Ansari will become the first South Asian-origin individual to do so.
Indian American comedian Aziz Ansari will host “Saturday Night Live” on Jan. 21, the NBC show announced Tuesday, and in doing so, he will make history as its first host of South Asian descent.
The Washington Post reported Ansari’s gig comes on the heels of a big year for him. The standup comic and television star won his first Emmy (outstanding writing for a comedy series) after earning a total of four nominations for his Netflix series “Master of None.”
His nomination for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series was the first for an Indian American. “I’m very happy but it’s a very specific accomplishment,” he laughingly told USA Today about the historic nod.
More than 90 percent of SNL’s hosts have been white, and only two celebrities of Asian descent — Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu — have hosted the show before, according to IndieWire’s demographic breakdown of all of the show’s hosts (that doesn’t include Fred Armisen and Bruno Mars, who both have some Asian ancestry). Most non-white hosts have been black, IndieWire found.
SNL has faced controversy in recent years over diversity issues. In 2013, the lack of a black female cast member led to executive producer Lorne Michael holding special auditions to hire one. He ended up hiring Sasheer Zamata, as well as Leslie Jones (who was initially brought on as a writer), reported the Washington Post.
Melissa Villaseñor joined SNL this year, becoming the show’s first Latina cast member. Nasim Pedrad, on SNL between 2009 and 2014, was the show’s first female Middle Eastern cast member.
But things are starting to change in Hollywood, as more Asians are rising through the ranks of the entertainment industry and breaking typecasting molds. There’s Mindy Kaling’s books and TV series; Priyanka Chopra adding to her international fame with her role on the U.S. series “Quantico”; Constance Wu and Randall Park on “Fresh Off the Boat”; and Dev Patel starring in box office smashes.
However, as Ansari wrote in the New York Times in 2015, “Even though I’ve sold out Madison Square Garden as a standup comedian and have appeared in several films and a TV series, when my phone rings, the roles I’m offered are often defined by ethnicity and often require accents.”