Before I get into the back and forth that resulted in her hiring and why this is a big deal I just want to take a second to say hooray!
Congratulations to Sasheer Zamata!
Have you guys heard of her? In all honesty I hadn’t prior to learning she’d been added to the cast. The Hairpin has quite an archive of her work that’s definitely worth perusing, and then of course there’s her Tumblr, and YouTube channel which I may or may not have spent a considerable amount of time on yesterday evening. Her comedy definitely incorporates a perspective that you don’t hear every day.
Case in point– her standup bit on “racist radio” (above).
There’s also the time she talked about street harassment.
In internet stalking her I learned her StepMom is white and sometimes accidentally racist, and that she intends to invent a personal racist consultant sometime in the future.
Zamata got her start through the Upright Citizens Brigade’s diversity program in 2009 and she’s been developing her craft ever since. Here are some more fun facts from Colorlines, some more background from Slate and some thoughts from comedian Sheryl Underwood on CNN who sums up what this all means:
More chocolate on TV!
She’s joking but also not really.
For the first time in 6 years there will be a black female cast member on SNL. What that means is we won’t have to wait for a black performer to make a guest appearance (or tolerate Kenan Thompson in a dress) in order to have content that’s representative of the rest of the world.
That’s a big deal!
Sasheer Zamata’s hilarious and I’m excited for her. I’m hopeful that SNL isn’t just placating the Internet uproar over their lack of diversity with this one symbolic gesture. That would be an insult to Sasheer Zamata and to all of us who called them out in the first place. I’m hopeful they’ll start to show a genuine commitment to diversity, and that even if they fail that, other programs will step up in a way that proves audiences want content that’s reflective of the rest of the world.
Our worlds are becoming increasingly complicated and integrated across all the differences. Our lives are full of complex human beings who don’t fit into check boxes. It’s not enough to just add some color to the cast– add some color to the content. The things that Zamata opines about in her comedy are unique to her perspective. It’s a perspective that we haven’t heard enough of– so I hope that her hiring not only succeeds in getting more chocolate on TV but also in elevating her perspective.
To be the first in 6 years puts a ton of pressure on Sasheer Zamata to not only do well but to be perfect.
Be yourself, Sasheer.
It’s gotten you this far and it will undoubtedly have us rolling in the isles come your debut on January 18th.