Most Important Black TV Shows – #11 Saturday Night Live


Probably the most controversial choice of the television side of the countdown, Saturday Night Live has ran for over 30 years and has more than earned its reputation as one of America’s top comedic showcases.  Created by Lorne Michaels, the show itself is not African-American by definition, but there is usually one black castmember every season.  And at least two of those castmembers…

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance:  The show itself is not African-American in the traditional sense.  But because of its primetime NBC timeslot, SNL‘s reach gives it a much larger audience when it does do something with a racial undertone.  The first (and debatably most notorious) of these sketches took place when Richard Pryor was the guest host in one of the show’s first seasons.  Doing a job interview sketch with Chevy Chase, a game of word association quickly devolved into…well, go look it up if you’ve never seen it.

Legacy:  While Garrett Morris preceded him, few would argue that there was ever a more perfect storm than the emergence of teenage Eddie Murphy with the post-Belushi/Aykroyd SNL.  Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, James Brown’s Celebrity Hot Tub, and of course Buckwheat…no single castmember, black or white, has ever done as much with that spotlight as Eddie.  But there have been others…

Craft:  Those who have tried it well tell you comedy is extremely hard to pull off (go and try to make everyone in your office laugh at the same joke if you disagree on this point).  A major reason SNL endures over time is in its ability to find the right comic notes with the present generation.  There’s always going to be juvenile humor since the show caters to a younger audience, but every once in a while (i.e. Sarah Palin), the jokes will have some teeth.  One lost but not quite forgotten skit was ‘The OverActing Negro Ensemble’, where Sinbad, Tim Meadows, Ellen Cleghorne and Chris Rock basically took every scene chewing move that black actors and writers use and threw it into a 2 minute skit.  Probably went over most people’s heads, but if you got the joke it was hilarious.

Crossover:  Um, yes.  I would even argue part of the humor of ‘Dick in a Box’ and “Lazy Sunday” is in seeing (square) white guys doing ‘black’ music.


The top 10 begins later this month…

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