Michael Che on Tuesday talked about “racially specific” sketch ideas that don’t make the cut for “Saturday Night Live,” including one that saw Marvel’s fictional Avengers superheroes accidentally killing an unarmed Black teenager.
“I think for obvious reasons, there’s no way that’s going on the show,” Che, co-head writer at “SNL,” told radio host Howard Stern.
Another skit involved the first Black man to boo Jackie Robinson, who’s widely regarded as the first Black player in Major League Baseball.
“Something that’s like racially specific, the audience is kind of looking at ‘Saturday Night Live’ as Lorne Michaels’ show,” explained Che, who noted the “variety” and “mainstream” factors of the iconic NBC program.
“They’re not looking at it as, ‘Oh this is a Black writer who is making this nuanced observation or whatever,’” he added.
Watch the interview here:
“On my show, I can get away with it because they know it’s me,” Che said of his new HBO Max series, “That Damn Michael Che.”
“But on a mainstream show, a lot of times, even Black people are a little bit like, ‘Well, why are they doing that thing? What do they mean by that?’ It’s a little bit more, ‘What are you making fun of here?’ We don’t really get the benefit of the doubt for something that’s that loaded.”
But increased diversity in the “SNL” writers room has gone some way toward changing that, said Che.
“When I first got here it was just Kenan (Thompson) and Jay (Pharoah) were in the cast, but there was no Black writers,” said Che. “If I were to write, or if a Black writer was to write, something that’s specific to Black humor, an all-white staff might not get the joke so it’s deemed not funny, so it doesn’t go on air.”
With more Black people in the writers room, Che said, things that “probably wouldn’t have gotten the benefit of the doubt then will get it now.”
Stern suggested it “fuels an energy in the writing session where people go, ‘Oh yeah, now I get it, now it’s funny.’”
“And that’s got to do with race, that’s got to do with gender, that’s got to do with youth,” Che said. “Having that diversity in the room makes the show more diverse.”