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Opinion: New ‘Weekend Update’ host shows holes in ‘SNL’ casting

Michael Che attends the screening of Top Five at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada on September 6, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of MCT.

Michael Che attends the screening of Top Five at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Sept. 6.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Last year, “Saturday Night Live” experienced backlash after cast member Kenan Thompson prompted a conversation about not only the lack of diversity on the show but, specifically, the exemption of black women.

His comments implied that black female comedians were simply not prepared to join the cast, and it was met with widespread outrage.

In an effort to undoubtedly diffuse the uproar, the show’s executive producer, Lorne Michaels, hired LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones as writers and comedian Sasheer Zamata as a cast member.

On Thursday, the show proved to once again be working toward expanding and diversifying its cast when it announced Michael Che would be working as the first black anchor in the show’s regular “Weekend Update” segment. Che, previously a “The Daily Show” correspondent and a former SNL writer, will be replacing cast member Cecily Strong on the desk.

Although the decision deserves applause, it’s all too clear that Che is replacing the wrong co-anchor. Colin Jost, who took over after Seth Meyers’ departure earlier this year, has spent months delivering lackluster performances opposite Strong.

Instead of embracing his own talent and delivery, Jost seems unsure of himself, and his default setting reads as a bad Meyers impression. As the head writer of the show and respected stand-up performer, Jost didn’t seem to fall comfortably into place or, at least, not as comfortably as Strong did.

Fans of the show took to Twitter to express the same reaction: SNL picked the wrong co-host to drop.

This is the first time in the show’s history that “Weekend Update” will include two male co-anchors, overlooking Strong and the multiple other female comedians who have the talent to fill such a role. Michaels has since ensured the public that the decision is not a reflection of Strong’s talent and will open her up for more of the sketch opportunities that she enjoys. Strong echoed that sentiment Friday when she took to Instagram.

“I don’t see this as me leaving update, just as me being on update in a looser, goofier way that is a lot more fun for me and in a way I think I’m better at,” she said in a caption.

However, the change could also be interpreted as a viable opportunity to ensure the show doesn’t do the unthinkable — seat a black male opposite of a white woman in the show’s most prominent sketch.

It’s no secret that women and minorities are only allowed to exist in certain spheres within Hollywood. Black men typically don’t appear opposite of white women, and black women might only appear opposite of white men if the dialogue addresses the racial difference of the individuals.

While “SNL’s” addition of Che is important in working toward a more dynamic and diverse cast, the decision has taken the guaranteed opportunity of a woman to appear at least once a week on the show. Once again, it reassures the audience that the disproportion of the cast, whether it be in terms of race or gender, is still prominent.

Whatever racial undercurrent the decision might or might not have taken into account, Che is a welcomed addition to the “SNL” cast. He’s proved his smooth and sarcastic style delivers and will inevitably shake up the “Weekend Update” desk.

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