More signs of progress at Saturday Night Live: EW has confirmed that the sketch show has added comedians LaKendra Tookes and Leslie Jones to its writing staff. Their hiring comes two days after SNL announced that New York-based comedian Sasheer Zamata will be the show’s newest featured player. All three women are black — a rarity for SNL, which has featured just four black female cast members in its 39-year history. The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news.
Tookes (pictured at right), a former news reporter, was one of the 11 black women who auditioned for SNL during a secret showcase held in Los Angeles last December. She’s trained at Improv Olympic’s iO West theater. A character reel posted on YouTube shows her performing impressions of celebrities like Oprah, Paula Deen, and Nicki Minaj.
Jones is a veteran comedian and actress who has opened for Jamie Foxx and appeared on programs including Showtime at the Apollo, Chelsea Lately, Mind of Mencia, Girlfriends, and Problem Child, an hour-long Showtime special. She auditioned at SNL‘s secret New York showcase in December.
Though the show currently has no plans to feature Tookes or Jones onscreen, that could easily change: Several past cast members, including Jason Sudeikis and Tina Fey, started out as writers before transitioning to on-camera work. And just this year, longtime writer Mike O’Brien was brought into the show’s cast as a featured player.