We Are Ready to #CancelSNL After the Coondoggle of ‘Black Jeopardy’
What’s a ‘coondoggle?’ It’s when a boondoggle is initiated by people who are cooning. A secondary definition of it is Saturday Night Live writers’ weekly attempt to make black stereotypes funny. Well, funny in a general sense – not just to white people. Really, the rest of the show isn’t that funny either so we think it’s time to go ahead and put it out of its misery.
We’ve done our fair share of covering the perennial Saturday night comedy show. First, the 39th season opened with a gang of new (all-white) castmembers. Then they tried to make up for it by having Kerry Washington host and play a slew of black characters (offensively). Next, they cast Sasheer Zamata after a “black female only” casting call. And finally, they added two black women to the writing staff. Amongst all of this, we debated whether to continue watching the show. And, we decided to give it one last chance.
Since then, SNL has become more and more of a weekly coondoggle and black people are usually the butt of the joke. With Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, and Sasheer Zamata, Lorne Michaels has managed to meet the call for more diversity he was burdened with after Maya Rudolph left. Yet, having a representative comedic and writing staff has done little to nothing about the piss-poor, basic writing which constantly depicts black people as the worst of ourselves.
The most recent example of this was “Black Jeopardy”, a skit in which three contestants, 2 black and one white, answered questions meant to be tailored to black folk. These questions painted blacks as chronically late, poor, and simple-minded. This, in the same night that Louis CK opened with a joke about ‘starving kids in Africa’ to make a point about Americans’ lack of perspective. Score one for SNL.
Watch the video below.
See, that was both not funny and incredibly shallow. Every black person in the skit is a stereotype. Every question has an incoherent answer. Who is rational in the skit? the white guy.
This could have been done differently. The questions could have focused on black culture instead of stereotypes. They could have showcased how ridiculous the stereotypes are. But no. Instead they fed right into them as if they are accurate representations.
Why is this not ‘satire?’ Because satire is supposed to ‘punch up, not down’. In other words, satire criticizes those in the dominant position controlling the structures affecting minorities – not the other way around. Why is this not comedy? Because lambasting black people in front of a predominantly white audience by providing a one-dimensional, bird-eye view of the worst stereotypes about us isn’t funny. It’s lazy.
All of this was exacerbated by the fact that most of those participating in the skit were black.
Now, this is not to say that everything SNL does regarding black people is a) bad or b) not funny. Drake was belly-busting funny as comedian Katt Williams. So, there’s that.
Still, the most disturbing thing about this skit is not the actual content; it’s the overwhelming positive reception it has received. Sites from TheGrio to TheAtlantic gave glowing reviews to “Black Jeopardy.”
Proponents of the skit have claimed that it is fair game to poke fun at stereotypes. No harm meant. Yet, when you compare this with the recent “#CancelColbert” dust-up, the underlying issue becomes plain as day. If we can agree that satire punches up and not down, then we can also agree that this skit isn’t satirical. Every question was framed in a way to cast a negative light on African-Americans. Louis CK looked like a poor, rational white person amidst a sea of esoteric simpletons.
Want to see an example of this same setup done right? Look no further than Dave Chappelle’s infamous Chappelle Show. Way back when, he had his own “I Know Black People” skit, that uses black culture as a tool for comedy. But this time, it isn’t denigrating.
So, can you see now why we want to #CancelSNL? It isn’t because we can’t take a joke. We actually laughed in chorus at the Chappelle version of the game show. It isn’t because we are butt hurt at anything the mainstream media purports as acceptable either. Hell, we still watch Real Housewives of Atlanta – which is a complete other conversation. And, it also isn’t because we have a personal vested interest in the show’s existence or cancellation. We honestly just think it is time we lay to rest institutions and brands which are in the business of exploiting minorities and women all in the name of tradition.
SNL is not some great American gem anymore. These aren’t the days of Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock – the most notable black comedians to launch long-term careers after an extended stint on the show.
We plan to stop watching. SNL has overstayed its welcome in our lives. But we aren’t naive enough to think that turning a blind eye will do anything to change the comedy mainstay. That will take intelligent, thoughtful dialogue and mobilization. And as long as black folks laugh with the white people who are laughing at us we’ll continue to have a long road to hoe in demanding realistic, thoughtful programming from the writers over at SNL.
Daren and Jenn wrote this one together. Why? Because we can.
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