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Politics and Color-Blind Casting

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and the author of the forthcoming The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop--and Why it Matters (Basic Civitas Books, December 1, 2008), looks at SNL's decision to use a non-black actor to play Barack Obama.

Guests:

Tricia Rose

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Comments [89]

ileen from upper west side

Maya Rudolph is no longer a cast member of SNL, so that option is out.

The only problem I have with Fred Armisten playing Obama is that his impression is not good. He sounds nothing like Obama. The person who did Obama's voice in the TV Funhouse cartoon did a much better impression, but I'm guessing that was Darrell Hammond, who is physically wrong for the role.

If Obama is still in the race in the fall, I'm guessing there will be a new cast member on SNL who has a good impression, and that this person is thin and black. They're probably searching comedy clubs as we speak (blog).

Mar. 06 2008 12:16 PM
Shannon from new york

I don't think the casting would be a problem if SNL had more than one token black person on the show. Then, the selection would be color blind. But, unfortunately, SNL does not have a diverse staff. It should have used this as an opportunity to broaden its talent pool.

Mar. 05 2008 03:21 PM
James from New York

The nice thing about "social constructions" is that we all get an equal vote. Everyone can "construct" as they see fit, as there is no "objective" truth to it. So, to me someone of mixed race (which ultimately we ALL are to some extent) is of mixed race (note the role of logic here).

Mar. 05 2008 12:39 PM
nu from NY, NY

for those of you that are uninformed: race is a social construction. so the bs about obama being "half white" or "having a white mother" is just that...bs...obama is black--he knows it, and the world knows it.

Mar. 05 2008 12:28 PM
Angela from NYC

...And Tricia Rose is bi-racial herself!

Mar. 05 2008 12:05 PM
Gene

Agreed, Paolo (and thanks for the all-Obama SNL cast idea!). In some sectors of China today, smoking is considered good for treating respiratory diseases and preventing cancer.

Not to take cheap shots at China--similar ideas ran through American society till mid-20th Century.

Mar. 05 2008 11:58 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey


ab, I'm not saying that everything has to necessarily be applied in the same way. I appreciate the differences, and so I understand why something like the use of the n-word is different depending on who use it.

But what we have in this country is a situation where one group is placed under a great deal of scrutiny (and not without reason) and the other groups are placed under virtually no scrutiny.

Every ethnic and other minority group needs to be included on the discussion not only declaring their victimization at the hands of whites but also their own racist/bigoted acts against whites and other minorities. Does everyone deserve an equal share of the blame? No. Does everyone have as long a road to go to reach what we might consider the ideal? No. Does that need to be taken into account? Yes. But should we all try to be getting to the same place? YES.

Mar. 05 2008 11:52 AM
charles from nyc

i think that in every conversation about race the fact that there IS no race other than the HUMAN RACE needs to be voiced not only true, unifying labels define and unfortunately devide

Mar. 05 2008 11:48 AM
joanna

ab-

yes - Elizabeth was a missed point- thanks for seeing past that.

Mar. 05 2008 11:42 AM
David from Manhattan

I'll let Fred Armisen speak for himself (from his SNL blog, http://blog.nbc.com/fred/):

"Anyway, about Senator Obama, we did makeup tests on the Thursday before the show. Our head makeup guy Louis Zakarian put it all together. We tried to do as little as possible so that it wasn't too distracting. He glued in these little plastic pieces behind my ears to make them stick out a little. The makeup test, which is pretty much just me standing in front of the cameras for a while, went well. So, thank you Louis!"

I think it is very telling that they "tried to do as little as possible" with make-up. And what they did use was intended to make Fred look more like Obama, not to make him into some broad, clownish caricature of an African-American. I know blackface when I see it, and that ain't it.

That said, I also find it very telling that the audience for SNL is overwhelmingly white. I've attended two SNL dress rehearsals and could count the minority audience members on one hand.

Mar. 05 2008 11:37 AM
ab

paulo,

NOT IN EVERY CASE.

