Sasheer Zamata is the first black female cast member to be hired by Saturday Night Live (SNL) in many years. Following a barrage of social media discussion, including angry tweets and numerous write-ups on female oriented African-American websites, Saturday Night Live executives have broken an apparent moratorium on the hiring of black females. This follows controversy around the show’s lack of diversity.
While there are hundreds of bone-funny ebony comics who have honed their craft and would love a shot on the long time show, only one comic has been chosen for the job. The deserving thespian and sketch artist to end the drought in six years is Sasheer Zamata.
Both Zamata and long-term SNL player Tina Fey are University of Virginia alumni. Perhaps it is UNV theatrical fate. Zamata and Fey both held roles in Godspell, a production of their alma mater’s student run First Year Players. Even though almost two decades passed between the two acting in the same production, this year, they will again share a stage as SNL cast members.
Both SNL management and Kenan Thompson have caught flack over comments by Thompson, an African-American SNL cast member, who has played several women in drag during his SNL tenure. One might question why a male would need to be cast as a woman in a variety of female personalities, especially since there is no shortage of funny, capable and talented black female comics to choose from.
Thompson was quoted in October of last year as saying, “Black females just aren’t funny enough to be cast on SNL.” For voicing that thought he has caught his share of troubles via social networking sites and online publications. Thompson caught a great deal of criticism from black women, female comics, and lay persons; all of whom found his comments offensive to black people in general, and black women specifically.
Of interest is Thompson saying he is hanging up his dress and heels. He won’t be performing in a female role for the show anymore.
Actress Kerry Washington guest hosted late last year playing a multitude of black women. She even played famous African-American women such as Oprah Winfrey and First Lady Michelle Obama. Washington and her “multi-woman” show put the spotlight on SNL where viewers noticed the lack, yet again.
The hiring of Zamata is a step in the right direction in adding diversity to a cast that is mostly Caucasian and very masculine. Zamata, makes her debut SNL appearance in just a few days. She can now add SNL to her acting credits which include: Inside Amy Schumer and Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell. She has popular web series, Pursuit of Sexiness, which she co-created with fellow comic Nicole Byer (Girl Code). In addition, Zamata had a lead role in an Apple commercial.
After an organized talent search in multiple cities Sasheer Zamata will be the first black female cast member to hired by Saturday Night Live in six years. She will make her debut on January 18, which is the next new show to air on the NBC network.
By C. Imani Williams