“Saturday Night Live” Addresses Race Issue In Kerry Washington Cold Open

Kerry Washington was the first person to portray Michelle Obama since Maya Rudolph, and SNL wasn’t shy about addressing its lack of diversity.

“I feel like it’s been years since I’ve seen you!” Jay Pharoah, playing President Obama, quipped to Kerry Washington, who was portraying his wife, in Saturday Night Live’s cold open.

It had indeed been years since the two were united on the show: No cast member has played Michelle Obama on SNL during her husband’s entire presidency. The last time the show featured a regular impression of the first lady was in 2007, when Maya Rudolph portrayed her.

But with Scandal’s Kerry Washington as host, SNL didn’t waste any time before addressing its lack of black female cast members.

In the first sketch of the night, a White House aide approached the president and his wife and announced that Oprah Winfrey was there to see the commander-in-chief. Washington got up, exited, and then the following voice-over played:

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. We make these requests because Ms. Washington is an actress of considerable range and talent — and also because SNL does not currently have a black woman on the cast. Mostly the latter. 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.

The joke repeated itself once more, this time with Washington changing to represent Beyoncé. As Washington got dressed for her new role, the president invited six Matthew McConaugheys into the Oval Office.

The sketch came several days after Lorne Michaels directly addressed the lack of black women hired on his show when he told the Associated Press, “It’s not like it’s not a priority for us. It will happen. I’m sure it will happen. You don’t do anyone a favor if they’re not ready.”

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