As a recent LA Weekly article points out, “NBC’s beloved Saturday Night Live has a Latino problem.” The numbers back them up. In their storied four-decade history, the sketch show has only ever employed two Latino cast members: Horatio Sanz and Fred Armisen. Noël Wells, who is a quarter Latina, spent a year as a featured player after which she was quickly fired. This “Latino problem” has received more press than usual lately, given the show’s decision to book presidential candidate and hate-speech-spewing mogul Donald Trump. When Congressman Luis Gutiérrez addressed the House calling out the show’s decision to book Trump, who has indiscriminately used media platforms to lambast the Latino community, he used the show’s Latino blindspot to make his point: “What if all of the Latino cast members all walked off the job? Oh wait, you don’t have any Latino cast members currently.”
The Trump episode, slated to air on November 7, has ignited calls for boycotts and protests all over the country. Over 362,000 people have signed the “Racism Isn’t Funny” campaign, while calls for NBC to “Dump Trump” have only escalated in the past few weeks. Citing “respect and dignity for all people” as “cornerstones of our values,” NBC had already severed ties with the presidential candidate this past summer over his inflammatory comments on Mexican immigrants (“They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”).
His booking on the Lorne Michaels-produced show has been widely understood as a clear backward step that will offer Mr. Trump an uninterrupted primetime campaign slot on one of the country’s most famous stages. More importantly, the move has been read by the Latino community as a callous decision motivated by ratings and potential advertising dollars, at the expense of NBC’s so-called “cornerstone values.”
As Congressman Gutiérrez and Dennis Romero’s LA Weekly’s article point out, Trump’s booking is only a reflection of a show that has made few attempts at valuing the Latino community. While Michaels has recently (and most would say belatedly) begun to add more diversity to its cast, this has mostly meant including African-American cast members. More glaring is the fact that by Romero’s count, Latinos have only hosted 1.5 percent of the show’s episodes. That’s a tepid number, especially when one considers that SNL prides itself on representing the vibrant New York City community.
Below, find the 11 Latino performers that have hosted SNL. Unlike Romero, who included the Estevez family (Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen) as well as Antonio Banderas (all of whom have ties to Spain) on his list, we have restricted ours to celebrities who have roots in Latin America.
A household name thanks to I Love Lucy, where he played Cuban orchestra leader Enrique “Ricky” Ricardo, Arnaz got to host in the show’s very first season. Just as he did for the duration of Lucille Ball’s sitcom, Arnaz played up his Cuban accent in the opening monologue where he referred to the SNL players as “Es Que No Estan Listo Prime Time Yet” while joking that this “is the first time I’ve been live since I was Cuban.” Another sketch was built around the incongruity of hearing Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky poem be read out loud by Arnaz in his thick Cuban accent.
It took more than twenty years for another performer with Latin American roots to host the show. The Charlie’s Angels star comes from a Cuban family on her father’s side. She first hosted SNL the fall after There’s Something About Mary made her a household name during the show’s 24th season premiere. A game comedian, she even has her own recurring character on the sketch show as Kiki Deamore, part of the “The Cougar Den” sketch that focuses on older women who love dating younger men. She has since hosted another three times, including last season where her standout skit was a timely rap ode to going back home for the Thanksgiving holidays.
Freddie Prinze, Jr.
The Albuquerque native has proudly embraced his Hispanic roots (his paternal grandmother was Puerto Rican). He got to host SNL in 2000, at the height of his popularity as teen rom-com leading man. While his flu-themed opening monologue didn’t quite set the bar very high for his performance, he played to his strengths playing P. Nutt (“Poet, Philosopher, Notary Public”), a member of boy band, 7 Degrees Celsius.
Born to Puerto Rican parents in the Bronx, J. Lo was first a musical guest in the 25th season of SNL though she later went on to serve as host and musical guest two other times. True to her roots, Lopez got to be a part of the Good Morning Bronx where she played Cindy Gonzales, an anchor who gets increasingly flustered by her at times racist guests on the show. In a sketch from 2010, she impersonated Rihanna in a “We Are the World” sketch that also included Nasim Pedrad as Shakira.
The Mexican actress hosted SNL back in 2003 with Christina Aguilera as that week’s musical guest. During her monologue, she was congratulated on her Oscar nomination for her performance as Frida Kahlo in Julie Taymor’s film. The episode showed what a great broad comedic actress Hayek can be, whether she was playing opposite King Kong, teaching seduction to a group of misfits, or fending off a paranoid husband who’s trapped himself in a box to catch her with another man.
Ecuadorian on her father’s side, the pop star has served as a musical guest three times. Promoting her acclaimed Stripped album, Aguilera hosted the show herself in 2004, with Maroon 5 serving as her musical guest, presaging perhaps the later convivial relationship the singer would have with Adam Levine on NBC’s The Voice. Most famously, she got to play Samantha Jones in a Sex and the City spoof that turned the infamous man-eater from the HBO show into a literal man: “My name is Sa-MAN-tha!”
The outspoken Tejana actress, who herself admitted that “Lorne Michaels has the right to book whoever he wants” in response to the “Dump Trump” boycott campaign (we have the right to not watch, she added), parlayed her success on Desperate Housewives into an SNL hosting gig in late 2005. She was the sole actress from that show to host while that nighttime soap was on the air. Indeed, the most talked about sketch of the night poked fun at the alleged rivalries on the set of the ABC hit, parodying the Vanity Fair cover shoot that had gossip mags buzzing weeks before.
The New York City actress of Puerto Rican and Cuban descent hosted SNL in 2009. During the course of the night, Dawson played up her Latino background, playing a Cuban lady in the show’s “Gitmo Ad” sketch where Guantanamo Bay advertised “That everything must go!” since they were going out of business, and played a Mexican cop in the Spanish-language cop sketch “La Policía Mexicana.”
The Colombian native and Modern Family star hosted SNL in the spring of 2012, where unfortunately, a disproportionate amount of the sketches could very well be summed up as “doesn’t she have a crazy accent?” Perhaps it was not a surprise that the best sketch of the night turned that joke on its head as Vergara, playing herself, helped out Penelope Cruz (Kate McKinnon) with increasingly difficult English words in a Pantene commercial. The standout for many others was Vergara’s take on Elizabeth Banks’s Hunger Games character where her rolling r’s are the punchline.
The multi-hyphenate comedian spent most of his childhood in Mexico, where his father was born (C.K.’s grandfather immigrated there from Hungary and later met his future wife Rosario Sánchez Morales). Considered a standout host, C.K. has visited SNL three times and has been nominated for the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Emmy for each appearance. In one of the most talked about sketches of the 2012-2013 season, C.K. spoofed his own FX show, Louie, creating a version of his New York-set comedy with one twist: rather than playing himself, he played Abraham Lincoln.
Mars, whose father is of half Puerto Rican and half Ashkenazi Jewish descent, served as host and musical guest in the 2012-2013 season. While his monologue suggested he was nervous about hosting, he showed he was quite at home in the various sketches of the night. In particular, he seemed to relish his performance as Melody, a guest on a talk show who is “young, got a debit card, and knows where da party at.”