SNL Adds Sasheer Zamata to Cast, Actress to Make January 18th Debut

It’s official, SNL has added Sasheer Zamata to their cast.

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.

Fuck that.

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.

Good luck!

#MillionMaskMarch: Epic, Global — But Where Were the News Networks?

On November 5, 2013 tens of thousands of protestors marched in 477 locations around the globe. There were masks, chants, goofy signs, sincere view points, arrests, beatings, police opening up with non-lethal projectiles on protestors, flag burnings. There was lots of print/online coverage, but where were CNN, MSNBC and Fox News? And why weren’t they giving this global event any play as of November 6 at 9:54pm?

NBC News Worldwide did online coverage, ABC News posted a photo from Brazil and mentioned in the caption a global march, while CBS News had nothing. Al Jazeera America ran eight photos on their website. gave the Million Mask March a big spread on their website (Oh hai, Mr. Putin and your pals in the Kremlin!) plus posted videos on YouTube; the BBC posted three stories.  CNET posted a story.

But considering the airtime the (failed) truckers’ protest got on Fox, and the amount coverage given by cable news programs–which can provide up-to-the minute, breaking news stories via affiliates–to a crack smoking Canadian mayor, Justin Bieber’s alleged brothel visit, and Google’s mystery barges, you’d think that the telegenic sight of a global protest–one set against landmarks like the White House and Buckingham Palace with cute masks and catchy slogans–would have merited 30 seconds of cable network news time. The Million Man March was happening in Europe, in Australia, in Asia, Africa, South America. It was happening here. In the US. Did you see anything on your local news channel, in your local paper?

A November 6 search of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News’ websites showed no stories about a worldwide Million Mask March protest, nor of the ones in Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, or Atlanta (Though in Denver both the local  ABC station and the Denver Post ran a story after the fact, focusing on arrests, and Portland, Oregon’s KATU posted a YouTube video of police beating protestors). The map of Million Mask Marchers (below) is covered in dots indicating marches and participation.

But wait: There is no live footage by the major networks. No wrapped-with-a-bow “look at what happened” video story. Oh wait, there were two CNN ireports, but those are viewer created, and Fox Latino had two stories. En español.

There were protests across America, around the globe, all themed, organized via social media and websites, and they were ignored, overlooked, avoided–pick a verb–by the major broadcast news organizations.

Twitter #MillionMaskMarch has a running thread of press coverage, and the written word and dead tree media—the Guardian, the Independent, even the gutted and limping  Los Angeles Times all ran stories (though the LA Times’ sister TV station KTLA did not cover the Million Mask March in downtown Los Angeles)—came through where  television stations didn’t. The Washington Post covered the protests, as did the Wall Street Journal and  International Business Times, but a November 6, 2013 search of the New York Times for the terms “million mask march,” “protest” “anonymous” and “Guy Fawkes” turned up nothing about the November 5, 2013 Million Mask March, though this item from earlier this year is pretty interesting:

A decision by authorities in Bahrain to outlaw Guy Fawkes masks looks like a pretty desperate and ineffective way of crushing dissent.

And a decision by network and cable news to ignore Anonymous and its global protests is equally as desperate and ineffective.

Photos: Twitter feed #MillionMaskMarch

Citizens United Making Hillary Movie

With CNN and NBC/Universal having scrapped their plans to make Hillary Clinton TV movies (a doc and biopic, respectively), citing pressure from both political sides and lack of cooperation from sources, rightwing Citizen Untied is ready to jump in the fray.

Which seems seems pretty hypocritical, because it was the RNC that got all sandy-pantied when the two mainstream media pieces were announced–dropping the banhammmer on both networks sponsoring Republican primary debates. But I guess if a Republican-leaning group makes a movie about an opposition candidate, it’s okay and should not at all be seen as biased, even if the MSM films were predicted to be favorable from their point of view?

In 2008, Citizens United successfully sued the U.S. government over another Hillary Clinton movie, imaginatively titled Hillary: The Movie.   The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that blocking the airing of Hillary: The Movie on the grounds that it amounted to political advertising was an unconstitutional breach of free speech.

