By: Alex Spindler
NBC’s long-running sketch comedy show, “Saturday Night Live” is set to add a new member to its seasoned “Not-Ready-For-Primetime-Players.”
Sasheer Zamata, a member of New York City’s “Upright Citizens Brigade” improv-comedy troupe, joins the late-night show midway through its 39th season on the heels of both excitement and controversy.
As an African-American female, Zamata’s casting does more than add hype to “Saturday Night Live’s” outlook.
Back in October, Keenan Thompson, one of the show’s veteran performers and an African-American male, reported to multiple media outlets that he was upset over the lack of diversity in the cast.
He felt frustrated about being the only ethnic performer who was forced to play every stereotypical “black” character, both male and female.
Thompson also believes that many African-American females simply aren’t up to the task, noting that the audition process to become a repertory player is cutthroat.
Thompson’s statements aren’t without credence. Just this past season, Saturday Night Live took on 6 new recruits, all Caucasian.
In addition, the last time the comedy show saw an African-American female in its repotoire was almost seven years ago with the departure of actress Maya Rudolph.
For over 20 years, the show has received criticism for “white-washing” what many viewers say should be a blended cast of diverse yet hilarious comedians.
However, Saturday Night Live’s creator, Lorne Michaels, retracted these statements, believing that the pool of actors auditioning for the 39th season simply did not contain any funny actors of color, causing him to cast elsewhere.
Nonetheless, this media crossfire should not downplay the talent of Zamata.
Since graduating from the University of Virginia in Drama, Zamata has been living New York City for almost seven years and working the rounds in stand-up and cabaret performances.
Zamata has been featured prominently in “Time Out New York” and “The New York Times” as well as receiving fueled attention from Comedy Central as a rising star-to-be.
She hosts her own comedy miniseries entitled the “Pursuit of Sexiness.”
Amid all the controversy, Zamata has released multiple statements only displaying enthusiasm and excitement to be on the show.
Sasheer Zamata’s first performance on Saturday Night Live will be at 11:30 pm Jan. 18th on NBC.