SNL has been under fire before for not having much of a rainbow of cast members. But in those cases the rainbow reference was to skin color and not an LGBT concern. Ellen Cleghorne brought the less than diverse cast issue back to the surface this Sunday during the SNL40 celebration. At about 3:35 in the video below she asks “why aren’t there more black women?”
Seinfeld and she go through their bit and then Seinfeld and the audience moved on to the next question. SNL has added to their cast in recent years, making it more interracial so when Cleghorne raised her question, it seemed to pale in comparison to Brian Williams jokes made throughout the night. But overlooking black women on SNL is over with right? On their youtube post of the above video, they mentioned everyone in the Q&A skit except Cleghorne.
Maybe the racial question was muted due to the overall success of the show. As well, wasn’t most of the buzz about Eddie Murphy’s return after being away for over three decades? Several times during the night, Lorne Michaels received praises and cheers for making the right choices as to whom he hired over the years. So if he didn’t hire more black cast members, maybe it was because he had found other comedians to fill the spots. It's been relatively successful for 40 years. he must be doing something right.
What is Lorne Michaels’ track record on diversity? The black / white and male / female ratios have been discussed at length before. What about other minorities? Remember the funny Asian cast member? How about that old guy? I would have to answer NO and NO. How about that gay one? Remember her or um him? Was there one?
There was one out gay cast member and he was on SNL from 1985 to 1986. Terry Sweeney was ranked by RollingStone.com as tied at 64-65. “Sweeney, the first out cast member, had an abrasive edge that sometimes hit the mark." – RollingStone.com
Here is Sweeney in a skit from 1985 with host Madonna.
So only one out LGBT cast member? Why not more? Remember the old guy? No not many of us do. RollingStone.com ranked George Coe at 99 out of 141. As a caption, it stated, "The token old guy in the original cast, left behind when Michaels figured out it was funnier to dress young guys as old guys." Did Lorne figure this would work with gay characters as well? Characters like Lyle the Effeminate Heterosexual and Pat are not that forgettable.
What would it take to be an out cast member of SNL? Apparently it would take someone amazing. That person is Kate McKinnon. Ranked at 37th on the list, her caption on the list reads:
Kate McKinnon The brightest light in recent years. Her cop show with Aidy Bryant, Dyke and Fats, needs a spinoff movie. It takes a sick enthusiasm to bring off her vicious portrayal of starving Russian peasant Olya Povlatsky: "Our only exports are homophobia and snow." – RollingStone.com
Any good television watcher would remember McKinnon from The Big Gay Sketch Show. She created some very memorable characters there as well and I would love to see some transfer over to SNL. How about some Fitzwilliam with his catch phrase "I want a vagina." Here's one of McKinnon's performances as Fitzwilliam.
So there are just two LGBT cast members over the past 40 years of SNL?
McKinnon debuted as a featured player on Saturday Night Live on April 7, 2012. She is SNL 's first openly lesbian cast member, as well as the series' third known gay cast member (after Terry Sweeney and Danitra Vance, the latter of whose sexual orientation was not made public until after her death). – Wikipedia.org
Yeah, it took Wikipedia.org to point out that there was one more gay cast member, but she was not out at the time. #100 on RollingStone.com's ranking and appearing on the show in 1985-1986, the magazine blog elaborated on Danitra Vance by stating:
SNL's long history of failing to do right by black women begins here. (Well, it probably begins with Garrett Morris as Tina Turner.) Vance got such shoddy treatment from the writers it became a joke in itself when she sang the Barry Manilow parody "I Play the Maids." She died in 1994. – RollingStone.com
Black, female, and LGBT, maybe she was doomed from the get go?
So the answer to the question, there have been 2 out LGBT cast members and one documented non-out cast member. Of course there could have been a dozen or so closeted ones (I always hoped Andy Samberg was). But does it matter? Funny is funny, right? Or should we be more upset that there just the concern for the black-to-white and male-to-female ratios of cast members. Am I calling SNL a homophobic institution? Definitely not! But it is an interesting numbers game where out of 141, there are 3 we can count as definitely in our club, not that it's a bad thing.
Or do you think there should be more LGBT cast members?
Are there other actors from The Big Gay Sketch Show that should be hired by Michaels?
And has Neil Patrick Harris been the only LGBT host? I need to look that one up.