The simple problem with an across the board thoery of that in every situation is that it often ignores racism and actually allows it to thrive.

I would love to live in a world where we don't have to worry about one part of the population not having as much access to good education, good housing, equal employment but the simple REALITY is that we do not and I am thankful that there are laws to enforce that those opportunities are available to all. The right wing would argue that such laws create a system where we are not held to the same standards...so they attempt to dismantle these laws and when they succeed all it does is disempower those already disempowered and therefore allows racism and inequality to THRIVE not die out.

We don't disagree 100% with each other...I agree with your basic points but I don't agree with what you said as a blanket across the board black and white one size fits all situations statement. One size never fits all.

There is a racist history in this country and still a white power structure and to ignore that is to ignore reality. That's why white actors may be scrutinized more when playing someone black than someone else. That's why it isn't looked at as the same when they use the "n" word for instance even though so many blacks do. That's due to reality...this is not a utopia.

Mar. 05 2008 11:36 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey


Gene, and the Chinese considered mercury to be a potion for eternal youth! It's amazing we (the human race) lasted this long with remedies like that.

Mar. 05 2008 11:36 AM
Gene

Elizabethan women of a certain class got rid of wrinkles not with botox or retin-A, but by burning off a layer or two of skin with lye (retin-A is, I believe, a modified form of lye).

The result? After a few years, the face would fall apart, worse than before, requiring another application of lye. The result? Ever more frequent applications.

They say that by 42, Elizabeth's face was a dirt road, her teeth black and breath foul (all side-effects of the lye treatment).

I haven't read anything on her makeup in this regard, but I would assume it took a lot to cover up the damage.

Mar. 05 2008 11:31 AM
Kevin from Brooklyn, NY

One thing I must add about SNL, though: over the years, the issue of their dearth of black actors has always been highlighted on occasions such as these. When they have a need to portray African Americans prominent in the news, but have few if any options in terms of who can play them. This most often leads to the unfortunate scenario of the lone black man in the cast having to don a wig and dress to portray Oprah, Star Jones, or some other black woman. That may be a whole other conversation, but then again, perhaps not.

Mar. 05 2008 11:31 AM
Kevin from Brooklyn, NY

I wasn't offended by Fred Armisen's portrayal of Obama mainly because it was pretty good: they did a good job of making him look like Senator Obama and Armisen managed to capture him pretty well. And this is generally the difference between minstrelsy and an actual impersonation: that you actually attempt to capture specific characteristics of the individual and not simply fall back on tired stereotypes associated with a group of people, which may have little or nothing to do with that individual's actual ways of speaking or acting. For example, Howard Stern used to feature a portrayal of the late Ed Bradley on his radio show which was nothing more than someone's concept of a "stereotypical old black man" and had nothing to do with how Ed Bradley actually spoke. Conversely, Billy Crystal used to do a great Sammy Davis, Jr., and Muhammad Ali, as well as a fictional old Negro League baseball player - in makeup and all - on SNL, and the difference was that you could see that his portrayals came out of a profound affection for - and, perhaps more importantly, study of - his specific subjects. Also, while I don't know how much affection there is in Darrell Hammond's portrayal of Jesse Jackson, it is dead-on and it is hilarious.

Mar. 05 2008 11:31 AM
nickV from Sea cliff , New York

For those who remember... Eddie Murphy played a character named "Mr. White" when he was a cast member of SNL. He was completely made up to be a white man - It was hilarious... Comedy is great way to relax racial tension as well as stress in general. PC is counterproductive!
By the way tell professor Rose to calm down.

Mar. 05 2008 11:28 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I was defending SNL, Billy.

Mar. 05 2008 11:27 AM
Billy from NY NY

I think the Elizabethan point is a good one.

Mar. 05 2008 11:19 AM
Billy from NY NY

Yes, Paulo, all comedy casts, all improvosational late night TV shows, all satirical television should go to some African American university and study African studies so that they'd be more sensitive when making skits, yes.

