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SNL’s new face of comedy: Sasheer Zamata

Hollywood by Choice

Gail Choice | 1/9/2014, midnight
Sasheer Zamata

Get ready for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” new face of comedy. To be more exact, new Black female face of comedy. Sasheer Zamata was recently selected to fill the void of a Black female presence on the long-running series after actress/comedian Maya Rudolph left some six years ago.

Over the last several months, executive producer Lorne Michaels launched a nationwide search for a Black comedian in an effort to stave off criticism regarding the show’s lack of interest in replacing Rudolph with another Black female comedian.

Michaels told The New York Times last month he was holding auditions and that a Black woman would be added to the cast in January.

“All told, we’ve seen about 25 people,” he said. “A lot of the people we saw are really good. Hopefully, we’ll come out of the process well.” He is apparently a man of his word, and the Internet is abuzz about his new hire.

Zamata has been paying her dues. The comedian has been honing her skills with the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York since graduating from the University of Virginia with a drama degree in 2009.

In 2011, Zamata was a finalist for NBCUniversal and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre’s Diversity Scholarship (UCB). (According to the Daily Mail, she actually beat out Diversity Scholarship winner Natasha Rothwell for the SNL job.) Zamata has also co-starred in an episode of “The Morning After,” a webseries by Above Average—an online comedy network owned by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video Entertainment.

Once a correspondent on ABC’s “Would You Fall For That?” Zamata, who wrote on her website that she loves thrift shopping and eating, has also appeared on “Inside Amy Schumer” on Comedy Central and “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” on FX.

On her website, Sasheer.com outlines her career as an actress, writer and comedian based in New York City. She hosts a weekly variety show called “School Night at UCBNY,” Wednesdays at 11 p.m. And she performs improv with Doppelganger, and with Bucky on Harold Night at UCBNY. But perhaps what she’s most noted for are her comedy videos online.

“Pursuit of Sexiness” features best friends and troublemakers Nicole Byer and Zamata as broke, single, and (adorably) self-absorbed. They’re looking for good men, easy money and free meals but would be satisfied to break even and find a guy who doesn’t prematurely ejaculate. It’s life, liberty and the pursuit of sexiness.

Her webseries, “Pursuit of Sexiness” was selected as one of Variety’s 10 favorite webseries of the year (2013). “Pursuit of Sexiness” also features a series of video shorts with Zamata taking on a variety of characters from First Lady Michelle Obama to Beyonce and her new baby. Zamata has already proven she is not only a funny lady but an excellent comedy writer, producer and director.

This brings to mind the thoughtless statement “SNL” cast member Kenan Thompson told TV Guide in October. He squarely put the blame for the absence on Black female comedians reasoning that “Saturday Night Live” had difficulty finding qualified Black female comedians to hire. He insisted that the talent pool was limited because so many of the women were not seasoned enough for the job. Zamata certainly has proven him wrong, and she represents a great deal of Black women doing what they can, when and where they can to get that ‘big’ break in the tough world of comedy; ‘hats off’ to her.

Zamata will make her debut on the late-night sketch comedy show on Jan. 18, when Hip-Hop star Drake is scheduled to host.

There’s not a lot of personal information available about Zamata right now. But no doubt the SNL’s public relations department is on their job. And if you want to see any of her “Pursuit of Sexiness” videos, check out her website http://pursuitofsexiness.com. Also visit Zamata’s personal website at sasheer.com.