Two of the dearest people I have ever known during my long television career happened to have been two women who made comedy history at NBC. The late Danitra Vance was the first black comic actress to become a regular Saturday Night Live cast member. Danitra was a groundbreaker in 1985 and she was truly a gifted actress.
After Danitra Vance came the also hysterically funny Ellen Cleghorne.
Here was the cast of the 1990s hit comedy show, In Living Color.
Here was the cast of MADtv, another sketch comedy series.
Here are the new members of Saturday Night Live hired by papa bear Lorne Michaels.
I lived in New York for a long time. I went to comedy clubs, I went to Broadway and off-Broadway shows, I met fellow performers at auditions, I interviewed up and coming performers on local TV morning news programs and on radio. New York City is at no loss for funny women of color who can also act and do sketch comedy. It's at no loss for funny women and men of color -- actors and writers. Nor is the entire entertainment industry at a loss for that matter. All they need is a chance, some attention, respect and an equal opportunity.
One more note about diversity: On this day 62 years ago, I Love Lucy premiered on CBS starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The rest was broadcast history. Ball played Lucy Ricardo, the musically-challenged New York City wife of Cuban singer and Manhattan nightclub bandleader, Ricky Ricardo. She constantly schemes to break into show business herself. Fred and Ethel Mertz, their landlords and best friends, were played by Vivian Vance and William Frawley. All four actors were show biz veterans whose careers went back to the 1930s and early 1940s.
Lucy Ricardo, of Scottish descent, was a lovably unpredictable redhead (thanks to a regular henna rinse). TV made all four actors bigger stars than films ever had.
We could use more television with that quality today.
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