Tag: Lorne Michaels

FEATURE: After 25 Years on the Road, Leslie Jones Becomes a Comedy Star

“This is gonna be kind of a hot one,” Ali LeRoi said.

“I’ve been waiting to sit her ass down for a minute,” Owen Smith said. “One of the funniest women in the game.”

“Funniest comedian in the game,” Jones interrupted. “Not just woman. I hate that shit.” End of introduction.

Comedians are combatants: they “kill,” they “bomb,” they “destroy.” Such bluster can mask insecurity, and Jones had good reason to feel defensive. She was forty-six, and had been a standup comedian for more than a quarter century; her peers respected her, but that respect rarely translated into high-paying gigs. “I remember some nights where I was, like, ‘All right, this comedy shit just ain’t working out,’ ” she told me recently. “And not just when I was twenty-five. Like, when I was forty-five.” She was a woman in a field dominated by men, and an African-American in an industry that remained disturbingly segregated.

Although she had opened for Katt Williams and Dave Chappelle, acted in movies alongside Ice Cube and Martin Lawrence, recorded a standup special for Showtime, and made several appearances on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and BET’s “ComicView,” she worried that the gatekeepers of mainstream comedy—bookers for the “Tonight Show,” casting directors of big-budget films—had never heard her name. “Every black comedian in the country knew what I could do,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean everyone else is paying attention.” Chris Rock, who met Jones when they were both road comics in the late eighties, told me, “Black women have the hardest gig in show business. You hear Jennifer Lawrence complaining about getting paid less because she’s a woman—if she was black, she’d really have something to complain about.”

Jones spent much of her career performing in what she calls “shitty chitlin-circuit-ass rooms, where you’re just hoping the promoter pays you.” She told me that, around 2010, “I stopped only doing black clubs. I stopped doing what I call ‘nigger nights’—the Chocolate Sundays, the Mo’ Better Mondays. I knew how to relate to that audience, and I was winning where I was, but I wasn’t moving forward.” She lived in Los Angeles at the time, and she began asking for spots at the Comedy Store, where David Letterman and Robin Williams got their starts. A comedian named Erik Marino, who befriended her there, said, “She felt very strongly that she was being pigeonholed as a black comic—a BET comic.”

For a while, Jones performed at the Store at odd hours. Then, she said, “I went to the booker and I threw the race card at him. ‘Why you won’t let me go up at ten on a Friday? ’Cause I’m black?’ ” The booker gave her a prime-time slot. “She destroyed, obviously,” Marino said. “Bookers are the ones who care about black rooms versus white rooms. To us comedians, it’s, like, if you know what you’re doing and you can connect with an audience, they’re gonna laugh.”

Rock saw Jones perform at the Store in 2012. After her set, he told her, “You were always funny, but you’re at a new level now.”

“You’re right,” she responded. “But I’m not gonna really make it unless someone like you puts me on.” Rock took out his iPhone and added her name to a list labelled “Funny people.”

Continue reading “FEATURE: After 25 Years on the Road, Leslie Jones Becomes a Comedy Star”

HBO Greenlights “Brothers in Atlanta”, Comedy Series from “Late Night” Writers Diallo Riddle & Bashir Salahuddin

Brothers in Atlanta Diallo Riddle Bashir
Director Tim Story (l); writer/producer/stars Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin (Photo: Variety.com)

According to Variety.com, HBO has picked up to series “Brothers in Atlanta,” a comedy from “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” writers Diallo RiddleBashir Salahuddin and “Late Night” Executive Producer Lorne Michaels.

The series follows struggling entertainers and best friends Langston and Moose (played by Riddle and Salahuddin), as they try to navigate relationships and life in the black mecca of Atlanta, GA.  Langston, an Atlanta native, is an aspiring DJ whose career has stalled due to his lack of focus and get-rich schemes, and Moose, who’s brand new to Atlanta, is a perennial backup singer with dreams of being in the spotlight.

“SNL” alumna Maya Rudolph and Jaden Smith (“Karate Kid”) are set to guest star in the series.  Rudolph will play Shirle, Moose’s demanding diva boss, and Smith will play Curtis, Langston’s rowdy teenage neighbor with unpredictable interests and a suspicious income.

The starring duo, Riddle and Salahuddin, will executive produce with Lorne Michaels and Andrew Singer for Broadway Video, plus the Story Co.’s Tim Story. Field Entertainment’s Jeff Field, Doug Griffin of the Story Co. and Anna Dokoza will also produce.

Story (“Think Like a Man,” “Ride Along,” “Fantastic Four”), who directed the pilot, will direct more episodes throughout the series.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Michael Che to Co-Anchor “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live”

MICHAEL CHE WEEKEND UPDATE
Michael Che Will Co-Anchor SNL’s Weekend Update (Photo: Mindy Tucker)

You’ll be seeing even more of Michael Che come Sept. 27. Bill Carter of The New York Times is reporting that the newest “Daily Show” correspondent and “Saturday Night Live” writer will be taking a spot at the “Weekend Update” desk during SNL’s 40th season.

Che replaces Cecily Strong and will co-host “Update” alongside Colin Jost, who enters his second year in the coveted role. Strong remains a repertory player. Che will end his brief run as a “Daily Show” correspondent in the move.

