Splitsider: ‘SNL’ Recap: Jamie Foxx Unchained

jamiefoxxsnlFor this week’s SNL recap on Splitsider, I discuss how Jamie Foxx’s In Living Color-esque performance didn’t do him any favors in the SNL context, and how the racially charged themes of many of the sketches made for an uncomfortable episode.


After keeping track of each SNL cast member’s share of screen time each episode for the past few seasons, I have noticed an interesting correlation: Whenever a person of color hosts the show, we see a spike in the roles given to the black cast members. Charles Barkley, Maya Rudolph, and now Jamie Foxx all hosted episodes that were big nights for Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah — at least, respective to other episodes. What causes this trend? Are black hosts lobbying for black cast members to get more screen time? Does Lorne think black hosts will be more comfortable in sketches if they’re accompanied by black performers? Do the writers produce racially themed sketches for weeks when they’ll have a black host because they can find few alternative angles to explore?

Perhaps the question we should be asking is, Why do we need a black host for SNL to address race?

While perhaps it’s true that black hosts might be more comfortable playing with black actors and the writers may feel a greater urge to address themes of race in those weeks, I suspect the SNL staff would say it’s far less a deliberate choice than it seems from the outside. Everyone is still just trying to produce the funniest episode possible. Perhaps when Jamie Foxx huddled with Lorne in his office to pick the final run order, he picked sketches that spoke more to him, and those happened to be ones with racial subtexts. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that when your cast has no black woman, the only time you can do a Michelle Obama sketch is when Maya Rudolph is in the room.

What we know for sure is that the racial humor and Jamie Foxx’s In Living Color-esque turn as host did SNLfew favors. The first half of the episode was tonally off, with Foxx attempting to rely on his slapstick background from the aforementioned series and finding that his schtick came across in the SNL context as antiquated and, well, a little racist. Foxx was often out of sync with the rest of the cast, preferring improvisation and grandstanding to hitting his mark and delivering. Political correctness makes me nervous about describing his performance as “unchained,” but I promise I am referencing his upcoming movie Django Unchained, in which, well, yeah, he plays a slave. I really need to shut up now.

Read the full post on Splitsider.com.

About eavoss
Erik Voss is a writer, actor and improv comedian in Los Angeles. Please subscribe!

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