Saturday Night Live hires Sasheer Zamata as featured player to join cast midseason 2014

When NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams announces your hiring, then you know you’ve arrived — no matter the job.

Such was the case Monday night for comedian Sasheer Zamata, added to the cast of Saturday Night Live as a featured player. SNL is still on winter break, so Zamata officially joins next week for the Jan. 18, 2014, show with host/musical guest Drake.

But enough about the news, and more about the woman making the news.

SasheerZamataZamata was among two dozen women who auditioned for SNL between Thanksgiving and Christmas in Lorne Michaels’ bid to put to rest longstanding complaints that his even longer-standing sketch comedy institution had no business going a seventh straight year without an African-American women in the castan oversight Michaels and the show acknowledged during its opening sketch with host Kerry Washington in November.

Zamata virtually sealed the deal in her callback audition on the SNL stage in December.

So much so that NBC quickly hired her and added her to the Dec. 27 primetime comedy/news special, What We Wasted Our Year On, which was as much a trial for her as for that show’s host, NBC News anchor Willie Geist. Zamata appeared in Rockefeller Plaza for a person-on-the-street field piece with a watercooler, asking tourists and passersby to twerk and comment on the weirder pop culture headlines from 2013. SNL made her featured player contract official on Monday.

Of course, Zamata was no stranger to Michaels and his Broadway Video people, as she had guest-starred last year in the webseries “The Morning After,” for his Above Average channel.

Zamata, a University of Virginia grad, came up with NYC improv group Doppelganger, an independent trio of black women (with Nicole Byer and Keisha Zollar) that was so funny they could not be ignored. And the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre gave Doppelganger a prime opening-night slot at UCB Chelsea for the first hour of the 2011 Del Close Marathon, again in 2012 for #DCM14 and then a third charming time on opening night last summer.

Zamata became a fixture herself in the UCB culture — hosting the weekly School Night experimental showcases, performing on a Harold team with Bucky, as well as continued shows with Doppelganger at UCBEast and stand-up around NYC. Over the past two months, Zamata and Byer starred in a UCB webseries, “Pursuit of Sexiness,” playing “two broke, single and self-absorbed ladies that have no problem saying what they really mean.” Roll it if you got it.

In the past year, you’ve also seen Zamata on the small screen, via MTV’s Hey Girl (a Girl Code spinoff of sorts), Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, the ABC hidden-camera show Would You Fall For That? and more.

Here’s a story she retold in 2012 and plays all of the characters in the retelling.

Her updated character reel includes impersonations of First Lady Michelle Obama, Queen Latifah, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams and their Destiny’s Child queen bee Beyonce, Kerry Washington, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Angela Bassett, RuPaul, Aisha Tyler, Sheryl Underwood and a few of her original creations.

Don’t be surprised to see Zamata in many of these roles in the coming weeks on SNL.

Hey Girl: Congrats!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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