Mar. 05 2008 11:18 AM
ab

Joanna,

Though I agree with you in principal the Elizabeth comparison is a bad one if you mean Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth herself wore pale chalky makeup that was not her own skin clor and wigs to make herself appear as a being of divine light...a goddess on earth if you will. It was to awe the subjects who met her. This is hardly comporable to the color of a person's natural born skin and an actor being made up to portray said person's natural complexion. Though I do agree with your basic point.

Mar. 05 2008 11:18 AM
Billy from NY NY

I like Hilarys use uf Springsteen too much.

Mar. 05 2008 11:17 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

ab, everyone should be held to the same standard or else you are simply perpetuating racism. Every other minority group has essentially gotten a free ride on their racism in this country, and that's not right. That's not to say that I don't think whites should've been held to account. They should've. But so should everyone else.

In the case of Obama and race, few people (I've heard only one so far) are talking about racism in the hispanic community as a possible reason for his lack of traction with them. Coming from a Latin American country myself, I can testify to that racism. My grandmother (who was by no means a lily white woman herself) used to say that a black man with money "had a white soul".

Racism was never codified in the same way in those countries as it was here, but at the same time, complexion and wealth have a definite correlation there. So the difference between there and here is that here we had the race discussion. They, for the most part, never have. So then they come here, and are never challenged on their racism, and they can simply continue it.

That's not right. EVERYONE MUST BE HELD TO THE SAME STANDARD.

Mar. 05 2008 11:17 AM
John from Staten Island

How about an all Hilary cast where they all stand inside yellow pants at once?

Mar. 05 2008 11:17 AM
cd from NYC

ab i like the posts on this board that use the fractions!!!! Ah ha ha ha!

Mar. 05 2008 11:15 AM
Lisa from NYC

Paulo an all Obama cast! Now that's really funny!!!!! Good!!!!!!!!!!1

Mar. 05 2008 11:14 AM
ab

Comment #49

Amen to that! Funny how if you are of mixed race and one half of that happens to be black you are then supposed to ignore your other half(I never hear that argument in regards to amerasians or any other mixed category interestingly). That alone demonstrates how racism is alive and well in this country.

Mar. 05 2008 11:14 AM
Lisa from NYC

ab, how can you NOT see that SNL using a white girl who happens to be tall is not offensive to play Obama, this is the worst!

Mar. 05 2008 11:12 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey


Now I think they should do a skit this coming week where the entire cast comes out as Barack Obama.

And John, I agree. There's people in the academic world who are just there to mystify people into seeing something that isn't there. They use big words and convoluted language to convince you that anything that has such intense analysis must have some kind of substance and basis.

Mar. 05 2008 11:12 AM
James from New York

This IS a VERY silly discussion on MANY levels. For one thing, Obama was born of a white mother and black father. He was abandoned by his black father and raised by his white mother & her white parents (his white maternal grandparents). So we have to simply accept that he cannot be charcterized as white or black in any strict sense - he is truely race-transcendant (or mixed race if u wish) because those are the facts of his biography. And while a certain amount of deference must be accorded our self-identity assertions, the facts of our biography are also relevant. Of course, some will say, that because of the racism of the past (and the racism which may yet linger in our present) his 'blackness' is the dominant fact. But, I for one have thought that the very promise of his candidacy was based on recognizing the brighter prospect for our collective future insofar as we transcend these categories. We should not let the racism of our collective past inhibit the prospects for our race-transcendant future. Barack is neither black or white. He is a mixed race person who is more like our future than our past. We should celebrate this (whether we support him or Hillary at this time for the Presidency) rather than remain mired in the narrowminded categories of our past. His achievements to date & promise for the future should make us proud of how far we've come, even as this discussion & others like it admonish us as to how far we have yet to go.

Mar. 05 2008 11:10 AM
Bob from NYC

Let's take DNA tests, Gene. That's precious.