David Bossie, head of Citizens United has not yet revealed the title of the new Clinton movie, but CU is claiming it will be released theatrically as well as on TV and DVD, though no actual deals have been announced.  Bossie told the Hollywood Reporter:

This is why I went to the Supreme Court. Now that I won that case, I can do whatever I want with this new movie. I can advertise it on radio and TV, show it on TV whenever I want to — all the things they stopped us from doing with Hillary: The Movie.

The Hollywood Reporter comments:

Like Hillary: The Movie, the upcoming film is not expected to be a flattering portrayal of the presumed Democratic candidate for president, though it will primarily explore her life as secretary of state from 2009-13. Hillary: The Movie, on the other hand, was released prior to her appointment to the State Department and was about her roles as first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the U.S. and U.S. Senator from New York.

The CNN doc might not have been exactly laudatory. Director Charles Ferguson wrote:

In Arkansas, she joined the boards of Walmart and Tyson Foods. One of the largest donors to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is the government of Saudi Arabia. The Clintons’ personal net worth now probably exceeds $200 million, and while earned legally, both the money’s sources and the Clintons’ public statements indicate a strong aversion to rocking boats or making powerful enemies.

Biases aside, it feels really sleazy for the Republicans to bitch and moan and complain and threaten boycotts about Hillary Clinton movies, and then have one of their apparatchik PACs start crowing about its own hatchet job.

CNN Cancels Hillary Clinton Doc, Director Cites Political Pressure

Here’s how we lose freedom of the press:  Political power and expediency shut down stories before they can see the light of day. Claiming pressure from both sides of the aisle, and non-cooperation from the Clinton camp, director Charles Ferguson has stepped down from the CNN Films documentary about Hillary Clinton. In a statement a spokesperson for CNN Films  said:

Charles Ferguson has informed us that he is not moving forward with his documentary about Hillary Clinton … [W]e won’t seek other partners and are not proceeding with the film.

The original announcement about the documentary was met with hostility by the Republican National Committee which voted to the ban CNN from hosting or sponsoring Republican primary debates. The RNC also got sandy-pantied and dropped the debate banhammer on NBC Universal  which is developing a mini-series about the former First Lady/former Secretary of State.

But the Democratic political machine and the Clintons dropped an even heavier, darker, bleaker cone of silence, preventing Ferguson from accessing any sources or even archival footage.

In a blog on Huffington Post, Ferguson writes that

Neither political party wanted the film made….[W]hen I approached people for interviews, I discovered that nobody, and I mean nobody, was interested in helping me make this film. Not Democrats, not Republicans — and certainly nobody who works with the Clintons, wants access to the Clintons, or dreams of a position in a Hillary Clinton administration. Not even journalists who want access, which can easily be taken away. I even sensed potential difficulty in licensing archival footage from CBN (Pat Robertson) and from Fox. After approaching well over a hundred people, only two persons who had ever dealt with Mrs. Clinton would agree to an on-camera interview, and I suspected that even they would back out.

Maybe the RNC was afraid the documentary would be a shining piece of propaganda, but that seemed unlikely given some of the facts Ferguson uncovered, and these facts make it pretty clear why the Clinton camp wants to control the dialog and turn it into an easy to parrot monologue:

And then he [Bill Clinton]  proceeded to tell me the most amazing lies I’ve heard in quite a while.

For example, Mr. Clinton sorrowfully lamented his inability to stop the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which banned all regulation of private (OTC) derivatives trading, and thereby greatly worsened the crisis. Mr. Clinton said that he and Larry Summers had argued with Alan Greenspan, but couldn’t budge him, and then Congress passed the law by a veto-proof supermajority, tying his hands. Well, actually, the reason that the law passed by that overwhelming margin was because of the Clinton Administration’s strong advocacy, including Congressional testimony by Larry Summers and harsh public and private attacks on advocates of regulation by Summers and Robert Rubin.

