Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Sasheer Zamata: A New Reason to Laugh on 'Saturday Night Live (Makes Her Debut Tonight!)

Features
by Nijla Mumin
January 18, 2014 11:09 PM
9 Comments
  • |

Remember when you didn’t have to protest to see a black woman comedian on television? Watching Erika Alexander as Maxine on Living Single, Kim Wayans on In Living Color, and Debra Wilson on Mad TV may seem like luxuries now.

As we know, for the last six years, there’s been an absence of women of color comedians, specifically black women on Saturday Night Live; a void so apparent that even actress Kerry Washington spoofed the disparity when she hosted the show in November. Switching between Oprah and Michelle Obama impersonations in the same sketch, she openly addressed the absence, which was bolstered by widespread criticism of the show and its creator, Lorne Michaels.

Announced this week, Sasheer Zamata, will be the new black female comedian on Saturday Night Live; the first since Maya Rudolph left the show in 2007. Though she may be a newcomer to many, her bio boasts an extensive list of credits and writing that go beyond surface portrayals of well-known black entertainers and Michelle Obama, and into more nuanced areas of race, gender, sex, and good ol’ satire.

Originally from Indianapolis, she attended the University of Virginia where she obtained a degree in drama. She later moved to New York City and performed with the Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB) Theater. In an October interview with Man Cave Daily, she said: “I was auditioning for Off-Broadway plays, but I kept going to UCB. I knew of UCB because they came to my school to perform. I was watching them and thinking man wherever they came from that’s where I want to go. Bobby Moynihan was one of the performers and someone asked him, ”how to get a career in comedy?” Bobby replied, “Go to NYC, go to UCB and work really, really hard.”

Her performance and writing credits include The New York Times, Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch Showcase, The Great American Comedy Festival, and Vulture, among many others. She will make her SNL debut on January 18th when Drake hosts the show. In good spirit, she even spoofed the announcement of her hiring.

Not a stranger to online content, Zamata is the co-writer and co-star of an ongoing Youtube series, Pursuit of Sexiness with fellow black comedian Nicole Byer. One of Variety’s Top Webseries of 2013, it follows the two women as they seek “good men, easy money, and free meals.” Incredibly candid, the show explores the ups and downs of sexual relationships, including notes left in vaginas and tandem-fucking, all without being apologetic. Some have compared it to Lena Dunham’s Girls, but it may be funnier.

She also appears in various comedic sketches online, many of which she wrote. These are also the strongest pieces, and give great insight into why she was selected for the show. In one skit, she describes an incident of street harassment, and explores the perspective of the male flasher in a hilarious stand-up routine. It’s a dual-perspective narrative that both pokes fun at these common incidents, and also illustrates their potential danger. She’s got a knack for direct storytelling, as seen here:

Another highlight includes a hilarious black superheroes sketch, detailing the resistance to the idea and existence of black superheroes, especially when it comes to saving white people. The confessional interview style, homemade costumes, and references to X-Men’s Storm and Martin Luther King, Jr. make it a great commentary on race.

This Beyonce lullaby is also hilarious in its bare bones approach to motherhood- the fake baby, that photograph of Jay-Z on the wall, and Sasheer's Beyonce-like high notes.

 .    

There’s a lot here to laugh at, from a comedian who doesn’t revert to dated ideas of blackness to deliver. She also doesn’t negate race, exploring how stereotypes are perpetuated by a white casting director in an audition about clams. I laughed until I was crying on this one. We can only hope that she is able to maintain this versatility in style and subject matter on SNL. 

Her material made me think of Issa Rae, Maya Rudolph, my friends, awkwardness, questioning whiteness while poking fun at it, all wrapped up in a black woman and an awesome afro. I am so down for Sasheer.

Features
  • |

More: Sasheer Zamata

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

9 Comments

  • Miles Ellison | January 19, 2014 6:43 PMReply

    Saying something is funnier than Girls is setting the bar very low.

  • Qstorm | January 9, 2014 1:19 AMReply

    Am I missing something? Should we be ringing bells and whistles and dancing in the streets? Is this what we define as progress nowadays? Getting a black female on SNL? How much you wanna bet her first sit, they'll have her doing the stereotypical black female schtick? They got Kerry Washington to do it in the first segment, for Gods sake. I've always subscribed to the notion that I don't go where I'm not wanted. If they haven't felt the need to add a black female since 2007, why should we give a damn?

  • Akimbo | January 10, 2014 2:14 AM

    Did you get lost on your way to another site or do you not realize that this site writes about black artists and the moves they make in the industry? What are you mad about?

  • April | January 9, 2014 12:21 AMReply

    Did Sasheer write the last clip? Because I only see Nicole Byer, who also would've been great.

  • Nijla | January 9, 2014 3:01 AM

    Yeah, Sasheer wrote it.

  • Q | January 8, 2014 8:20 PMReply

    Does Nasim Pedrad on SNL not count as a woman of color?

  • Troy | January 9, 2014 9:58 PM

    Maybe not to people with complexion issues.

  • Donella | January 8, 2014 5:27 PMReply

    SNL, a show with an all-white cast written by all-white writers in the middle of the most racially-diverse city in the United States, was just plain strange. Certainly not hip or edgy.

    Now that Sasheer will get assists from LaKendra and Leslie, maybe SNL can make up for five years of missing pop culture references.

  • sergio | January 8, 2014 2:54 PMReply

    Maybe I would be more interested if SNL was actually funny. Something it hasn't been during the past 20 years. The only reason why it's still on is because NBC has nothing to replace it with. People tell me the only reason why they still watch is simply because of habit

Follow Shadow and Act

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Watch 'A Panther in Africa' (Story of ...
  • VH1 Renews 'Hit The Floor' for a Third ...
  • Watch *Epic* First Trailer For Adult ...
  • Review: Big Business and Violent Rebellion ...
  • Attn: Actors, Actresses, Writers, Directors, ...
  • One-Time-Only Chicago Screening Of Dominican ...
  • Cuba Gooding Jr & Keith David Join Cast ...
  • Watch: 'Destined to Witness: Growing ...
  • Walter Mosley Adapting 'Devil in a Blue ...
  • We Now Know What Character Seth Gilliam ...