Mar. 05 2008 11:10 AM
ab

Paulo,

Duh, white people are held to a "different standard" because of the racist white establishment power structred history of this country? Does that REALLY need to be explained?

That being said this is only an issue due to the history of racist black face minstrel shows in this country. But in this particular case we have a mixed race person playing someone else who is of mixed race. And the parody isn't based on cruel racial stereotypes designed to uphold a racist power-structure. In fact I think this may be a sign of how race is beginning to NOT matter as much in this country...so it is fundamentally different.

I disagree with the guest's comment "then why did he have to darken his skin to play Obama?". To look more like him obviously. His skin isn't darkened in some drastic charicturized way. And as it has been said before...Billy Crystal played Sammy davis, Jr and noone batted an eye...because it was a parody that wasn't about Davis' race but rather about his persona.

Mar. 05 2008 11:10 AM
jawbone from Parsippany, NJ

To show you how much I don't recognize people outside their fame frame, I thought SNL had gone outside their cast to find someone who looked pretty much like Obama!!

I had not realized the actor was a cast member, had no idea he did that Ahmadinejad (sp?) spoof--which really was funny.

Damn, he's good. He just IS the character. Now I'm impressed.

Re: How the Obama character is being played--I think SNL is being quite careful to not be disprespectful.

Mar. 05 2008 11:09 AM
Chestine from NYC

Gene, is it sort of like being half smart? Because I can relate to that! Let's all take DNA tests yes!

Mar. 05 2008 11:09 AM
Chestine from NYC

If they could get Tiger Woods as guest host, he could play OBama.

Mar. 05 2008 11:09 AM
joanna from Brooklyn

on make up-

When an actress plays Elizabeth, her face is lightened. When An actor plays an older character, their make up is done accordingly. If a person was to have a slightly pink complexion, the make up artists would have done their research, and added that to their design. The make up of today is there to enhance the actors portrayal, not to make a political statement.

Mar. 05 2008 11:08 AM
Chestine from NYC

SNL's just not that funny anymore. Maya would have been the right choice anyway.

Mar. 05 2008 11:08 AM
Gene

Not sure what I think of this new "half-white" thing.

Being half, or 3/4, or 7/8 white would not have gotten you to the "Whites Only" drinking fountain in Alabama in 1953. Only if you were successful at "passing."

On one hand, it's nice to see racist definitions diluted, making racism less able to destroy.

On the other hand, it seems kind of dismissive to the black portion. Unmitigated racism made blacks of whatever makeup fairly united. Now there seema to be a more formal segmentation, a division that prove harmful.

I'd like to see someone tracking this linguistic and conceptual development on the show.

Mar. 05 2008 11:07 AM
Sinsy from queens

Wow. High quality board here. Maybe we can do dna sampling on SNL players for you. Sheesh.

Mar. 05 2008 11:07 AM
John from Manhattan

The guest is part of an academic cottage industry that inflates matters such as this to the status of "critical issues" - thereby wasting our time and adding to the confusion. Also, her ignorance about the state of diversity in American theater today is pretty obvious.

Someday, people will look back on all this and wonder: what the hell were those people talking about?

Mar. 05 2008 11:07 AM
bryan from NYC

Hey,

I think i've got a theory as to why Kenan didn't get to play Obama. Uhmmmm, 'cause the skit called for Obama, singular, not Obama(s) plural. Has anyone seen the size of that dude????

Tell him to stick to playing Sharpton

Mar. 05 2008 11:04 AM
Brian from Forest Hills

Amazing how we haven't advanced beyond Plessy v Ferguson (1896) where Homer Plessy was 1/8 black and 7/8 white, but was considered black.

Barak is 1/2 white and 1/2 black and is considered black.

Tiger Woods is 1/2 black and 1/2 Thai and is considered black.

