Let’s Get to Know Sasheer Zamata, the ‘SNL’ Cast Member We’ve Been Waiting For

By  · Published on January 7th, 2014

The long-simmering drama around Saturday Night Live and its lack of diversity in its cast (principally pinned on the fact that the cast has not included a black comedienne since Maya Rudolph left the show five years ago) has now finally come to its logical conclusion – as our Dustin Hucks shared yesterday, when the show returns later this month, it will include the talents of Sasheer Zamata as a featured player. The team at SNL (and especially Lorne Michaels) has been under pressure to add an African-American female to their already bloated cast for a few months now, and while the addition of Zamata pushes the cast into straight up crazy numbers (seventeen people, you guys, seventeen), she’s a great pick from a very impressive pool.

To recap, the show has been under fire for months now, as its new season saw the addition of six new featured players – all white, five of whom are men – leaving the cast still lacking a black comedienne. Star Kenan Thompson was asked about it later, kicking off still more chatter, which was then actually answered on the show…by finding host Kerry Washington saddled with lots of jokes acknowledging the issue, some of which were funny, all of which sort of missed the mark. With pressure not abating, Michaels and company went hunting for a new comedienne – both in New York City and Los Angeles – with news soon hitting the wire that Michaels had vowed to hire at least one new funny lady during the show’s holiday break. Word then got out that the field had been cut down to three NYC-based ladies, including one star in the making: Zamata, who we will see on the small screen within mere days.

In December, Zamata was rumored to be just one of the final three in the running for the new slot on the show, and back then, I went looking to see what she had to offer. It turns out, she had just about everything that SNL could want. As I wrote then,

“Zamata is a Jill of all trades type of performer (something that seems to be a bit of running theme with this batch of funny ladies). The actress, writer, improviser, and stand up comedian is well-known for both her own web series, Pursuit of Sexiness, and her appearances in other comedy videos (including ones for College Humor and Jest). She also hosts her own weekly variety show at UCB, where she frequently appears for improv shows a few nights a week. Zamata also pops up in both TV shows and TV commercials. She’s everywhere! (She also has a very cool website.)”

But now that Zamata is officially in, how about going on a deeper dive?

Zamata is, like many featured players before her, young (she graduated from the University of Virginia just four years ago) and an alum of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (while SNL also typically looks at UCB talents in Los Angeles and Chicago, she hails from the NYC side of things). Zamata is also very web-savvy, much like plenty of other candidates for her eventual spot (and, well, just like about everyone else in her age range). She has her own web series (which is located over at her nifty website), and frequently posts recurring skits on her YouTube page. One of her most notable is her “Beyonce As A Mommy” series, which she went to town on about two years ago. Here, take a look at one:

Despite taking things to the web, Zamata is also well-versed in classic elements of stand-up and the variety show. She frequently preforms stand-up and she hosts her own UCB variety show (well, we assume she hosted, that gig has to be over now). Here’s a nice look at her some of her stand-up work:

But what Zamata really has going for her is a hilarious slate of impersonations of some big names. She can do everyone. Check out her character reel below, where she breaks out her spin on people like Michelle Obama, Rihanna, Sherri Shepherd, Ru Paul, and Nicki Minaj. Is this exactly what SNL needs? Yes. Yes.

Want to connect with her on a social media level? Zamata is active on Twitter and YouTube – go make a new friend.

Zamata will make her Saturday Night Live debut on January 18th.