Wow, I thought, this guy is a really good actor. And I also saw one reason why Hillary Clinton might not be thrilled about my movie. I discovered others.In Arkansas, she joined the boards of Walmart and Tyson Foods. One of the largest donors to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation is the government of Saudi Arabia. The Clintons’ personal net worth now probably exceeds $200 million, and while earned legally, both the money’s sources and the Clintons’ public statements indicate a strong aversion to rocking boats or making powerful enemies.

(The Clinton’s love affair with Tyson was laid out in glorious detail by Mark Ebner and James Mauro in  Spy Magazine’s October 1995, and a quick google of “Tyson Foods violations” comes up  multiple violations of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts as well as OSHA violations. And Walmart–euwww, gross!)

Ferguson says that the political machine, Republican and Democrat, was uncomfortable with the public learning  about

the money machines that both political parties have now become.

And politics is very, very expensive. Polls, ads, travel to personal appearances, rallies, offices, staff, opposition research, posters, goofy hats, hair and make-up….

[S]ince Bill Clinton first became Governor of Arkansas, the cost of Presidential campaigns has gone from $66 million (both parties combined, in 1976) to an estimated $5 billion for 2016, when Hillary will run.

Charles Ferguson’s documentary on Hillary won’t be made now. But in shutting it down, a Pandora’s box of revelations about the Clintons and about the American political process has been opened, and we’re going to be able to see how the chicken sausage is made.

UPDATE: Just hours after the CNN announcement, NBC dropped their plans for a Hillary biopic, issuing this statement:

After reviewing and prioritizing our slate of movie/mini-series development, we’ve decided that we will no longer continue developing the Hillary Clinton mini-series.

Finding Nemo Finds A Conscience: Pixar Movie Influenced by Blackfish Documentary

“When you look into their eyes you know someone is home.”

Thus begins the trailer for the controversial documentary Blackfish, a sentiment apparently shared by the creators of the Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory who are adjusting the movie’s plot line in response to the content of the film.

According to Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove who recounted this story to the LA Times, after watching the documentary this spring Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and the director of Finding Dory, Andrew Stanton sat down with Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

What resulted was a change in the yet-to-be released sequel’s plot.  The film was originally set to end at Marine Park, described as a “SeaWorld-type environment.” While the film would still end in the same place, the  animals are now given the option to leave if they so choose.

While Pixar declined to comment on the exchange, the company did confirm screening Blackfish and noted that employees were “impacted” by the film.

Blackfish offers a glimpse into the treatment subjected to the orcas, or killer whales who entertain the masses at SeaWorld.  It focuses on an orca named Tilikum, said to be responsible for the death of three people – including senior SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

The film, currently playing in select theaters across the country, has already received a harsh rebuke from SeaWorld who hired publicists to help ensure that journalists covering the documentary were made well aware of their response to what they refer to as a “dishonest movie.” Filmmakers in turned issued a point by point response to SeaWorld’s claims.

Yet the truth is that Tilikum’s first attack took place in 1991, nine years before the death of Dawn Brancheau, and resulted in the death of Sealand of the Pacific trainer Keltie Byrne. At the time it was reasoned that re-releasing Tilikum back into the wild was problematic due to fears he would not be able to survive in the wild.

That concern would be moot if he had never been brought into captivity in the first place.

More recently footage of a dolphin lying on the concrete beside its tank made its way to YouTube.

Blackfish will be airing on CNN on October 24th.  In the meantime, click here to find screenings in your area.

Anderson Cooper: “The Fact Is, I Am Gay,” Comes Out to Further Equality

Anderson Cooper is one of the most elegant, ethical, wise, brave, and hottest, men in America. Today in an email to Andrew Sullivan published on the Daily Beast, Cooper who has reported from disaster and war zones around the world, as well as joining Kathy Griffin for CNN’s New Years Eve in Times Square, comes out gracefully, expressing his reasons for coming out now and not making a big deal out of being gay in the past (And let’s face it, who somebody boinks and/or loves is really the least interesting thing about them. Or should be).

