Newscasters should never riff on race while reading the day’s headlines, let alone play games on the subject. But during Saturday Night Live’s latest episode, a group of anchors did exactly that in a memorable sketch from an otherwise uneven night.
“Mid-Day News” began with a classic SNL setup: the local news program, set somewhere in Florida, with four anchors (played by the host Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the cast members Kenan Thompson, Ego Nwodim, and Alex Moffat) reading the top stories. When the perpetrator of a gas-station robbery turned out to be white, the black anchors cheered. “We’re just glad we know what the criminal looks like, and he ain’t one of us,” Thompson’s character explained to his baffled colleague. The newscast then swiftly turned into a ferocious competition: With every crime, the foursome anticipated the race of the culprit. And with every reveal, the group found their expectations subverted.
Much like 2016’s “Black Jeopardy” sketch, in which Tom Hanks played a Donald Trump supporter who surprisingly had a lot in common with his fellow contestants, “Mid-Day News” thrived by toying with stereotypes. Some were rooted in economics: Waller-Bridge’s Pam assumed that the woman at a nail salon who attacked the cashier for refusing a welfare card must have been black. And Nwodim’s newscaster believed that the mastermind behind a Ponzi scheme must have been white. Others were rooted in lifestyle assumptions: Nwodim’s character also figured that the man mauled by a bison during a rock-climbing trip was white—until the victim’s name was revealed to be Laquan.