From "The Carol Burnett Show," to "In Living Color," to "MADtv," I've always been a fan of sketch comedy. Shows such as these happen when the right combinations of people are in the right place at the right time. That kind of perfect comic harmony is hard to maintain, thus many great sketch comedy shows are short-lived. The one sketch comedy show that has continued to defy the general law of sketch comedy is "Saturday Night Live."
In the 35 years that Saturday Night Live has been around, we've been brought classic comedy, such as John Belushi's "Samurai Futaba" sketches, Will Ferrell's "More Cowbell" catch phrase, and movies, such as "The Blues Brothers," "The Coneheads," "Wayne's World," and "It's Pat." However, like all sparks of creative genius, the light goes dim from time to time. I think the writers of the show are bored, and that boredom was painfully obvious during Gabourey Sidibe's recent guest appearance on the show.
After achieving rapid fame for her film debut in "Precious," Sidibe's guest appearance on "Saturday Night Live" could have been another feather in the cap of the aspiring actress. The sketches she performed in, however, threw her into a lot of tragic stereotypes.
Large, black women have never been treated well in the popular media. For the ones who are able to land roles in film, they are usually typecast as loud, angry, lazy, and unintelligent.
I was hoping that Sidibe would be given the chance to shine in ways that didn't accent all of the stereotypes society holds toward large, black women, but in fact, her skits did just that. Sidibe's first sketch was as a pretend guest speaker on the "The Suze Orman Show." Her character was an unprofessional nurse with a Jamaican accent selling a hoax self-help book that urged people to self-diagnose themselves.
Diagnosis: The character she played was lazy and unintelligent.
The next character she played was an irate black woman who was yelling at kids from the window of a brownstone, most likely somewhere in Brooklyn. While everybody assumed she was crazy, she was actually informing people about biology, history, and diversifying their stock portfolios.
As soon as the audience begins to believe Sidibe's character is intelligent, but misunderstood, she tells the audience that her father "sold Wikipedias" for a living. Societal stereotypes are reconfirmed and Sidibe's character is simply a big, angry black woman in a bathrobe yelling at people to "git on outta here."
It might as well have been an episode of "Tom and Jerry" and Sidibe may as well have been a mammy in a pair of house slippers.
In yet another ill-conceived sketch, Sidibe plays "Markeesha Odom," a Department of Motor Vehicles clerk with an attitude and a speech impediment. Although she didn't seal the win for "Public Employee of the Year" in an award show, she was recognized for being twice named the "surliest and most unhelpful" public employee.
Again, the writers of the show hang Sidibe out to dry. I would blame Sidibe, but she is young and just starting out in her career. SNL has a long history of creating skits that make us laugh with the actors, but in this episode, I felt like we were all laughing at her, which is unfortunate.
I hope that SNL will continue another 35 years, but if it does, I hope the writers, producers and others will put more thought and effort into what they do.
Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.