'Laugh Because It's Funny... Cry Because It's True': SNL Sketch Skewers Lack Of Diversity In Vt.

Oct 2, 2018

Saturday Night Live made some fun of Vermont last weekend, with a sketch featuring a group of Southern white nationalists who discuss where to find a “Caucasian paradise.” The skit contrasts Vermont’s liberal, bucolic image with some uncomfortable realities, and was welcomed by people inside and out of the state.

The scene opens somewhere in the American South. Cast member Beck Bennett stands in front of a Confederate flag at a community center. His character complains that he and his fellow neo-Confederates have failed to stop non-whites from moving into town.

“If they’re gonna keep coming here, then we’re gonna go someplace else," says Bennett's character. "Our own place, for our own people. No immigrants, no minorities. An agrarian community where everyone lives in harmony because every single person is white.”

“Yeah, I know that place,” says actor Adam Driver, the episode's guest host. “That sounds like Vermont.”

Watch the full sketch from NBC's Saturday Night Live:

“You laugh because it’s funny, but you also want to cry because it’s true,” said Tabitha Pohl-Moore, president of the Rutland-area NAACP.

Pohl-Moore said she had been chatting with friends about the sketch.

"And you feel a little bit invisible. I was actually just talking to a friend about that today, about how it’s one of those things where it's like, ‘Well there actually are people of color here! And there are people of color doing things.’ But yeah, it was — I’m glad that they did the piece," she said. "It was really wild."

The sketch does not depict Vermonters as racist, so much as homogenous. Still, Pohl-Moore says she thinks Saturday Night Live came up with the idea after reading news reports about racist incidents in Vermont, including reports about Kiah Morris, the former state representative from Bennington who resigned after alleged racial harassment.

“Kiah and I were texting about it last night," said Pohl-Moore. "And we were like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that people are paying attention.'"

More from VPR — Kiah Morris Says Vermont Has 'Opportunity To Lead' National Conversation About Racism [Sept, 28]

Saturday Night Live viewers were animated about the skit on social media, too.

Melissa Vance lives outside Atlanta, Georgia. In a few weeks, she and her family of four plan to move to Vermont. Vance wrote on Reddit: “I’m a Brazilian from Atlanta,” and “I'm definitely preparing myself for more than just the cold.”

Vance says she and her husband liked the sketch.

“I mean, we’re not from there, so we won’t take it personally," she said. "We thought it was funny.”

Vance says she and her family want to live in a rural place, and did a lot of research before choosing Vermont. She says they’re planning to move to a small town here, because of racism and politics in Georgia.

“If we were trying to look for a similar-sized place here in Georgia," she said, "we would have to start worrying about being close to like the actual KKK.”

As for whether the Saturday Night Live sketch gave her any pause?

“No,” Vance said. “Not at all.”

In a statement to Boston.com, the secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Michael Schirling, celebrated some of the things the sketch joked about — including corn mazes and people eating pancakes on their porches. Schirling also wrote:

“We invite SNL viewers to Vermont to see all that we have to offer, including our increasingly diverse communities and wide array of tourist destinations including the African American Heritage Trail.”

Additionally, Schirling said the agency would be sending products from the Vermont Flannel Company to Saturday Night Live “for use in future skits.”