I always wonder if Barak's mother and Tiger's mother consider themselves "chopped liver"

Mar. 05 2008 11:04 AM
Seth from Astoria

It's not a 2 way street. Color blind casting benefits Black actors and usually leaves White actors behind. I'm a musical theatre actor, my vocal range limits me because most of the roles that I fit into are those of color. If it came down between me and a black man to play the role of Colins in RENT, a character who was originated black, but doesn't textually deal with racial issues, and both of us are equal in every other way, you wouldn't see me on the stage.

BUT, to play the fictional character of JIM in the Twain based Huck Finn Musical BIG RIVER, where race is a central part of the show, I as an actor, or an audience member, wouldn't want to see a white man in that role. Stay true to the literature.

SNL is based on Characutures and impressions. Who ever does their Obama impression better can play that role. Kennan Couldn't do the impression. Kennan couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. Fred is a gifted actor, and to play these real life people, you need to be. Ask Obama who he'd want to see. Clinton loves Amy Phoeler, does Obama feel the same?

Mar. 05 2008 11:03 AM
chestina (felt pressure to change it) from Midtown

Lorenzo - have you never heard the meaning of NTSC (our video standard) - "Never Twice the Same Color" was this really doctored? I doubt it!!!

Mar. 05 2008 11:03 AM
cate

Unbelievable. Aren't there more important issues to discuss? SNL is doing what it's always done. Lighten up!

Mar. 05 2008 11:03 AM
MMM from Lower East Side

The entertainment industry is not black or white. It's green. The only way anything will change is if people stop throwing down their cash to see it.

Mar. 05 2008 11:01 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

Minnie Ripperton...Loving You is a great tune

Mar. 05 2008 11:01 AM
jawbone from Parsippany, NJ

Would SNL be accused of calling attention to Obama's "blackness," of "racializing" his depiction, if a black actor of darker coloring were to play him?

I thought the actor did look quite a bit like Obama, btw, but I may not have a discerning enough eye. I have trouble recognizing celebrities out of their fame frame.

Mar. 05 2008 11:01 AM
Catherine from Massapequa

Billy Crystal wore darkening makeup playing Sammy Davis Jr and the Old Negro League ball players. Its COMEDY and if it works, that's what matters.
Regards,
Mixed ethnicity mom, mother of a mixed ethnicity child

Mar. 05 2008 11:00 AM
Mike from Tampa

Brian,

Thanks for pulling the plug on that - what a waste of air time. Honestly, I think you nailed it when you asked her if her concern was the make-up used by the actor.

Please remind her that the program is based largely upon satire while you are showing her to the door.

Best to you.

Mar. 05 2008 11:00 AM
Gill from Gramercy

Maya Rudolph is bi-racuial:

Mini Riperton/Mom - Black
Dad - White

Mar. 05 2008 10:59 AM
Paul from Bronx

I would just add that I think body shape might have had a little to do with the decision. Keenan is short and heavy, while Barack is tall and lanky.

Mar. 05 2008 10:59 AM
adam from brooklyn

thank god that segment is over.

Mar. 05 2008 10:59 AM
rick from brooklyn

reality check: Obama's mom is white. he is therefore genetically half white. he is only "culturally", "black". this is just another PC argument....

Mar. 05 2008 10:59 AM
chestina (felt pressure to change it) from Midtown

Oh and Tricia I had to take notes from your MLK participation in the panel on BL - you take my breath away! Why are we not hearing you in MSM! Please come out of the Ivory Tower.

Mar. 05 2008 10:59 AM
Bill from New York

Perhaps the point of an all-black Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is that the story of that play is anyone's story, or that the only thing barring blacks from identifying with its content is something as superficial as color and not any kind of essential (or essentialized) difference of experience.

There's no such thing as race, making an issue of this perpetuates the problem.

And, Good Lord, he wears darkening makeup because even SNL strives for a kind of half-assed verisimilitude. Come on. Caricatured representation is what comedy, no matter what the "race" of the person being portrayed, is. It's SNL!!! Give us a break.

Mar. 05 2008 10:58 AM
Jen from Brooklyn

Come on... Dave Chappelle plays white people with white make-up. And it's hilarious.

