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Saturday Night Live Needs Latino Cast Members

Over the last few weeks, Saturday Night Live has faced criticism for its lack of black female cast members – only four have been regulars since the show began in 1975. Now the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts has joined in, insisting that the diversity conversation should include comedic Hispanic actors. In 39 years, SNL has only featured two principal actors of Latino descent: Horatio Sanz and Fred Armisen. In that same span, the idea of what Latino humor is has evolved way beyond it’s original mainstream portrayals. There was a time on television when South American characters were played by white people that relied to the easiest stereotypes to get laughs. Let’s take a look at just how far we have come.

1960’s Jose Jimenez, played by Bill Dana
Whether or not this is offensive depends on who you ask. One thing that is for sure, having someone lampoon a race is nothing new, as Bill Dana’s Jose Jimenez demonstrates. Recent examples of similar characters are Dave Chappelle’s white news anchor, as well as Mac’s Black Face Danny Glover on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. However, one could argue that the latter two characters are satirizing ignorance, whereas Jose Jimenez was a cheap stereotype for giggles.

1970’s Freddie Prinze Sr
Freddie Prinze really captured something unique and familiar at the same time. While he came from a minority background, his material covered issues and themes that resonated with a very large audience. Prinze died at the age of 22, but his comedy has lived on through those that were inspired by him. Speaking of…

1980’s/1990’s George Lopez
George’s specialty was talking about white culture and then creating comparisons to the culture he grew up in. While Lopez never really went as deep as Prinze, he was able to figure out the formula that has kept him on and off television for the last several decades.

2000’s Al Madrigal
Ethnicity aside, Al Madrigal is one of the best comedians working today. He is instantly likable and he has the ability to tell a story with the same clarity and humor that Bill Cosby had at the peak of his career. Check out Al Madrigal on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

2010’s Gina Brillon
Gina won NBC’s 2012 Stand Up For Diversity showcase and has been featured on both Comedy Central and The View. Brillon provides a very smart and satirical comedy voice that is perfect for a show like Saturday Night Live.

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