October 4, 2013

Is Noël Wells the first ever even slightly Mexican American SNL cast member?

Noël Wells
From the Washington Post:
As ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast reboots, questions about diversity emerge 
By Paul Farhi, Published: October 3 E-mail the writer 
During an often-glorious 38-year run, “Saturday Night Live” has featured some accomplished comic players of color: Eddie Murphy, Tim Meadows, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan, Maya Rudolph, Kenan Thompson. 
Is that enough diversity for a program that has come to define satire on American television? 
... In another of its periodic resets of its ever-evolving cast, the show added six cast members this season — five of whom are white and male. 
This development has elicited a rebuke of sorts from within. Jay Pharoah, who along with Thompson is one of two African Americans in the 16-member cast, told the Web site TheGrio this week that the NBC show should hire an African American woman. ...

Otherwise one of the black male performers has to portray Oprah, who will probably be back in the news all through Oscar season.
The cast includes a performer of Hispanic-Tunisian descent (newcomer Noël Wells) and one of Persian heritage (Nasim Pedrad). 
But nonwhite cast members are overwhelmingly the exception. Horatio Sanz and Armisen were the first and only Latinos in the cast until Wells arrived; 

Obviously, everybody wants to talk about blacks. But how many Mexican Americans have been one of 137 cast members over the decades? Sanz was born in Chile, and Armisen's mother Hildegard was born in Venezuela, which leaves obscure featured performer Noël Wells' one grandparent as the sole Mexican-American hope. From IMDB:
She is half Tunisian and a quarter Hispanic.

And she's from San Antonio, increasing the odds that her one Spanish surnamed grandparent is Mexican. Or maybe the grandparent was a Tunisian-Mexican?

But, can you be Mexican and spell your name with an umlaut? Isn't that a dealbreaker?

I've always found Lorne Michaels hilarious, so I'd look forward to hearing his testimony in a disparate impact case: you know, 0.25 out of 137 for a group that makes up about 1/10th of the country seems kinda suspicious, don't it? I'm sure the Obama Administration will be filing its discrimination lawsuit against SNL any day now.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's a dieresis, güero.

Matthew said...

"But nonwhite cast members are overwhelmingly the exception. Horatio Sanz and Armisen were the first and only Latinos in the cast until Wells arrived."

Wwhile the Asian/Latino Fred Armisen was the two races that Obama is not, he did a far more convincing job portraying Obama than the actual black guy portraying him now. He had Obama's cadence down to a science.

Simon in London said...

Noel Wells - Viva La Raza! :P

Anonymous said...

The cast includes a performer of Hispanic-Tunisian descent (newcomer Noël Wells)...

Noël Wells: half Hispanic, Half Tunisian, and all white.

Anonymous said...

güero - Ha Ha or is it Ja Ja. Güero (sometimes incorrectly spelled huero or wero) is a word used in Mexico to denote a person of fair complexion or with blond or red hair.

Maybe she should have changed her name to the more hispanic Wellez?

Cail Corishev said...

Steve, you've been talking for years about how Mexicans just aren't prominent in American entertainment, even though they're big consumers of it. It seems they've found a way to change that, which is similar to the way they're getting more Mexicans into politics -- just find Mexicans who are really, really, really white. Like, even whiter than white people. Apparently that's what Mexican viewers want to see.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if her "Mexican" grandma is Of Arab ancestry too like Slim and Selma?

Mr. Anon said...

What is remarkable is how popular SNL has remained given how mostly bad it is. Any particular show might have 5-10 minutes of funny stuff in it, but who wants to sit and watch for an hour and a half to find it?

Steve Sailer said...

Lorne Michaels has explained to anyone who wants to listen that his basic strategy is to sink his hooks into teenagers who are being allowed to stay out late at their friends' houses for the first times in their lives. If he can put on stuff that 14-year-olds find hilarious, he's got you for life!

Anonymous said...

Diversity before diversity: Redbone

I seem to recall at least of a couple of the band members were at least part Mexican. Mexicans may not have crowded out Jews or Canadians on SNL but the rest of the country bought other entertainment made by Mexicans long before it was fashionable.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Well, they could always include a Donkey Show. SNL is almost crude enough for that.

jim said...

Steve, it's dieresis, not umlaut.

Anonymous said...

