Sasheer Zamata joins cast of ‘SNL’

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24: (L-R) Sasheer Zamata, Eliot Glazer, Michael Torpey, David Rooklin, and Ilana Glazer attend "Inside Amy Schumer" Premiere Screening Party at Hudson Terrace on April 24, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
(L-R) Sasheer Zamata, Eliot Glazer, Michael Torpey, David Rooklin, and Ilana Glazer at the “Inside Amy Schumer” premiere screening party at Hudson Terrace in New York. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

After a seven-year drought, “Saturday Night Live” finally has a black female cast member: Brooklyn comedian Sasheer Zamata.

She will make her debut January 18. Drake is the host and musical guest,  Deadline Hollywood reports.

“SNL” showrunner Lorne Michaels told the New York Times the show would be naming a new cast member this month after outlets reported the show had been holding auditions specifically for black women.

Zamata, a graduate of the University of Virginia, is the fifth black woman to join the “SNL” cast in the show’s 39-year history. She follows Maya Rudolph, who departed in 2007, Ellen Cleghorne, Yvonne Hudson, and Danitra Vance.

“I felt from the beginning, it was a no brainer,” Chioke Nassor, a writer/director who is on the staff of “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” said in a phone interview Monday. “It wouldn’t make any sense if they didn’t pick her. She’s great with characters, she’s a really great writer. She has an amazing improv background. She’s really nice. She does impressions. …. They made an excellent decision. And she’s a really big staple of the New York comedy scene.”

Nassor, who directed Zamata’s viral “Sasheer Meets Her Flasher” video, also talked about the unusual process through which the newest cast member was chosen. “This is the most vocal I’ve ever seen any ‘SNL’ audition process,” he said. “This is crazy because this has the most publicity. Usually, they have video submissions and then they call people in and you don’t know who’s being picked or who’s in contention.”

Chatter surrounding the show’s lack of a black female cast member reached fever pitch this fall after Kenan Thompson said that the show’s casting directors could never find black female talent that was “ready.” Thompson also said that he and Jay Pharoah would no longer be dressing in drag, which would leave the show unable to depict black women at all without a black host.

Zamata, 27, performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, a comedy troupe that has served as a proving ground for many “SNL” comedians, including current cast members Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Beck Bennett, John Milhiser, Kyle Mooney, and Noel Wells.  She has also collaborated with Nassor on work for Above Average, the Web arm of Broadway Video, a production and distribution company owned by Michaels.

A look at Zamata’s work, which includes an interesting take on dealing with a flasher:

And her work with Above Average:

Zamata is also the co-creator of the webseries “Pursuit of Sexiness,” which she wrote with Nicole Byer, who also performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

More images from “Saturday Night Live”:

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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