Lack of diversity on Friends mocked on SNL after years of criticism

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Friends is one of the most beloved sitcoms in TV history, with the show frequently rewatched and quoted by fans almost 20 years after it came to an end.

However, the lack of diversity in the cast has consistently been a sore point, with cocreator Marta Kauffman previously expressing her regret over the lack of people of colour featured on the programme.

On Saturday evening, Abbott Elementary creator and star Quinta Brunson hosted Saturday Night Live for the first time in the US.

In her monologue, she drew parallels between her award-winning comedy and Friends, sparking laughter and applause from the audience.

‘I wanted to be on SNL back in the day, but the audition process seemed a little long. So instead I just created my own TV show, made sure it became really popular, won a bunch of Emmys and then got asked to host. So much easier. So much easier,’ she said.

‘I have a show called Abbott Elementary. And it’s kind of unique. It’s a network sitcom, like say, Friends. Except instead of being about a group of friends, it’s about a group of teachers. And instead of New York, it’s in Philadelphia. And instead of not having Black people, it does!’

Friends made stars of its ensemble cast (Picture: NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)
Janine Teagues leads the cast of Abbott Elementary as positive-thinking teacher Janine Teagues (Picture: ABC via Getty Images)

In 2020, Marta spoke out about the lack of diversity on Friends, stating: ‘I mean we’ve always encouraged people of diversity in our company, but I didn’t do enough and now all I can think about is what can I do?’

She continued: ‘What can I do differently? How can I run my show in a new way? And that’s something I not only wish I knew when I started showrunning, but I wish I knew all the way up through last year.’

Two years later, she announced that she had pledged $4million (£3million) to support African American studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

David Schwimmer, who played Ross Geller in the series, said that he made a ‘conscious push’ for his character to date women of colour.

‘I was well aware of the lack of diversity and I campaigned for years to have Ross date women of color,’ he told The Guardian.

‘One of the first girlfriends I had on the show was an Asian American woman, and later I dated African American women. That was a very conscious push on my part.’

Meanwhile, Phoebe Buffay actor Lisa Kudrow said that in her opinion, the creators of Friends had ‘no business writing stories about the experiences of being a person of colour’.

Saturday Night Live airs on NBC in the US.

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