If only we could hop into a time machine and talk to the people who were alive when the first Black woman was hired to write for a late-night talk show. Gosh, there must’ve been ticker tape parades flooding every city street; children must’ve been pulled out of school and permitted to dance on top of cars! Sex probably lasted at least a half-hour longer that night and both began and ended with someone expertly going down on a lady. I bet so many doves were released in celebration that Earth went dark for two days! Man, if only we could’ve been there to see history being made Oh, wait — we were alive. The first time a Black woman joined a late-night writing staff was IN JANUARY. OF THIS YEAR. LITERALLY, A HANDFUL OF MONTHS AGO. Shoot down the doves — none of you monsters deserve their beauty.
When former iO and Second City performer Amber Ruffin joined the Late Night with Seth Meyers writing staff, history was made, but it took some time for Ruffin to come to terms with her place amongst other groundbreakers. In a new interview with Arun Venugopal for WNYC’s Micropolis, Ruffin speaks frankly about race, comedy, and her fraught role as messenger. “It just never occurred to me that I might be the person that’s, you know, some girl is like, ‘Hooray, now I’ve got an even better shot at this. Thanks Amber! Don’t mess it up,’” the comedian said.
Unsurprisingly, Ruffin’s perspective on “racial humor” is thoughtful and nuanced:
Day to day is racial, you know, for a black person. Whereas, you know, sometimes a white person will be like, ‘Ugh, this again.’ But you know, I’m just talking about how I went to the store and the guy followed me around the store. That was my Tuesday. It’s not a black issue; it’s Tuesday.
When you’re black, racism is part of your day. I think racism hits white people real hard compared to black people. They can’t handle it, it makes them so sad. I mean we were sat down and told, ‘Hey, crazy stuff is going to happen to you so roll with it.’ And it was always true. And now we just roll with it.
Ruffin is keen to point out the great, progressive work being done by other Black comedians. According to the newly anointed Late Night writer, Comedy Central’s Key and Peele “have done more for black America than anyone would be willing to give them credit for.” To listen to the full interview (and we really suggest you do), click here.