As an Angelino you don't know the extremely simple rules of Spanish pronunciation?¡Qué vergüenza! (For shame!)

The ü changes the sound of gue from "gay" to "gway."

Duke of Qin said...

I have to bring this to your attention Steve because I cant in good conscious let you remain unaware of it. The NYC bicycle gang attack basically covers the entire gamut of interesting talking points. Just google up Alexian Lien.

All captured on Youtube. Check

Vibrant diversity in action, black and hispanic perpetrators, asian victim. Check

New York City, and not just regular old New York but Manhattan. Check

Manhattan Banker with 2 year toddler (How is she going to get into a good school now!?) Check

Incompetence on the part of Bloomberg's finest. Check

Now media whore lawyer cum ambulance chaser Gloria Allred entering the fray. Check

Perpetrator a good family man, son of a preacher. Check

This has the beginnings of a media circus when the trial begins.

Auntie Analogue said...


The story here in a nutshell: Professional players of the world's tiniest violin - the identity politics addicts - try yet again to heat up yet another tempest in a teapot.

Anonymous said...

"the rest of the country bought other entertainment made by Mexicans long before it was fashionable"

Don't know about the States, but Santana were huge in the UK early 70s - Abraxas was in every other sixth-formers record collection. And they were terrific live.

Jokah Macpherson said...

"If he can put on stuff that 14-year-olds find hilarious, he's got you for life!"

I skipped my freshman Homecoming dance to watch the episode where Chris Farley came back to host. I regret a lot of decisions in my life but I've never regretted this one.

On the other hand, I pretty much quit watching when Norm Macdonald left, which was around the same time.

panjoomby said...

@duke of qin: right on - AND undercover NYC cops IN the gang & along for the ride, according to the NY Post!

E. Rekshun said...

Maybe mexicans aren't funny.

E. Rekshun said...

"If he can put on stuff that 14-year-olds find hilarious, he's got you for life!"

I was about thirteen or fourteen when the Coneheads came out. I was a big hit at a 1977 Halloween Party as a conehead.

Jefferson said...

[QUOTE]Steve, you've been talking for years about how Mexicans just aren't prominent in American entertainment, even though they're big consumers of it. It seems they've found a way to change that, which is similar to the way they're getting more Mexicans into politics -- just find Mexicans who are really, really, really white. Like, even whiter than white people. Apparently that's what Mexican viewers want to see.[/QUOTE]

There is nothing really really really really White about The Democratic Party's Mexican chosen one Julian Castro. That guy looks like the typical Mexican that you see selling food out of a taco truck.

Unless your definition of "White" is automatically anyone who is neither Black nor Oriental.

ratio comment said...

Albania was to a degree overrun by Turks and Arabs who later to a degree overran Spain who later to a degree overran Mexico so the Belushi brothers are dee-en-ay-wise very Mexican. Specific ratios readily available to serious researchers.

carol said...

Any particular show might have 5-10 minutes of funny stuff in it,

I've been hearing SNL is DOA finished jumped the shark for 30 years now but they keep coming up with good topical humor.

However, it's best when condensed into 30 minute reruns.

Anonymous said...

"Don't know about the States, but Santana were huge in the UK early 70s"

Huge in the States also. Here is Carlos Santana and George Benson on the Midnight Special in 1976.

More diversity before diversity.

Anonymous said...

No True Scotsman finds Lorne Michaels to be hilarious.

jody said...

why don't they cancel this show. i will never understand.

Rev. Right said...

If they want to make their show more diverse, they should try adding someone who is funny.

Anonymous said...

"Any particular show might have 5-10 minutes of funny stuff in it, but who wants to sit and watch for an hour and a half to find it?"

Inevitably it will be in the first third of the show, to get you hooked. Nothing after Weekend Update is ever funny. Michaels realizes that the drunker his audience gets, the less demanding they are.

It would be interesting to look at all the "Best of" SNL videos and see when in the show the selected skits aired. Most of them in the first 15 minutes, I'd wager.

Hispanics among us said...

