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'SNL': Two new cast members won't help the show's Obama problem

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Snlnewcast_lWhile you fill out the presidential transition team’s nosy job application, scrounge for Inaugural Ball tickets, or get one of those creepy coins indulging your Obamania, Saturday Night Live seems determined to sit this new administration out.

Three weeks after resorting to dragging Maya Rudolph out of sketch-comedy retirement to play Michelle Obama (and with Fred Armisen still struggling to nail his impersonation of the president-elect), NBC announced that SNL has two fresh recruits: white women. Abby Elliott and Michaela Watkins, who’ll join the cast this weekend, come to the gig with solid comedy resumes. They’re both Groundlings vets, and Elliott is the daughter of comedian Chris Elliott, and granddaughter of Bob Elliott.

What the pair aren’t, however, are particularly topical picks. Let’s put aside the fact that SNL often has trouble figuring out what to do with its black actors (Eddie Murphy famously hovered in the background of his first sketch) and rarely hires black actresses (only Rudolph, Danitra Vance, Yvonne Hudson, and Ellen Cleghorne made it to the cast in the show’s 33-year history). Are we really supposed to believe that in the two years the Obamas have been in the national spotlight SNL hasn’t been able to find actors of color who can portray them—in addition to being funny and versatile on the rest of the show?

Maybe all of this eye-rolling is premature. Maybe there’s an announcement coming soon from Studio 8H that they’ve discovered this apparently rarest of species: funny black people. We sure hope so. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long, dry four years.