Che, a native New Yorker who got his start in stand-up in 2009, began writing for SNL in 2013, and joined the “Daily Show” cast this year.  After a season with the largest SNL cast in history, the show announced several changes over the summer. Featured players John Milhiser, Brooks Wheelan and Noël Wells were let go, and Nasim Pedrad is leaving to co-star in the eagerly anticipated “Mulaney.”

Several new writers have been announced, including Natasha Rothwell (who was one of 11 women who auditioned last season for the featured player spot that ultimately went to Sasheer Zamata), Streeter Seidell from College Humor, Nick Rutherford (the only member of sketch group Good Neighbor not hired by SNL last year), UCB LA’s Alison Rich and The PIT’s Jeremy Beiler.

To date, Che is the only new on-screen addition announced. But according to Carter, Lorne Michaels is considering adding one or two more cast members.

In addition to his work on “The Daily Show,” Che was recently as the first stand-up comedian to appear on “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”

article by Carol Harstell via huffingtonpost.com

Maya Rudolph’s NBC Variety Show: Guest List and Air Date Revealed

(Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
(Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Maya Rudolph will make her return to NBC next month with some song and sketch — not to mention, a little help from her famous friends.  The network has slated her variety show special, titled The Maya Rudolph Show, to air on May 19 at 10 p.m., and the Saturday Night Live veteran — who recently starred in another Peacock comedy series, Up All Night — will be joined by Kristen Bell, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Craig Robinson, Sean Hayes, and Chris Parnell.

Janelle Monáe will pop up as the musical guest, while Raphael Saadiq will serve as bandleader.  The one-hour special, which also could double as the pilot for an ongoing series, is being executive produced by Lorne Michaels.

article by Dan Snierson via insidetv.ew.com

African-American Female Writers Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes Join Writing Staff of “Saturday Night Live”

Leslie Jones
Leslie Jones
LaKendra Tookes

According to Variety.com, NBC sketch-comedy show Saturday Night Live added Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes, two comedians who recently auditioned for the program, as writers for the late-night series. Earlier this week, the show announced Sasheer Zamata, a veteran of improv troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, would begin as a featured player as of its January 18 broadcast.

The two new writers took part in auditions recently held in different parts of the U.S. with the express purpose of finding a female African-American to join the show’s cast of “Not Ready For Prime Time Players.”

While the current cast of Saturday Night Live includes two African-American men – Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah – it has not had an African-American woman in the cast since Maya Rudolph, a comic actress of mixed heritage, was in the cast between 2000 and 2007.

The show has not featured many women of color during its history.  Yvonne Hudson, an African-American woman, was a featured player during the program’s 1980-1981 season.  Danitra Vance, SNL‘s first African-American female full cast member, joined the show for its 1985-1986 season, part of show creator Lorne Michaels’ return to the program after an absence of several years. Ellen Cleghorne joined the cast from 1991-1995.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

‘SNL’ Adds Sasheer Zamata, First Black Female Cast Member in Years

sasheer zamata

According to Variety.comSasheer Zamata will be the latest young comedian to join NBC’s Saturday Night Live,  Zamata will make her debut as an SNL featured player on Jan. 18, the late-night program’s first live show of this new year. Zamata is a University of Virginia alumna and trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Zamata will be SNL’s first black female cast member since the departure of Maya Rudolph in 2007. SNL and its producer Lorne Michaels came under fire in late 2013 over the cast’s lack of diversity, and the series poked fun at its own controversy during its opening segment when Kerry Washington hosted SNL in November 2013.  News broke at the end of the year that SNL was holding auditions specifically to find black female cast members to join the program in 2014.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

NBC Orders Maya Rudolph Variety Pilot To Air As Primetime Special Post-Olympics

Saturday Night Live alumna Maya Rudolph is returning to NBC with a new variety series project produced by SNL honcho Lorne Michaels, this time in primetime. The network has ordered a pilot for a variety series headlined by Rudolph. I hear the plan is to air the pilot as a special after the Winter Olympics. Rudolph is executive producing with Michaels, Erin David and Dave Becky. The project has been in the works for several months. When NBC comedy series Up All Night, in which Rudolph co-starred with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, did not go forward with the planned multi-camera revamp in February, Rudolph, along with her co-stars, began fielding pilot offers. Rudolph didn’t entertain them, indicating to studios and networks that she was interested in doing a variety show instead.

NBC was among several suitors who began pursuing the project, leading to the pilot order. This marks the latest collaboration between Rudolph and Michaels, who also produced Up All Night. Rudolph, daughter of soul singer Minnie Riperton, was one of SNL‘s most popular cast members of the past decade. Her seven-year stint produced a string of memorable impersonations and original characters that often included music performances, including her recurring gigs as Beyoncé Knowles, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand as well as Oprah, Donnatella Versace and Michelle Obama. Last year she made a triumphant return to SNLwith a very well received stint as host. Rudolph, repped by WME,3 Arts and attorney David J. Matlof, was recently seen in the features The Grown Ups 2 andThe Way Way Back.

article by Nellie Andreeva via deadline.com