Archived: Black Comic Makes History on SNL

By Julissa Catalan

Comic Michael Che will make history during Saturday Night Live’s upcoming 40th season by becoming the first Black man to anchor “Weekend Update.”

Che will replace Cecily Strong, who will remain as a full-time cast member but will no longer anchor.

The comedian will join Colin Jostwho is also one of two Head Writers for the showat the news desk, marking the first time that “Weekend Update” will be hosted by two men. In prior seasons, it has been hosted by a male-female team, by two women, or by one man.

The SNL Weekend Update Twitter feed send out a congratulatory message to Che shortly after the announcement:

Of the big announcement, Che tweeted:

Che has previously written for SNL, but his most recent gig was as a correspondent on The Daily Show. The comedian gained recognition in an August segment in which he played a news reporter trying to find a safe place in America for a Black man while covering the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo. Of his time with and departure from The Daily Show, Che tweeted:

Saturday Night Live has been under fire for years for the show’s lack of diverse representation.

During its first 38 seasons, Saturday Night Live featured only 13 Black cast members, despite two of its most iconic alums (Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock) being Black. Producers have an astoundingly low rate of casting Black women, having hired only four Black women in nearly four decades, despite multiple openings almost every year.

Last year, the show welcomed its first Black female cast member in six years in Sasheer Zamata . Two Black female writers, Kendra Tookes and Leslie Jones, also joined the SNL team. Tookes and Jones both took part in the audition process that uncovered Zamata.

In total, SNL has had 10 Black men cast members, including current stars Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson, and now Che.

Lorne Michaels, Saturday Night Live’s Executive Producer, told The New York Times: “Michael is a strong writer, and he’s really funny.” Michaels added: “It’s always difficult to make changes and make ‘Update’ different from what’s gone before.

“This is about a new era, what feels appropriate for now,” he went on to say. “That’s why we did a lot of combinations and tests, and this is kind of where we came out.”

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