Why it’s Such a Big Deal that Aziz Ansari Will Soon Host SNL

Netflix’s staple stand-up comic, Aziz Ansari, will host Saturday Night Live (SNL) on January 21 – and it’s a pretty big deal.

The South Carolina-born Ansari will become the first person of South Asian decent to host the show in its 41 years on the air.

Not surprisingly, the response has been overwhelmingly positive; it’s safe to say that Ansari is killing it at the moment.

Last year, he took home his first Emmy, claiming the title of Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for his Netflix series Master of None. He earned four nominations for the series, including one for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, making him the first Indian-American to secure such an honour.

Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

But his mass success isn’t the same case for many of his peers.

Let’s be honest; you can probably list five (maybe six – at best) South Asian A-list Hollywood stars.

Stars like Priyanka Chopra and Dev Patel have rare success stories. In fact, as the Toronto Star reports, Ansari says he would have never had the opportunity to play such a role like the one he has in Master of None had he not created it himself.

“Even though I’ve sold out Madison Square Garden as a standup comedian and have appeared in several films and a TV series, when my phone rings, the roles I’m offered are often defined by ethnicity and often require accents,” wrote Ansari in a 2015 piece for the New York Times.

In the essay, Ansari points to a report produced by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at U.C.L.A. that found that only 16.7 percent of lead film roles went to minorities in 2013. Though we’re making progress, the situation, sadly, hasn’t changed a great deal since.


On both the big screen and on TV, the Indian characters are still predominantly taxi cab drivers and convenience store workers.

As for SNL, according to IndieWire’s breakdown of the iconic show’s hosts, a shocking (or, maybe not-so-shocking to some) 90 per cent have been white. Of the 10 per cent of non-white hosts, most of them were black. Only two celebs of Asian decent – Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu – have graced the SNL stage as hosts, but there hasn’t been a host of any Asian decent for 17 years.

Seventeen years. So yeah, it’s time.

No doubt, Ansari will have some solid material to work with just one day after Donald Trump’s January 20 inauguration.

We know we’ll be watching.

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