SNL Adds Two African-American Female Writers

LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones join writing team in wake of controversy over show's lack of diversity

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Leslie Jones on August 12, 2010 in Hollywood, California

Saturday Night Live has hired two female writers in the wake of controversy over the lack of black female cast members and writers on the show.

LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones were discovered during the sketch shows’ recent auditions, The Hollywood Reporter reports. The auditions were the first in SNL’s history to focus only on minority women, and were a direct response to concerns over the lack of diversity in the cast. Upright Citizens Brigade alumna Sasheer Zamata was hired during the same auditions to join the cast. She will make her debut on Jan. 18.

Jones, a stand-up performer who was a finalist for the new cast member spot, has guest starred on TV comedies like The League and performed at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. In 2011, her comedy special Problem Child was broadcast on Showtime. Tookes, a former news reporter from Florida, has performed at iO West.

Saturday Night Live was criticized for its lack of diversity in Septmeber when the series added six new comedians — all white except for Noel Wells, who is of Hispanic-Tunisian descent. Cast member Kenan Thompson further fanned the flames when he said in an interview with T.V. Guide that most black female comedians weren’t “ready” to be on the show. The self-conscious sketch show poked fun at itself this past November when Scandal‘s Kerry Washington hosted; the actress played Michelle Obama, Oprah and Beyonce in a single sketch, rushing on and off stage to change into those characters’ various costumes.

MORE: SNL Diversifies Its Cast. Now to Diversify Its Characters