The first time I saw Sasheer Zamata perform at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Theater in New York a couple of years ago, I was already thinking, Why isn't she performing in Saturday Night Live already? To say she's a "token a black girl" for SNL is a huge insult and is false. Zamata has been doing SNL-quality sketch comedy for a while now, and she has earned her spot on the show.
Further, Zamata fills a glaring comedic need for SNL. One of the strengths of SNL is celebrity parodies. The number of black celebrities is greater than ever before, and SNL spent seasons resorting to dressing Jay Pharoah and Kenen Thompson in drag to play women black celebrities. Bravo to SNL for giving a huge opportunity for a black female comedian to get some spotlight, while improving the quality of their sketches.
In Tina Fey's book Bossypants, she noted how a lot of the female celebrity parts in sketch comedy have been going to men in drag. She got fed up with that and, when she became the first female SNL head writer, she gave a lot of the female celebrity parts to the women cast members. She had nothing against the men but felt the women deserve a shot. I tend to agree. We're not in Shakespearean times anymore; let the women play women!
I can say from experience that Zamata is highly qualified for this role. In one of the first sketches I saw Sasheer Zamata perform, she nailed a celebrity sketch as Beyoncé for a UCB Maude show. The setup was former high-school classmates were meeting up for a reunion, and Beyoncé makes a grandiose entrance. At first her former classmates were impressed to see Beyoncé again, but then they get distracted when another classmate tells mundane tales of furniture. Suffice it to say, Zamata did an excellent performance of how Beyoncé would react to being ignored.
Now that Zamata has joined the cast of SNL, I expect to see many more Beyoncé sketches (no doubt the singer will provide comedians with content for the next couple decades). But, fortunately, now the rest of America can enjoy them with me.
Photo via Upright Citizens Brigade