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Same guy has been playing Sulu in SNL's Star Trek skits since 1976

Dalek

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Mar 5, 2014
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Chris Pine's Star Trek Sketch Exposes an Ugly Truth About S.N.L.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuFfmnu34rs

When Star Trek leading man Chris Pine was picked to host Saturday Night Live this weekend, it felt inevitable that the late-night comedy show would, at one point, have him captaining a space ship. (And, no, not just because they had that other handsome Chris do the same thing.) The sketch was based on a rather shaky premise (what if Spock had a blue-collar relative named ”Spocko"?), but gave both Pine and Kenan Thompson the excuse to show off their rock-solid William Shatner and Neil DeGrasse Tyson impressions. When it came to casting Hikaru Sulu, however, S.N.L. ran into a bit of an obstacle. In fact, in its 42-year history, there has never been an official cast member on Saturday Night Live who could play Sulu.

Credit where it's due, the solution S.N.L. arrived to this week was somewhat clever. The show tapped long-serving production designer Akira Yoshimura, and acknowledged the weirdness of his appearance in the sketch with a cute, self-aware line reading that nearly broke both Pine and cast member Alex Moffat.



S.N.L. buffs will be the first to tell you that Yoshimura—who has been with the show from the start—first appeared as Sulu opposite John Belushi's Captain Kirk in a 1976 sketch titled ”The Last Voyage of the Starship Enterprise" from Saturday Night Live's very first season.



He popped up again as Sulu several times throughout the show's run, in a 1986 sketch and in 1994 as well. (In fact, Yoshimura is one of very few original crew members still employed at Studio 8H.) So you might argue that short of roping John Cho or George Takei into appearing on the show, this was the best solution S.N.L. could possibly offer. It's tradition!

And leaning on an old inside joke would be entirely cute—were it not for the depressing fact that four decades into its run, S.N.L. has never employed a full-time Asian cast member. (Rob Schneider is a quarter Filipino and Fred Armisen a quarter Japanese.) And you can count the number of Asian hosts S.N.L. has had in the past four decades on one hand: Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Aziz Ansari. It's a deficiency the show itself addressed last fall when new cast member Melissa Villaseñor appeared in a sketch about the 2016 Vice-Presidential debate. "Hello, I'm the new Hispanic cast member," she said in a fourth-wall-breaking moment, ”and I'll be playing Asian moderator Elaine Quijano. Because baby steps."

But the fact that S.N.L. is now at least addressing the issue with self-aware jokes for Villaseñor and Yoshimura means that the show could be on its way to rectifying the issue. A 2013 sketch where Kerry Washington famously had to play all the black women both living in and visiting the White House not only acknowledged S.N.L.'s lack of black women in the cast, but also pre-dated the hiring of Sasheer Zamata by only three months. (With Zamata in the cast, by the way, S.N.L. did not have to outsource the role of Nyota Uhura in this week's Star Trek sketch, as it did in 1976.)
 

SlimySnake

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Feb 5, 2013
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lol i had no idea but i knew i was missing out on some inside joke after the cast nearly broke character.

 

Blader

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Oct 8, 2006
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I was pretty drunk for SNL last weekend, so this flew completely over my head. I was more fixated on them having Pine do a Star Trek skit. :lol
 

Ottaro

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Sep 11, 2016
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That is really sad, and something SNL desperately needs to address.

In regards to the skit itself: now rewatch it imagining Chris Farley as Spocko.
 

ELRenoRaven

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Feb 24, 2005
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Cool for that guy but god that clip reminded me of how damn awful SNL is now. Not even a grin to be had from that skit.
 
May 15, 2014
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SNL should definitely try to cast more Asian, Hispanic, and Black cast members.

But if they do another Star Trek skit after an Asian man is cast, this same PA should still be playing Sulu, it's kind of a cool tradition at this point IMO
 

LionPride

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Jul 12, 2015
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SNL should definitely try to cast more Asian, Hispanic, and Black cast members.

But if they do another Star Trek skit after an Asian man is cast, this same PA should still be playing Sulu, it's kind of a cool tradition at this point IMO
Sasheer Zamata is hilarious but is only used in small roles
The hiring of other black comedians seems to be something not done for some reason. Also no clue why the lack of Asians and Hispanics/Latinos in terms of casting.

The whole Asian host thing isn't a surprise though. But that has more to do with the bigger problem in Hollywood
 
May 17, 2010
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When a 1970's show is more progressive than a 2017 show

Star Trek: TOS ran from '66 to '69. And it was very progressive across the board. Sulu (20 years after WWII), Uhura (during Civil Rights and feminist movements), and Chekov (during the Cold War). Pretty nuts how far Roddenberry was ahead of his time.
 

NinjaCoachZ

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Feb 4, 2015
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And you can count the number of Asian hosts S.N.L. has had in the past four decades on one hand: Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Aziz Ansari.

I thought at first they were just listing examples, but then I realized that's the complete list. Holy shit.

The Akira thing is cool that he's been with the show all that time though, but the core story is pretty sad. Reminds me of how the Colbert Report had a joke about him doing the "I have black friends" thing and showing a picture to prove it... except there weren't any actual black staff members on the show so they had to hire someone to be in the photo. He wrote an article about it where he was kind of irritated by that.
 

DrForester

Kills Photobucket
Jun 7, 2004
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Star Trek: TOS ran from '66 to '69. And it was very progressive across the board. Sulu (20 years after WWII), Uhura (during Civil Rights and feminist movements), and Chekov (during the Cold War). Pretty nuts how far Roddenberry was ahead of his time.

On the other hand, Rodenberry wrote an episode about how emotional women are and why that makes them unfit to command a Starship.
 
Sep 15, 2013
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SNL should definitely try to cast more Asian, Hispanic, and Black cast members.

But if they do another Star Trek skit after an Asian man is cast, this same PA should still be playing Sulu, it's kind of a cool tradition at this point IMO
It's a shame that Melissa Villasenor has such a horrific voice.
 
May 17, 2010
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On the other hand, Rodenberry wrote an episode about how emotional women are and why that makes them unfit to command a Starship.

And from my understanding, he was also a bit of a womanizer himself.

Still, compared to his contemporaries, he was extremely progressive, despite the warts.
 

MMarston

Was getting caught part of your plan?
May 19, 2014
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John Cho doesn't have Brad Pitt levels of popularity but dude is known and he's funny too. I'm legit surprised he never got to host.

George Takei is also a no-brainer. Surprised he hasn't been on yet.
 

jwk94

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Sep 1, 2012
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This really puts into perspective how ahead of its time Mad TV was.

Name me popular Asian actors in America

Maggie Q is pretty popular, I think. However, idk if she can do comedy. I'd watch if she popped up though. But yeah, there really aren't many popular Asian actors here.