment of a teacher’s disappointment (aka red ink).
The second set, Drake started by crooning “Hold On I’m Coming Home.” Dude was outchea singing like he was voiceovering “The Notebook.” It was SO EMO! And this time, everything around him was black, but he was blue. I bet his pre-setup notes were like “make sure the blue light shines on me so people can know I’m down. I’m blue, man.” THIS IS WHY WE MAKE FUN OF DRAKE! This right here. And see? I was right. He’s BLUE-ish. HEHEHEHE.
And then Jhene Aiko came and did a duet with him and he made us all uncomfortable by singing “Tell Lorne to cut to commercial break love, so that we can make love.” Sir. SADDOWN! Just no. O____O
Ennehweighs, in spite of that, I was pleased with Mr. Graham’s appearance on SNL. He truly made the show bearable.
So let’s talk about Sasheer Zamata on SNL.
I have much respect for Sasheer because she’s handled all the sudden attention she’s been getting with grace. Plus, she’s super talented and deserves to be in the big leagues.
When I was watching the opening credits of Saturday Night Live, I was like rocking back and forth with excitement because I just wanted to see Sasheer’s name and picture. Hers was last (done in alphabetical order) and I fist-pumped.
I SEE YOU, SISTHREN!
Sasheer was in the first (well, first after monologue) skit (the Bar Mitzvah one), and the 2nd skit and the 3rd and the 4th. She was in all the sketches in the first half of the show. She did well with the lines she had (1-2 per skit) and she looked comfortable. However, it felt like SNL said “you want a Black woman? We’re putting her in every skit.” It reminded me about why I was glad but nervous about their sudden new “commitment” to diversity. Let me rewind.
When it came out that SNL was having an all-Black woman audition to find their next castmember, it seemed really disingenuous. For a show that normally keeps this type of thing secret to all of a sudden be so blabbermouth about it was… different.
Yes, they were being called to the carpet about the lack of color at 30 Rock, and they probably wanted to show that they were working on it. But it’s like when dealing with a toddler who you say “YOU HAVE TO TAKE A NAP!” And they lie down and tell you “See? I’m sleeping!” as they have half their eyes closed. Oh and they tap you to make sure you heard them tell you. Sometimes you just gotta SHOW before you TELL.
That is a piss poor comparison but I will go with it. (-__-)
I realized that whoever they hired would be carrying the hopes and dreams of our tomorrow with them into that show. NO PRESSURE, THOUGH! Sasheer Zamata was named and I’d seen some of her YouTube clips so I knew she was awesome. It was a life-changing opportunity obviously and her Twitter followers went from like 2,000 to 23,000 and counting in this past month.
Lorne Michaels and team also hired LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones (two comedians who also auditioned) to the writing team. THAT is when I said “AW SNAP! Lemme find out they really mean it.”
Fast forward to last night. I wasn’t expecting (nor wanting) Sasheer to be so prominent in the show, because featured castmembers aren’t typically all up in the camera. I wanted to like the fact that she was getting so much airtime but it felt weird and forced. It was like we were being pandered to and my spirit wasn’t at ease about it. It felt like tokenism and I couldn’t shake the “HERE SHE IS SO YOU CAN ALL SHUT UP NOW” vibe.
Does the SNL team get an E for effort for hiring a Black woman? Yes.
However, I can’t give them a full passing grade. I’m willing to admit that they’re in a “dambed if you do, dambed if you don’t” situation. You cannot please everybody. But there’s something to be said for how all of this comes across so heavy-handed and also slightly lazy at the same time.
I stepped back to consider that maybe we got exactly what we asked for. We said we wanted Saturday Night Live to have people who looked like us on the show and that’s exactly what they did. They hired a Black woman to join the cast and they hired 2 Black women for the writing room. WHEEEE! But it still doesn’t feel right.
Maybe what we SHOULD have asked is for them to make diversity a priority on a real level (like this awesome Slate article suggests), because TV is just really white. When we talk diversity, the convo usually means “add Black people.” We should have challenged them to be the Captain Planet of shows.
Even with Sasheer on the show now (and after being treated to the Blackest episode of SNL ever), it still doesn’t seem like the team at SNL really understands that they cannot represent popular culture without including faces of color. So I’m hoping they start doing more to embody the cultural salad bowl of America through their cast and their sketches. Instead of these isolated instances of melanin. Although the hiring of those 2 Black female writers is a for real step towards the right path. The show was already funnier than usual.
Alls I know is that something felt and continues to feel really cheap about how they’ve handled this challenge they were given. I’m happy for Sasheer and I really look forward to seeing more of her work. She’s clearly only gonna go up and up from here because she’s a dope comic. I want her to be the start of a real sincere effort towards opening the white boys’ club up to others.
I understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day. And surely we can’t expect for Lorne Michaels to hire 6 new people in mid-season. But moving forward, I’m hoping that a stronger effort will be made to be more melanin-inclusive at 30 Rockeller Center. I’d hate for the next time we see another woman of color hired for the show to be in another 6 years. Or for us to keep having to say stuff like “there’s never been an Asian American castmember on SNL (unless you wanna count Rob Schneider, who is a 1/4th Filipino or Fred Armisen who is 1/4 Japanese).” You should check out HuffPo’s infographic on SNL’s 38-year diversity problem.
Long story long, SNL, yall tried but you’re not there yet so keep trying. Consider having Drake on to host the show every week because he got the Midas touch. And please do right by Sasheer.
I will now leave you with this Drake as Weezy gif.
Do we give SNL time to adjust and shut up for now or do we help steer the conversation from the get-go? Am I tripping or do you get what I’m saying here? Did you watch the show? What are your thoughts?
Correction: I deleted the piece about SNL never having an openly gay cast member. Terry Sweeney was in the 85-86 season. Danita Vance was one too but it was confirmed post-humously. And current castmember Kate McKinnon is one.