Former Parks and Recreation star Aziz Ansari was just announced as an upcoming host of Saturday Night Live. Ansari, who created and stars on the Emmy-winning Netflix series Master of None, will appear on the show's January 21 episode. The gig marks an overdue milestone, not only for Ansari's career, but also for the sketch show's long history.
Ansari will be the first SNL host of South Asian descent.
Considering the show has been on the air for nearly 42 years now, we'd say it's about time. According to a report by IndieWire from last year, more than 90 percent of SNL's hosts have been White, with only two Asian hosts taking the stage — Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu. (However, the Washington Post points out that previous hosts Bruno Mars and Fred Armisen both have Asian ancestry.)
The show has also been criticized for a lack of diversity in its regular cast, something it has slowly been correcting. Most recently, Melissa Villaseñor became SNL's first-ever Latina cast member.
Aziz Ansari's Indian heritage is a frequent subject in his work as both a stand-up comedian and showrunner. He cast his own immigrant parents on Master of None, in which he plays an actor struggling to find good roles without being stereotyped — something Ansari has had to deal with in his own career.
While accepting a Peabody Award for the series last year with co-creator Alan Yang, Ansari thanked Netflix for its commitment to diverse storytelling: "I think they really seem to get what diversity really is. It's not, 'Hey, let's give this White protagonist a brown friend!' No. It's — 'Let's have a show where there's a token White guy.' And that's what it is."
It's that kind of dedication to representation that will lead to more high-profile roles for non-White stars, which should make a more diverse roster of SNL hosts a no-brainer. Here's hoping Ansari's gig is a sign of more diversity to come.