'SNL' Responds To Cast Diversity Criticism...With Jokes

Lots of folks have given Saturday Night Live flak about the fact that the show has no black women in its cast. On Saturday night, SNL themselves started talking about it, too. In a sketch with guest host Kerry Washington, they poked fun by having her play Michelle Obama and Oprah.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Much has been made of "Saturday Night Live" and its newest cast; namely that the show doesn't feature any black women. Well, Saturday night, in its opening sketch, "SNL" addressed the criticism head-on.

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JAY PHAROAH: (As President Barack Obama) Michelle, it's - this is such a treat. I feel like it's been years since I've seen you.

CORNISH: And it has. The Michelle there is supposed to be Michelle Obama. But the last time the show had a female cast member who could play Obama was in 2007, with Maya Rudolph. On Saturday, Michelle Obama was played by the show's guest host, actress Kerry Washington.

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KERRY WASHINGTON: (As Michelle Obama) It may feel that way. But I'm always here for you, and I always will be here for you.

CORNISH: The show put Washington through her paces; making her play another prominent black woman, Oprah, in the same sketch. Then, came this.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) The producers at "Saturday Night Live" would like to apologize to Kerry Washington for the number of black women she will be asked to play.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (As character) We made these requests both because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent, and also because "SNL" does not currently have a black woman in the cast.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (As character) As for the latter reason, we agree this is not an ideal situation, and look forward to rectifying it in the near future - unless, of course, we fall in love with another white guy first.

CORNISH: NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans wasn't sure what to make of the sketch.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: You see the first sketch and you wonder, are they really taking the issue seriously? I mean, ha ha, isn't it funny, we don't have any black women in the cast?

CORNISH: And the joke didn't end with Kerry Washington.

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AL SHARPTON: Live from New York, it's Saturday night.

CORNISH: That's none other than Al Sharpton? TV critic Eric Deggans says the decision to end the sketch with the civil rights leader sends a clear message.

DEGGANS: Even Al Sharpton is on board with making fun of this idea that there are no black women on "SNL," which to me is a way of sort of saying maybe you people who have talked about this are taking it too seriously.

CORNISH: "Saturday Night Live," responding to critics the only way it knows how.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: Mr. President, great news. Beyonce has just arrived for dinner, too.

PHAROAH: (As President Barack Obama) Beyonce.

WASHINGTON: (As Beyonce Knowles) Don't even.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEYONCE SONG)

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