Cooper’s main point is that while he values his privacy and feels it is necessary for his job as a reporter, he also realizes that homophobia from the pulpit and in the schoolyard must end, and the more visible LGBT are, the quicker, one hopes, the equality and acceptance will be. Here are some select quotes from his email to Sullivan:

Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own.I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist…

I’ve always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss publicly. As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn’t matter…

There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud…

In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don’t give that up by being a journalist…

But I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy.

Thank you, Anderson Copper for starting off the Fourth of July the right way, by demonstrating a true love of your country and belief in its innate goodness (and in the power of celebrity to help open hearts and minds, a true American value, which is better served by you and your thoughtful words and deeds than by the entire Kardashian clan in their desperate clatter for fame as spokesholes for whatever).

Now if only Shepard Smith would follow Anderson’s lead….

Late Night FDL: Fred Karger, Composer and Fred Karger, Candidate


I am very fascinated by the controversy surrounding GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger and the GOP’s fear of him. And for me it’s personal.

My stepfather, Fred Karger was a film composer and musical supervisor at Columbia, MGM, for Elvis Presley’s goofball oeuvres (Harum Scarum, Kissin’ Cousins, Frankie and Johnny, etc.) and later for a series of campy independent films like Riot on Sunset Strip. He’s best known for the theme songs he wrote: From Here to Eternity, Magnificent Obsession, Gidget, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, and for his love life: He dated Marilyn Monroe for a number of years and was married twice to Jane Wyman. And once to my mom. Fred, who died in 1979, was super cool and a great stepfather. Every day I give thanks for having him in my life, for all the amazing people I met through him, and for showing me you can live life by following your creative dreams.

So when the name Fred Karger first popped up in my inbox during the Proposition 8 campaign, I did a huge double take, it’s a pretty unusual name. Well, this Fred Karger was the founder/director of Californians Against Hate and would send emails detailing his work on four boycotts against the Mormon Church and formal ethics violation complaints leading to investigations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church) and the National Organization for Marriage in California and Maine. This Fred Karger was a Republican, while my stepfather had supported the Kennedys– though he banned them from Marilyn Monroe’s funeral, as the family story goes, telling Joe DiMaggio

None of those sons of bitches are welcome

Since then, Republican Fred Karger–who worked on nine presidential campaigns and served as a senior consultant on campaigns for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford–has become a frequent correspondent since he’s running for president as a Republican.

But Fred Karger has been excluded from the debates by a constantly shifting series of rules put in place by debate organizers. But it seems more like the other candidates and GOP Powers That Be want him excluded because of his political and social stances. He’d like to make the Republican party more open and inclusive. He is also openly gay, supports same-sex marriage, and

Oh and he’s Jewish, not that religion should be an issue in any campaign because the Constitution states that Congress should establish no religion; to run the country under Christian law is the same principle as running the country under sharia law.

Fred Karger, Republican candidate, has been shut out of the Fox GOP debates and the CNN GOP debates, and now:

NBC News will broadcast a GOP presidential debate…And still Fred Karger won’t be permitted to participate. Please sign this petition to get Fred Karger on the GOP stage

My stepfather, composer Fred Karger, never wanted to be president of the United States. But I love seeing someone with his name running. And I would like to hear from a GOP candidate who is not bigot, who doesn’t pander to people’s religious mania, and who doesn’t push xenophobic, homophobic buttons while claiming God is all mad at America. I’d to see the GOP allow a qualifying candidate to speak rationally about the issues that are important: The economy, energy, and getting out of the War-in-’Stans (which would actually solve the other two matters!).

You can sign the petition here.

[Thanks Teddy!]


Wanda Sykes to NAACP: “You Can’t Pray Away the Gay!”


Comedian Wanda Sykes and CNN anchor Don Lemon spoke when the NAACP held their first ever LGBT panel and townhouse meeting during their 102d National Convention. Both stressed the importance of the church in the black community–and how praying away the gay just didn’t work.

This video was shot and edited by Renee Sotile and Mary Jo Godges from Traipsing Thru Films for LGBT POV and Frontiers In LA. LGBT POV will have more coverage of the convention in the coming days.