Michael Che explains why a 'racially specific' Avengers sketch didn't air on Saturday Night Live
The comedian and co-head writer on SNL with Colin Jost sat down for an interview with The Howard Stern Show on Tuesday and was asked about a proposed sketch involving "the Avengers accidentally killing an unarmed Black teenager."
Che confirmed that it was a pitch at one point and that "for obvious reasons, there's no way that's going on [SNL]."
"Something that's like racially specific, the audience is kind of looking at Saturday Night Live as Lorne Michaels' show," the writer said, referring to the program's creator and producer. "They're not looking at it as 'Oh, this is a Black writer who is making this nuanced observation or whatever.' So it's a little trickier. On my show, I can get away with it because they know it's me."
The comedian went on to tell Stern that he believes even Black audiences would have questioned the writers' intentions with such a racially provocative sketch on a "mainstream show" like SNL.
"Even Black people are a little bit like, 'Why are we doing that there? What do they mean by that?'" Che said on Howard Stern. "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."
The rejected Avengers bit appears to be the same one that Che mentioned in a 2018 interview with Jost on Late Night With Seth Meyers. He told Meyers that when Chris Hemsworth hosted SNL in 2015, he pitched a skit in which "Thor accidentally kills an unarmed Black teenager."
Hemsworth shot down the idea, saying that "it wouldn't help with tickets," according to Che. "I thought it would help with tickets."
In his interview with Stern, Che reflected on how the variety sketch show has evolved since he first arrived as a guest writer in 2013. He was later promoted to a writer, then "Weekend Update" co-anchor in 2014, and became the co-head writer in 2017.
"When I first got here it was just Kenan [Thompson] and Jay [Pharoah] were in the cast, but there was no Black writers," Michael said. "If I were to write — or if a Black writer were 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."
Gradually, as the show added more Black cast members and writers, Che said sketches "that probably wouldn't have gotten the benefit of the doubt then will get it now."
"That's got to do with race, and that's got to do with gender, that's got to do with youth. Having that diversity in the room makes the show more diverse," he added.