‘SNL’ Employs Two More African-American Comediennes, This Time in the Writers’ Room

By  · Published on January 9th, 2014

There’s little debate that Saturday Night Lives recent addition of Sasheer Zamata to its featured player cast is in direct response to continued outcry over the lack of diversity on the show (or, more realistically, there should be little debate over that particular subject), and while those are perhaps not ideal conditions for a new talent to be added into the venerable show, Zamata has one thing going for her – she’s very funny and she’s in possession of a whole mess of skills the show needs. Sure, it would have been great if she could have been folded into the show in a “normal” way at the beginning of a new season, but that time has passed and now it’s time to look forward to the funny lady’s first show and what she can add to the show on her own merits. (And, as it happens, she’s far from the first addition to the show in the middle of season – recently, Kate McKinnon joined the show in the spring of 2012, and that’s worked out pretty damn well so far.)

Of course, when SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels finally doubled down on the controversy surrounding the show’s lack of an African-American star, he really doubled down on it – telling the press that the show would be adding in at least one new comedienne of color before the it picked up again after the holidays, possibly two. Turns out, Michaels was underselling their additions – because Saturday Night Live has now not only given Zamata a spot on the show, but hired on two more black comediennes to join the show’s writing staff.

First of all, let’s just take a moment to acknowledge how awesome this news is – sure, SNL had to respond to outside pressure to make it happen, but now it’s happened, and it’s time to get pumped for what could be a new era for the show, and certainly the opening of doors for some very talented funny people. The important thing is not how we got to this point (though, yes, we should acknowledge the power of outcry in getting this thing moving, because that’s wonderful), but it’s that we are here now. (Honestly, I am so excited for SNL to come back on January 18th that it’s almost embarrassing, and yes, I’ve even built out my Sundance schedule to accommodate a live-watching of the show.)

(Now back to the actual news here.) THR reports that Saturday Night Live has added two new writers to its staff, both black comediennes that were discovered (or, to be more honest, just plain seen by the SNL staff) during their recent auditions in New York City and Los Angeles. Both LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones will join the staff on Monday, in order to write for the January 18th episode.

THR shares that Jones was a finalist for the featured player spot that Zamata ultimately won, with a resume that boasts plenty of stand-up work, comedy festival appearances, and a handful of guest starring spots on big comedies (like The League and Sullivan & Son). She’s spunky, outspoken, and energetic. (She seems like the kind of person it would be fun to have drinks with.) Take a look at some of her stand-up:

Tookes’ resume is a bit different than both Zamata and Jones, as the former news reporter eventually made a move into stand-up comedy and character impressions. With Weekend Update co-anchor Seth Meyers leaving the show in February to host his new late night talk show, SNL will certainly be in need of some whip-smart news humor. Tookes, having actually done the news, seems like a smart fit. (She is also just plain charming.) Tookes also has some very funny impersonations under her belt, and you can see her character reel below:

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Tookes or Jones could eventually make their way to the stage – recently, Mike O’Brien moved from the writers’ room to the main stage, and one of SNL’s biggest stars, Jason Sudeikis, also started as a writer. (In a reverse move, featured player Tim Robinson was yanked from performing and confined to the writers’ room earlier this season, though that sort of change is a rare one.) THR shares that “there are no plans to have either of them appear onscreen,” but that could certainly change later this season or even next year.

Saturday Night Live returns (with its new talents!) on January 18th.