A November 2007 episode of "Saturday Night Live," featuring a cameo by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), almost included a controversial sketch about racial profiling until the presidential hopeful shot down the idea.
The Hollywood Reporter ran an excerpt on Wednesday from a new edition of Live From New York, a book written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales about the famed comedy sketch show. The excerpt focused on how politics played into the content of the show, especially during the 2008 election.
Here is how "Saturday Night Live" writer Robert Smigel described the unaired sketch:
It wasn't until my last season that the network refused to air a "TV Funhouse." It was a live-action one that was meant to be about racism and profiling, an airline-safety video with multilingual narration, and whenever you heard a different language, they would cut to people of that nationality. First, typical white Americans, then a Latino family, then a Japanese family, all being instructed about seat belts, overhead compartments, et cetera. Then it cuts to an Arab man, and the narrator says, in Arabic, "During the flight, please do not blow up the airplane. The United States is actually a humanitarian nation that is rooted in the concept of freedom," and so on. … When the standards people freaked, Lorne fought them. Standards pushed back hard. They even got someone at NBC human resources to condemn it. … Lorne said, "I have a plan." Obama was doing a cameo in the cold open. Lorne told me he would show my sketch to Obama. "If Obama thinks it's OK, they won't be able to argue it." I thought it was a brilliant idea, except why would Obama ever give this thing his blessing? What if word got out? "Hey, everybody, that guy over there said it was cool. The one running for president of the country." But I loved Lorne for caring this much and being willing to go that far to get this thing on TV.
Executive producer Lorne Michaels recalled Obama saying that the skit was "funny," though ultimately not appropriate to show on live television.
Most recently, the show was criticized when it hired six white comedians for its 39th season. The show's producers acknowledged its diversity problem in a November 2013 opening sketch featuring "Scandal" actress Kerry Washington.
After the criticism ensued, comedian Sasheer Zamata was added to the cast mid-season, making her the first black woman to be a cast member on the show since Maya Rudolph left in 2007.
Read how "Saturday Night Live" dealt with political sketches in The Hollywood Reporter.