WASHINGTON, January 18, 2014–For almost forty years “Saturday Night Live” has delighted and shocked TV audiences with its edgy comedy. But the show is not without its critics. Over the period of its long run there has been a glaring lack of diverse female comediennes in the cast.
Lorne Michaels and company responded to the criticism by holding auditions exclusively to find a new female African-American cast member. As a result of the auditions, Sasheer Zamata has been hired as the fifth African-American female to be part of SNL’s cast in 39 seasons.
Zamata is a veteran of the comedy group “Upright Citizens Brigade,” which also counts former “SNL” cast members Fred Armisen, Will Ferrell, Rachel Dratch and Tina Fey among its alumni. She also writes, directs and performs in her web series “Pursuit of Sexiness.” To see just a glimmer of her potential, check out Zamata’s postings on YouTube.
Zamata has also done several commercials and appeared on “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” and “Inside Amy Schumer” on the Comedy Central network.
Zamata’s career was already moving along nicely, but for any aspiring comedian, “SNL” is the ultimate gig for honing their funny bones. Some of the most successful comedians in the past forty years include being a former cast member of “SNL” in their résumés.
Zamata also studied under the same UVA drama professor as Tina Fey. Professor Richard Warner describes Zamata as a lot like Fey in that she is a social critic and feminist. Although being compared to Tina Fey has to be flattering, we can only imagine the pressure it has put on Zamata.
But since being an African American comedienne has always been a pressure filled career choice, Zamata should do well. Her considerable experience has armed Zamata with a host of different characters to call on in making her time on “SNL” successful.
At the very least Zamata will take over the job of playing a black woman in skits instead of relying on current male black cast members Kenan Thompson & Jay Pharoah.
If we are very lucky, Zamata will give us one of those “SNL” characters who transcend TV and become part of pop culture. Either way, we applaud Lorne Michaels for embracing diversity, and a very funny comedian, by hiring Zamata.
“Saturday Night Live” airs tonight at 11:30 p.m. on NBC