Saturday Night Live's "A Very Cuban Christmas" sketch from this weekend's show wasn't just sort of offensive to Cubans and Cuban-Americans; it was offensive to the very idea of comedy.
In a sketch that seemed to be written at the last minute, the SNL crew decided to pack together a Christmas special parody with every Cuban stereotype and generic impression they could think of.
Twitter wast not very amused.
— Laura Martínez ® (@miblogestublog) December 22, 2014
If SNL doesn't realize it has a diversity problem, just point them to "A Very Cuban Christmas" sketch.
— Fulana de Tal (@soulamami) December 22, 2014
Oh gosh I watched the SNL "very Cuban Christmas" sketch and like... well, this is what happens when you don't have diverse writers' rooms
— Arielle Castillo (@ariellec) December 22, 2014
#SNL Wow, that Cuban Christmas sketch was dull. Just name-checking Cuban stuff. Old cars? Check. Fidel? Check.
— Harold Itzkowitz (@HaroldItz) December 21, 2014
Aye yi yi. Watching #SNL do a Cuban skit with zero Hispanic cast members is v embarrassing.
— Armand Valdes (@ArmandTweets) December 21, 2014
The sketch opens with a generic impression of Cuban-born Gloria Estefan and a Pitbull who doesn't even say "¡Dale!" cohosting a Christmas special, broadcast live from Cuba, celebrating the thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba (shouldn't it have at least been a Nochebuena special?)
Never mind that Estefan's father was once a political prisoner of the Castro regime. Never mind that she's said she'd never perform there as long as Castro is in power. Never mind that Pitbull has said the same thing. But here the two are apparently supporting the Castro regime.
Then there's a weird reference to Jose Canseco, an appearance by "Hurley from Lost" (whose father is indeed Cuban), Scarface, Elvira Hancock, and, uh, Cuba Gooding Jr. Fictional character Scarface spouted out the fictional fact that the embargo has been lifted (it has not). An Elián González character also made an appearance, but only as an excuse to trot out a Diana Nyad impression ranting about the fact that she swam from the U.S. to Cuba. Odd. Apparently, SNL ran out of actual Cuban-American celebrities. No Bob Villa or Cameron Diaz, at the very least? But maybe that's for the best.
Fred Armisen (the only person of Hispanic decent in the sketch) then dropped by as Raúl Castro, which brought up the one solid scrap of comedy in the whole bit: a comatose Fidel being used as an actual puppet.
Then there's a strange bit about how Miami is "80 percent Jewish" so Cuba will be too.
Jokes about the show's sponsors ("The 1957 Chevy Bel-Air: It's our newest car!" and "tiny cups of coffee") fell flat in part because it seemed the studio audience wasn't even familiar with those particular aspects of Cuban culture. They earned awkward chuckles at best.
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It was all very weird. In slight defense of the show, we must note that the writers bang out most of the sketches Tuesday night before a meeting Wednesday when sketches are selected. Barack Obama's announcement came Wednesday morning, so the writers had only a few hours to rush this together -- and it certainly showed.
Most online reviews of the otherwise solid episode singled out the sketch as the worst of the night.