40 Acres, a Mule, and a Crummy 90-Second Spot on Weekend Update
Consider the plight of the Black Man. The Black Man on "Saturday Night Live," I mean. Has there ever been a more pathetic thing than a token unredeemed for 28 years? Where is the NAACP when you really need them?
Someone is always The Black Guy On Saturday Night Live. This is an actual Occupation with a capital "O," you realize. garrett morris > eddie murphy > chris rock > tim meadows > tracy morgan. Those are the only five black men who have been regular SNL cast members in its 28-year history. And they are sequential, starting with Morris and ending up with Morgan, who is leaving the show after this season (which ended last night, incidentally, with as horrible and yet as deviously predictable device as a Dan Aykroyd-Jim Belushi "reunion" singing quasi-white-man-blues in shiny suits backed by a big bland soul band and featuring choreographed dance routines. I do not lie and I can't deny.) Each has followed the other upon the deparfture of the former, with the exception of Morgan, who was added to the cast halfway through Meadow's run.
And with the exception of Murphy, all of them have been allowed only the slightest keyhole for their talent (or lack of it, mainly) to shine through owing to the sort of racial and sexual ghettoization SNL has practiced since the very first of days, and make no mistake about it, no matter how hip or culturally and socially relevant SNL has tried to appear throughout the years, and especially at the beginning, there has always been a stigma at Studio 8H attached to being the Non-White Guy. Or one of them. (I know, I know, you're saying "What about Chris Rock, man? He makes me laugh so hard that actual LIQUIDS HAVE COME OUT OF MY ORIFICES just from watching him. What! Gives?" It's true, yes, but this ignores that most people who like Rock now have KINDLY FORGOTTEN his stint at SNL, where he was relegated to such signpost roles as "Angry Black Man," or "Angry Black Politician," or "Black Man Delivering Street 'Lingo' In Attempt To Make The Show Retain Vital Demographic." His SNL work, in a word, blew; he knew, we knew it, he didn't even try to hide it, unlike, say, Meadows, who always and oddly seemed to play at his very best when he was being thrust into blackface and made to step to Some White Guy's Mammy.)
In any case, it's a very odd thing. 28 years of black guys. There will be a New Black Guy, of course, the sixth in our procession (SNL, by the way, didn't discover the position of cast Black Chick until the mid-80s, with the arrival of the late Damitra Vance. The current Black Chick is the racially ambiguous Maya Rudolph, who just happens to be the single brightest talent in the entire cast, which is not saying much under ordinary circumstance, but trust this undead monster: Rudolph is the shiznit. She can make me laugh AND cry, and I'm shedding little monster crocodile tears just thinking about the moment they unloose her star turn in "SNL Running Joke Feature Film Number 47," coming to a big screen near you sometime after they figure out some way to make people think Jimmy Fallon is actually funny (see "SNLRKFF#46.)) I'm guessing it will be Dean Edwards, who, according to the SNL website, is currently a Featured Player (as opposed to the old-fashioned Not Ready For Primetime Player) and can draw vast comedic experience from his numerous "Showtime at the Apollo" appearances. Lord help us all.
But the point is the line of succession is there. It's an actual freaking JOB TITLE. Just like "Fat Guy on SNL." There always has to be one. The presumed order of things must be maintained, titles must be bestowed and proper proofs of lineage established. Because it's gotten to be a long-standing tradition on SNL to pretend that the Original Cast, hallowed be their names (evan Garrett's) NEVER ACTUALLY LEFT. Or died, in at least two cases physically. Every SNL cast since has been arranged in such a fashion that the viewer might be led to believe, through the AMAZING FEATS OF COMEDY BEING PERFORMED, that John Belushi never went away. He just changed his name to Horatio Sanz. Chevy Chase has been similarly dopplegangered through a series of stiff newsreaders with little to no apparent comedic skills, a road that runs through Charles Rocket and Dennis Miller and ends at turn-out named Fallon.
The 1980-81 season, by the way, has been officially declared NON-CANON, and for all purposes SNL it can be presumed that Charles Rocket and Gilbert Gottfried NEVER ACTUALLY EXISTED. Same goes for that year with Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. I mean what fuck?
I was going to go on with this long diatribe against SNL for its VIVIDLY OBVIOUS policy of institutionalized racism via The Black Cast Member and the limiting effects of this role, while letting COMPLETE SHIT NO-TALENTS LIKE KEVIN NEALON prance and roll about in roughly every other sketch for years on end, but... THE WHISKEY IS GOING BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ.
Why would I be writing about SNL in the first place? THE WHISKEY, and soon I will be quite unable to spell "whiskey."
So we'll continue this in Part II of "Black Like Me: Not the Lorne Michaels Story," coming to Pigdog whenever this particular combination of freakouts simultaneously reoccurs in my pineal gland.
I should also mention that Lorne Michaels is CANADIAN. More on that LATER.
(End of Part One of "The Post-Modern Watermelon Man: Living The Dixie Life on the SNL Plantation")
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