Last night, Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary in grand fashion. Old cast members were rolled back out, Kanye West performed his new track, "Wolves", and nostalgia-soaked laughs were had by all. Though SNL has had a history of its writers struggling to do right by its black cast members, that hasn't stopped some incredible talents from shining through. Here are the ten best black Saturday Night Live cast members.
10. Ellen Cleghorne SNL Tenure: 1991-1995 She was the only black woman in the cast during the 90's, though struggled to find roles that fit her. But for what it was worth, her signature character, Queen Shaniqua remains hard to forget https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4oBOfPqrFk 9. Jay Pharoah SNL Tenure: 2010-present He's a master of impressions above all else, and while that often pushes him into one-trick pony territory, when you're as good as he is, no one cares. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIpIRm3-H-Q 8.) Tracy Morgan SNL Tenure: 1996-2003 Unfortunately, Morgan's time on SNL will be remembered as merely a springboard to a funnier time on 30 Rock, but his depth and versatility cannot be undervalued. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9YWfQQvq5w 7.) Kenan Thompson SNL Tenure: 2003-present Most of our generation didn't see Kenan having the ability to convert his earlier Nickelodeon success into twelve seasons (and counting!) on SNL, but he's finally starting to shed his old Goodburger image and become more known for being Alex Tre-Black on Black Jeopardy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWuJHbVZBQg 6.) Garrett Morris SNL Tenure: 1975-1980 Largely here due to his pioneering. He had to act out a lot of racist gimmicks given to him by SNL's writers, but he was also one of the first to be outspoken about it. And, occasionally, he made us laugh. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGBw8jS3sMw 5.) Michael Che SNL Tenure: 2014-Present Still a bit of a rookie, Che has made an immediate impact in the always valuable "Weekend Update" slot. His future looks great. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxruI7Y7kww 4.) Tim Meadows SNL Tenure: 1991-2000 He hung around for ten seasons, fought through some of SNL's worst years, and still got a memorable role (and pretty bad movie) out of it all, with his "Ladies Man" character. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNpQTpv-aQE 3.) Chris Rock SNL Tenure: 1990-1993 Another situation where his time on SNL was a brief stop to much, much bigger things, Rock wasn't on screen much. But when he was, he dominated the screen, and blew the rest of the cast away. Of course, his finest SNL moments have come in his returns to the show, but his time as a cast member was still impressive. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xN_e3rz9xoA 2.) Maya Rudolph SNL Tenure: 2000-2007 Rudolph perfected the art of making us laugh at our idols, and did it during an era of SNL where women were more in control of the writing and direction of the show than they ever were before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh5N9qKEntc 1.) Eddie Murphy SNL Tenure: 1980-1984 Was there ever any question? Murphy in the 80's was a force of nature, perhaps the first true black comedian to venture into complete rock star territory. He dove into SNL at the age of 19, and instantly separated himself from everyone else on television. He made himself aware of SNL's racial imbalances, and then made fun of them. Though is return to the anniversary show last night was an awkward 70 seconds to watch, he received a long, much deserved standing ovation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wo1-sI7MOQ
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