The interesting part of Armisen's impersonation was not the voice or speaking style (which tons of guys can do pretty well) but the subtler droning mannerisms and schoolmasterish stiffness that adulatory Washington reporters apparently must be oblivious to. Armisen had a bead on that finger-wagging, pedantic, let-me-be-clear telling-you-for-your-own-good side of Obama's presser demeanor which often makes him seem overly parsed and not so confident. How the vaunted Latino Heritage works in there I dunno, but it's fundamental sketch comedy repertoire to be able to do a stuffed-shirt excessive-propriety character.

The modern master of impersonations there was Darrell Hammond and his voice mimickry was usually second behind his adept use of caricatured flourishes.

Sailer's curiosity level said...

Steve could've bettered this ho-hum "My Generation" observational post about, yawn, what's happening with Saturday Night Live by contrasting the series' style against whatever passes for a classic Mexicom, e.g. El Chavo... Or El Chapulin Colorado (a totally separate show, believe it or not)... Or maybe the one with the unpronounceable name that's like an SCTV knock-off--it makes total sense when combined with copious amounts of Acapulco Gold

Anonymous said...

Is Wells Tunisian ancestry Sephardic? 110,000 Jewish poulation there pre-1948; now1,700. Everyone seems to pick and choose their ancestry these days.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above. The guy who portrays Obama on SNL is just a random black actor that they found doing a really mediocre imitation of him.

Canadian Observer said...

All this hubbub about "stop and frisk" targeting blacks and latinos in Manhattan, and we learn after the Jay Meezee incident that latino motorcycle gangs have been given free reign for years to ride recklessly on important Manhattan roads in flagrant violation of the law and putting other people needlessly at risk. The NYPD has had a policy of not going after these people or ticketing them.

How New York authorities respond in the future will be a good litmus test. Do they care more about the sensibilities of latino thug culture or are they willing to look out for the new elites who currently live in New York today (such as Alexian Lien) and who clearly need protection from the lower orders who live just a few subway stops away?

Anonymous said...

First comment said it. It's not an umlaut.

Anonymous said...

>> Tunisian ancestry Sephardic? 110,000 Jewish poulation there pre-1948; now1,700

Tunisian Jews were French-speakers. Most went to Israel; France & Montreal got some.

Reg Cæsar said...

Spanish has diëreses, which rhymes with "heresies" in the plural. The diëresis may be the only diacritical mark that uses itself in its name. It's kind of a bundling board, or chastity belt, to keep adjacent vowels from mating into a diphthong. In Spanish, it makes a normally silent U audible.

An umlaut looks the same, but differs in function. It changes the quality of the vowel, or replaces it if you prefer. Vowels with umlauts are rarely next to other vowels. Except in Finnish.

So what happens when Germans migrate to Hispanophonia? It wasn't an issue with the German-Mexican-American musicians Nacio Herb Brown and Linda Ronstadt, nor with the German-American-Mexican Vicente Fox.

But it was with another president, Alfredo Stroessner. Reverting to the pre-umlaut spelling can be accommodated by English, but not by Spanish, which would demand both vowels be pronounced. So how did Paraguayans pronounce "Stroessner"!

Why, however he wanted. Would you argue with Gen. Stroessner?

Reg Cæsar said...

What is remarkable is how popular SNL has remained given how mostly bad it is. Any particular show might have 5-10 minutes of funny stuff in it, but who wants to sit and watch for an hour and a half to find it? –anon

In retrospect, the same was true of Monty Python's original show. (Except for the part about "popular"; we early-adopter Yanks were oddball isolates.)

Fans have memorized the classic two-minute "Parrot Sketch", forgetting that it was embedded in an eight-minute extended piece that was mostly drivel– except for Terry Jones's self-referential, and honest, admission that "It's not easy padding these out to 30 minutes!"

Mr. Anon said...

"Reg Cæsar said...

In retrospect, the same was true of Monty Python's original show. (Except for the part about "popular"; we early-adopter Yanks were oddball isolates.)"

On the contrary, as I remember them, the first few seasons of Monty Python were non-stop laughs. It is true, however, that the last season of the series, as well as their last two movies - "Life of Brian" and "The Meaning of Life" - were excruciatingly bad.

In Seattle, for about twelve years or so starting in the mid 80s, there was a locally produced comedy sketch show called "Almost Live" on the NBC affiliate station. It was a half-hour long, and it was broadcast just before SNL, and it was hilariously funny. The contrast with SNL, which came immediately thereafter was striking. It put SNL to shame.