Mar. 05 2008 10:58 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

This topic was explore cogently in David Henry Hwang's recent play "Yellow Face". The real insult is to the black actors who could have played the part of Obama.

Mar. 05 2008 10:58 AM
Marco from Manhattan

I really hate this pseudo-intellectual academic gibberish.

Mar. 05 2008 10:58 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

remember when dan akroyd played jimmy carter with a moustache...

Mar. 05 2008 10:58 AM
Lauren from Brooklyn

Would we be having this conversation if a male actor was playing Hillary on SNL?

Mar. 05 2008 10:57 AM
gabby from new york

Mark Siegel, who was a friend of Benazir Bhutto, told Jon Stewart this story:
when people around Bhutto were furious about Jon Stewart having Musharraf on his show, Bhutto said "Lighten up. It's a comedy show."
So there it is -- lighten up. It's a comedy show. The point is to be funny, not PC.

Mar. 05 2008 10:57 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

Mr. T...do u pity them...

Mar. 05 2008 10:56 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

The other thing is that SNL tends not to venture outside its cast for actors in their skits. A show like Mad TV on the other hand would bring in a lot of people in addition to their regular cast. So the idea that they should have to hire one person to play one character to adhere to some ridiculous notion of obligation is just silly. I mean, I'm not slapping Dave Chapelle for dressing up like white people in his skits. And nobody's even talking about it because once again, whites are held to one standard on racism and everyone else is held to a completely different standard.

Mar. 05 2008 10:56 AM
Mark from LES

Doesn't SNL need to find a 1/2 black 1/2 white actor to play Obama to be PC.
Thanks,

Mar. 05 2008 10:56 AM
adam klimaszewski from brooklyn

this whole conversation is insane,
Barack Obama is half white. The discussion you are having has nothing to do with him.

Mar. 05 2008 10:56 AM
Henry from New York City

About SNL choosing a non-black actor: Have we forgotten that Barack Obama is bi-racial, not just black?

Mar. 05 2008 10:56 AM
Zach from Upper West Side

Mr. Corrao, no need to be mean. This is a good topic of discussion, since there has been a long history in this country of racist blackface performances. In this case, though, Obama, while he may identify as black, is half white, so this issue is a non-issue.

Mar. 05 2008 10:55 AM
Mr. T from Hollywood, CA

Opera regularly features white singers wearing black make-up to play black characters. Verdi's Otello regularly features opera singers wearing black makeup. Madama Butterfly has singers wearing "Asian" make-up and costumes.

Mar. 05 2008 10:54 AM
Tom Parker from NYC

Broadway is a commercial enterprise, not a social agency!

Mar. 05 2008 10:54 AM
quinn from Manhattan

Agreed with all above. The actor somewhat resembles him in the makeup anyway. From what I've seen SNL's depiction of Obama is not racially pejorative so why complain? It's funny. This IS a non-issue. Besides the black cast member on the show doesn't look like him at all.

Mar. 05 2008 10:54 AM
Steven from NY

This debate is incredibly provincial. Why is Fred Armisen "white"? And, for that matter, why is Obama "black"? Part of Armisen's family comes from Venezuela, which is a tri-racial country. He most likely has at least some African or Native ancestry or both. He is also part Japanese. Is there anyone better to play Obama, I ask?

Mar. 05 2008 10:54 AM
Lorenzo from NY NJ


Speaking of color blind: what about the video which Hillary Clinton's campaign has released where they doctor Obama's skin to look "more black"?

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/3/4/21311/85811/447/468408

Mar. 05 2008 10:54 AM
Jeff from Ithaca

Yes, non-issue. Someone should begin the much more culturally relevant discussion of the ever-declining quality of SNL's comedy. The bar has been lowered. Why is that show still on the air?

Mar. 05 2008 10:54 AM
chestina (felt pressure to change it) from Midtown

I think S. Epatha Merkerson said it well when she said, "please don't call it color blind casting, that means I'm not up there!"

