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!

Pussy Riot To Be Freed: Amnesty for Russian Punk Band, Greenpeace Protestors and Others

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are being freed under the amnesty bill being submitted by Vladimir Putin to the Duma, the Russian parliament, on Monday December 9, to mark the Russian constitution’s 20th anniversary on Thursday. Nadya’s husband Pyotr Verzilov confirmed the rumors to The Voice Project:

It’s from the Kremlin and official already, they will be freed. We do not know yet when this will happen, because it is unclear when the bill will be voted by the Duma and how fast it will be applied to prisons – could be from 2 weeks to 2 months until they are freed.

The Voice Project also reports that Nadya’s father Andrei has also been able to confirm this from “reliable sources.” Nadya was moved to Siberia in November after protesting conditions and going on a hunger strike at her previous penal colony in Morodovia. She is now hospitalized in a Siberian prison facility, Regional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1.

The BBC reports that Putin may also free the Greenpeace Arctic 30 campaigners currently on bail and facing trial on (reduced) charges of hooliganism, as well as some of the opposition activists involved in unrest in May 2012.

This all feels like a Putin move to make Russia seem less yucky-looking in the buildup to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Simone Baumann’s film Putin’s Game, documenting charges of threats, corruption, and environmental damage is screening throughout Europe. Pussy Riot jailed, Greenpeace activists facing trial, “gay propaganda” banned and LGBTQ beaten, Elton John (finally) speaking out about anti-gay discrimination in Russia. From the stage. While performing a concert in Moscow. Add in a boycott of Smirnoff vodka and Putin had to do something.

In a surprising move, NBC has named the New Yorker’s editor and a former Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post, David Remnick as a guest correspondent:

Remnick said NBC had guaranteed him editorial independence with his commentary, including such politically charged issues as gay rights and the relationship between Russia and Ukraine. “There is nothing in the world — and I know they don’t intend to hinder me in this way — where I would not be honest in my analysis,” Remnick said. “It would be a waste of everyone’s integrity and time if otherwise.”

Meanwhile, it could be a very happy new year for Pussy Riot, Greenpeace, and other jailed Russian activists. (more…)

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.

Late Night FDL: “Playboy Club,” Buhbye!

NBC has cancelled The Playboy Club, the sexy melodrama–set in the mid-1960s Chicago and centering around the flagship key club–which was one of the most subversive series on network television. TalkAboutEquality explained why:

The two characters who they try to make us believe are a young attractive married couple happen to be gay. And not only that – they are running a meeting of the Chicago chapter of the Mattachine Society!

The characters in the Playboy Club (a lesbian Playboy Bunny and a gay man) are in what was referred to as a “lavender marriage.” This was a common occurrence and still exists today when someone feels the need to hide their sexuality by marrying someone of the opposite gender.

Plus, openly gay Sean Maher plays the male half of the lavender marriage, while Amber Heard, who stars as the blond Bunny-in-training with a deadly secret, has been dating a woman for three years:

To say I came out implies that I was once in. Let me be straight about that—no pun intended—I never came out from anywhere. I’ve always lived my life the way I’ve wanted and have been honest with myself and everyone around me. It didn’t really affect anything in my career. I don’t think the producers and directors I’ve worked with care one way or another … I don’t want to be labeled as one thing or another. In the past I’ve had successful relationships with men, and now I’m in this successful relationship with a woman. When it comes to love I am totally open. And I don’t want to be put into a category, as in ‘I’m this’ or ‘I’m that.’ … [Gay marriage] is an important issue, and I’m fighting for the right to get married. For other people.

The Parents’ Television Council targeted advertisers, upset over what they perceived as a mainstreaming of pornography and the objectification of women; and Gloria Steinem, herself once a Playboy Bunny, both called for a boycott.

I watched the show and thought it was a fun morality play, complete with politics, America on the brink of change, murder, secrets, love, intrigue, and great costumes. Plus it showed the strides being made in civil rights for African Americans.

Regarding the Parents Television Council calling the whaambulance: seriously, it was on after 9pm, and as parents, it’s your responsibility to monitor what your kids watch. And you don’t like it, don’t watch it!

NBC Says “My Best Friend’s a Lesbo”

Cue ignorant hordes with torches and pitchforks howling about the homosexual agenda:

NBC just announced they’re developing  My Best Friend’s a Lesbo a girl buddy comedy about best friends–one straight, one lesbian–

who help one another navigate life, love and dating in Los Angeles.

The semi-autobiographical sitcom comes from longtime friends Randi Barnes and Sascha Rothchild. A seasoned TV writer, Barnes co-write the animated feature Dorothy of Oz, due out next year; Rothchild, who has also worked in television as a producer and creative consultant, has script Who Invited Her in development with Reese Witherspoon attached.

Homosexual agenda? Nope, reality. According a 2010 CBS News poll, 77% of Americans say they

have a close friend, work colleague or relative who is gay or lesbian. Just 22 percent say they do not know anyone at all who falls into that category.

While I’m not crazy about the show’s name, I love the premise, which is true and real. Life, love and dating have the same joys, pitfalls and pratfalls no matter who’s involved.


photo: Creative Commons, Eugene Wei

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!]