Snl race

It should have been an episode that knocked it out of the park. Host Andrew Garfield is on the promo circuit for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with girlfriend and co-star Emma Stone, and Coldplay was the musical guest. The lineup was promising and the sketches were on fire. But even after one of the best episodes all season, SNL still can’t seem to find its stride with racial diversity critics.

In an unusual twist during a hilarious Weekend Update, SNL writer Leslie Jones joined anchor Colin Jost for a few laughs on-camera in a sketch about being the number one draft pick for slavery. Unfortunately, those laughs turned out to be more like white people shifting in their seats and looking at each other for the OK to laugh at slavery jokes that never came.

Jones is one of two female African American writers who joined the SNL staff in January as part of the show’s efforts to ramp up diversity. It was a move that, along with bringing Sasheer Zamata on board, welcomed the show into the current century. While Jones’ delivery was ballsy and self-deprecating, it didn’t sit well with everyone. Offended viewers fired off on Twitter calling Jones’ sketch inappropriate and racist, even suggesting that it was as distasteful as rape jokes.

It was all going so well until then.

The episode opened with a bang. The opening sketch targeted America’s latest paparazzi-magnet racist, Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Bobby Moynihan dressed up as Sterling and teamed up with Kenan Thompson, who played the former NAACP’s Los Angeles chapter president, to poke fun at the controversy surrounding the organization and Sterling’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Sasheer Zamata popped in as Sterling’s new, over-the-top, three-quarters black girlfriend. The audience seems to always welcome her roles, no matter how small, because diversity critics fought long and hard for the addition of a non-white cast member all season. So far, so good for African American viewers.

Then in the best sketch of the night, it was all hail to Queen B. ‘The Beygency’ featured Garfield as a man who became public enemy number one after admitting that he wasn’t that into Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’. Garfield shined as a great actor in this fake movie trailer and the audience erupted into screams and applause when Kiefer Sutherland, from Fox’s newly revived show 24, made a cameo as Rihanna’s number one fan. Praising Beyonce AND Rihanna in a single sketch? Viewers were just starting to feel like maybe the writers of SNL were finally starting to get them before the slavery sketch came along.

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