Mar. 05 2008 10:53 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

Chris u make a good point...

Mar. 05 2008 10:53 AM
David from NYC

Brian, by your opening question--if the race matters, it can't be color-blind.

Really, is the news this slow?

Mar. 05 2008 10:53 AM
Lauren from Crown Heights

Not a non-issue. Setting aside the very real issue that skin color is only the most superficial indicator of a person's heritage (as pointed to by the comment above), of course it's different when a "black" person plays a "white" person and when a "white" person plays a "black" person. But the different is not constituted by one being okay to do and the other not okay to do.

Mar. 05 2008 10:53 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

Brain what a knee jerk jerk u are.."An African American" actor...so now the actor has to be "American"...man u suck...His blackness...its the media that cares about it not the average Joe... Italians played Indians on F Troop...who cares...thats why u get actors...Laurence Olivier played a vampire hunter and a nazi...he was neither I'm pretty sure

Mar. 05 2008 10:51 AM
Chris

Billy Crystal did a great Sammy Davis Jr. and no one complained.

Mar. 05 2008 10:51 AM
Gene

Fred Armisen is a genius, the most under-valued member of the SNL cast--partly because he is hidden by his spot-on characterizations (Mahmoud Achmadinajad, for one).

Strangely, his Obama, while accurate, isn't yet that funny.

Mar. 05 2008 10:51 AM
Marco from Manhattan

Jeremy is correct...a complete non-issue, complete waste of time...time for some classical music.

Mar. 05 2008 10:51 AM
Tom Parker from NYC

This is a no-brainer: We have had straight actors playing gay characters (and vice versa), men and women playing the opposite gender, etc. It's called "acting," and if anyone can successfully portray the character by brining him/her to theatrical life, he/she should be allowed, indeed, encouraged to take the part.

Mar. 05 2008 10:50 AM
a woman from manhattan

Fred Armisen looks more like Obama than anyone! And he's not white -- he's south american (I think venezuelan). What nonsense. SNL just uses whoever looks most like someone. (Or, of course, whoever has more clout with the writers, I suppose). I think it's a non-issue. Fred Armisen is great.

Mar. 05 2008 10:50 AM
michael winslow from INWOOD

It's rediculous because Obama is black so you hire a black actor to play him.

Aren't there enough white people on TV????

Mar. 05 2008 10:50 AM
Laura from NJ

Maya Rudolph should've played Obama! Why can't we be gender blind?

Mar. 05 2008 10:50 AM
Paulo from Paterson, New Jersey

I think the real problem is the history. Because of black face, which was unquestionably offensive and intended to perpetuate negative stereotypes, it causes some people to treat any instance of a person of one race playing a person of another. The simple fact is that people have been portraying people of other ethnicities for YEARS without issue (or very little issue). The criteria, to me at least, seems very clear. If it's intended to ridicule someone's race, then it's obviously wrong. But if that actor is just the best person to play the character, then who really cares?

Mar. 05 2008 10:48 AM
Jeremy from Manhattan

I agree with John's comments. Out of all of the current SNL cast, Fred Armison's build, face, and overall look most closely resembles those of Obama.

Mar. 05 2008 10:48 AM
Jay F. from nyc

Another non-issue.
Obama is half white anyway.
What a wast eof time.

Mar. 05 2008 10:47 AM
John from Manhattan

I think it is is silly - no, make that narrow-minded - to insist that it is racially insensitive or inappropriate for an actor to represent a character of another "race," if there is no purpose or result of the presentation that deprecates a "race." For decades I have seen black actors playing characters that in terms of the story or historical reality were white - didn't bother me, nor anybody else as far as I knew.

SNL is clearly not hardly using this performer for the purpose of ridiculing Obama's race - his race, in fact, is irrelevant to the presentation. So why would anyone other than a bigot care? (Btw, Darrell Hammond has done Jesse Jackson for years - and his imitation is dead-on, and that's what counts.)

Mar. 05 2008 10:30 AM

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